The Week/the Spin

Timor the Merrier

The Senate passed a ban on “partial-birth” abortions. The 63 to 34 vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override President Clinton’s promised veto. The measure would ban a particular procedure often used in late-term abortions. Supporters’ spin: Abortionists are killing live babies. Opponents’ spin: You’re trying to kill Roe vs. Wade. (Last year, Slate’s Atul Gawande assessed the arguments over partial-birth abortion.)

Elizabeth Dole dropped out of the presidential race. She said her inability to keep up with front-runner George W. Bush’s fund raising made her campaign “futile.” Dole supporters’ spin: Campaigns are now decided by money, not message. Dole detractors’ spin: The reason no one gave her money is that she had no message. Feminists debated whether Dole 1) broke new ground for women in politics; or 2) failed to provide an agenda for future progress. 

Indonesia elected new leaders and voted to relinquish control of East Timor. In the first contested election in Indonesia’s history, the assembly selected Abdurraham Wahid, a moderate Muslim cleric, as president. After a day of violent protest by supporters of opposition candidate Megawati Sukarnoputri, the assembly elected her vice president. Skeptics said the elections were democratic in name only and questioned the new government’s ability to unite the country’s diverse population and revive the economy. But the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post deemed the elections a promising break with Indonesia’s autocratic history.

The New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves are in the World Series. The Braves beat the New York Mets to win the National League Championship. The Yankees prevailed over Boston in the American League. The Atlanta-New York pairing is a rematch of the 1996 World Series, which the Yankees won. The Braves, who are making their fifth World Series appearance this decade, are billed as the “team of the 90s” (ESPN). With 24 World Series Championships, the Yankees are claiming the title of “team of the century.”

The Senate blocked campaign-finance legislation. Only 53 senators voted to cut off a Republican filibuster, seven short of the number needed to force a vote on the bill. The sponsors, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russell Feingold, D-Wis., scaled back the legislation, which had been approved by the House, in order to increase support in the Senate. The bill would have banned “soft money” but would not have regulated issue ads. Opponents had held that the measures would infringe on free speech. But the Los Angeles Times called this argument “a sham,” saying big money is not only corrupting the American political system, it is “holding the Senate hostage.” The GOP spin: We handed reformers their hats. The Democratic spin: No, you handed us a campaign issue.

Scientists recovered an intact woolly mammoth in Siberia. They dug the 23,000-year-old animal out of permafrost soil and transported it–still frozen–to a Russian laboratory. This spring, scientists will thaw the block and examine the animal and surrounding plants. Researchers said the find offered unprecedented opportunities: 1) to determine why mammoths became extinct; 2) to understand the world’s climate at the time; and 3) to clone the animal. Supervising scientist Dick Mol said, “This is a dream for me–to find the soft parts and touch them and even smell them. It’s very exciting.”

Kenneth Starr resigned from the criminal investigation of the Clintons. Robert Ray, Starr’s top assistant, will complete the investigations of White House conduct regarding Kathleen Willey’s sexual harassment allegations and the dismissal of travel-office staff. Ray will also oversee the final report on Starr’s five-year investigation. Ray said his work will be “responsible and cost-effective,” but the White House said he was a politically motivated ideologue. The Washington Post said Starr’s legacy was mixed, but “he should be remembered as a man who–hampered alike by intensely adverse conditions and by his own missteps–managed to perform a significant public service.” Starr’s spin: Personal attacks and political divisiveness made it impossible for me to continue. Democrats’ spin: Now you know how the Clintons have felt for five years.

President Clinton and congressional Republicans are meeting to negotiate the budget. Clinton has threatened to veto many of Congress’ proposals. With only five of the 13 appropriations bills approved, Congress was forced to extend the temporary spending measure that is keeping the government open beyond its Thursday expiration. The GOP spin: We’ll protect Americans from Democratic tax hikes. The White House spin: We’ll protect social programs from Republican budget cuts. The cynical spin: The numbers require either tax hikes or budget cuts. The feel-good spin: At least now they’re talking.

Pakistan’s military leader promised to restructure the government and restore democracy. Pervaiz Musharraf, who led last week’s army coup that ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, announced that a military-civilian council would be formed within a week to govern the country, but provided no timetable for relinquishing power. He also withdrew troops from the Indian border and called for the resumption of peace talks. The rosy spin: After Sharif’s corruption and ineptitude, Musharraf is a godsend. The gloomy spin: Without a timetable for democracy, he’s still a dictator.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 630 points in a week. It was the biggest decline in 10 years. The most frequently cited causes were: 1) Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan’s cautionary comments to investors (he warned that stocks and bonds could plunge if investors were to lose confidence in the market); 2) anticipation of higher interest rates; and 3) fear of inflation. The bearish spin: The big correction is starting. The bullish spin: Relax, we’re already bouncing back. (“Moneybox” explains what Greenspan really said.)