Today's Papers

Hillary’s Base Motives

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with the decision by Republican congressional leaders to meet today with President Clinton at the White House in an attempt to resolve the partisan budget differences which have left the government operating under a temporary spending bill, which expires this week. USA Today leads with the government’s announcement of new regulations for transplant organ allocation, to take effect in 30 days. The goal of the revision is to eliminate, as much as possible, the current disparities in recipient waiting time from state to state and to maximize the chance for the sickest (but salvageable) patients to receive organs first. The lead at the New York Times is the Clinton administration’s legislative proposal, sent to Congress yesterday, which would steer Medicare beneficiaries towards preferred doctors and hospitals that have agreed to offer discounted charge rates to the government and to reduce patient fees correspondingly. The White House claim, says the paper, is that the participating hospitals would not be financially hurt by the scheme because of increased patient volume. But, according to the Times, many Republicans and doctors object, fearing that such a plan will favor low cost over high quality.

The LAT and WP leads report that the main reservation the Republicans have about jawboning with Clinton on spending is that in the past whenever they have, they’ve gotten their heads handed to them. The big budget issue, the two papers agree, is whether or not to tap into the current surplus generated by Social Security taxes. The Post quotes experts who think that any subsequent budget agreement will tap in, but via “enough budget gimmicks to obscure the picture.”

The LAT fronts, while the WP and NYT run inside, a report released today by the Rand Corp., at the behest of the government, which says an experimental anti-nerve gas medication given to up to 300,000 U.S. troops during the Gulf War may be the cause of the host of mysterious chronic illnesses afflicting tens of thousands of Gulf veterans. The LAT and NYT say the report contradicts prior government findings on the hypothesis, while the WP says, “Compared to reviews done previously, it gives somewhat more credence” to it.

The LAT fronts and the Wall Street Journal front-page news box features a mammoth reorganization announced by Nissan (by the COO sent over from Renault, which owns more than one-third of the company): five plant closings, a 14 percent reduction in payroll (21,000 jobs), and $9.48 billion in cost cuts over the next three years. The good news: the Z car is coming back. The NYT and WP carry the story inside.

Everybody carries word that Ken Starr stepped down yesterday, replaced by career prosecutor Robert Ray, whose big job will be producing the OIC’s final report. Ray obviously has a great sense of humor, thanking Starr Monday for his “extraordinary service to the country at great personal sacrifice over the past five years.”

The WP reports that while in Washington for a benefit for a writers’ organization, Calvin Trillin and Edward Albee declined a proffered invitation to meet with Clarence Thomas. Trillin gave his reason: He didn’t like being told that he could speak to Justice Thomas only under certain conditions. The Post’s fall-down here: the story doesn’t tell the reader what those conditions were.

The NYT runs a front-pager reporting that a presidential panel has recommended that the U.S. military be allowed to resume live firing exercises on Navy property in Puerto Rico–for the next five years. This in the face of much Puerto Rican sentiment against the continued operation of the base, which has been particularly strong since April, when one Puerto Rican guard was killed by a stray bomb from a Marine jet. The Times story notes in its seventh paragraph that Hillary Clinton registered disappointment in the decision. The Post inside effort on the bombing range puts Hillary in the first sentence. Both papers make the connection between HRC’s likely New York Senate run and her sudden interest in naval aerial training facilities.

A letter to the WP makes an interesting claim about church donations: A surprising percentage of donated monies end up supporting national administrative bureaucracies. The writer states that his own church, the United Methodists, in 1997 paid $1.94 million in salaries and benefits to lobbyists, and another $1.6 million on their conferences, travel, and office expenses. This sum, he says, would enable the Salvation Army to provide two meals a day for one year, plus lodging, for about 2,800 people.