International Papers

Hillary in Florence

Hillary Clinton was the personality who most interested the Italian newspapers at Sunday’s “Third Way” summit conference in Florence, where the leaders of the United States, Brazil, and various European countries vainly sought a common political platform for the world’s parties of the center-left. They were not very kind about her. La Repubblica of Rome said Monday that she failed to make a widely anticipated speech because she has made so many gaffes lately and that her decision to sit in on the conference as a nonparticipant resulted in a special program for the leaders’ wives being canceled “at the last moment with zero warning and zero courtesy.”

Corriere della Sera of Milan said Clinton was upstaged by the pregnant Cherie Blair, wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. “It was to have been Hillary’s triumph, her consecration as the superstar of the first ladies, her takeoff point for the New York seat in the United States Senate,” the paper said. “Instead, Hillary’s star was obscured twice yesterday: first on the Florentine stage by Cherie Blair, who with her pregnancy became the protagonist of the Third Way conference, and second in the New York electoral college where a Democratic member of the city council, Ronnie Eldridge, declared in a loud voice what many think but have till now only murmured–that the first lady should withdraw her candidacy.”

Corriere also ran a story about visits by Hillary and Chelsea Clinton and Madeleine Albright to a market of Italian luxury goods held in the foyer of Florence’s Excelsior Hotel. The headline was “Miss Albright cannot resist Florentine jewels.” It said the secretary of state much admired a white linen tablecloth but rejected it on learning its price was about $2,500. She then bought three purses and a candle before arriving at the jewelry stand. “They gave her a discount, but the most powerful woman in the world knows how to value the weight and the worth of things,” the paper said. “Before signing for the purchase of a choker, she weighed it against the bracelet she was wearing on her wrist: It is three times as heavy as the choker.”

On the substance of the summit, Corriere noted in an editorial “the profoundly different realities” of the United States and Britain on the one hand and continental Europe on the other. The arduous search for common policies to reconcile the “solidaristic” social values of the left-wing parties of the continent with the rules of the free market will continue long after Florence, the paper said. While Corriere reported President Bill Clinton urging everyone to imitate the American model, La Repubblica highlighted a speech by France’s socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, a Third Way skeptic, in which he denounced U.S. retention of the death penalty. “We must be irreproachable in raising the problem of human rights in developing countries by defending them with great rigor in our own,” Jospin said. “And for this I would like to see the death penalty disappear in all democracies.”

One issue preoccupying the British press Monday was where Tony and Cherie Blair’s forthcoming baby was conceived–was it in Tuscany or in France during their summer vacation? Fending off questions about this in an interview with La Repubblica, Tony Blair admitted that he thought it would be a “British baby.” Fevered study of the diaries of the prime minister and his wife led most British papers to conclude that their fourth child, due next May when Cherie will be three months short of 46 years old, must have been conceived while the couple were staying with Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral, her Scottish castle. The tabloid Daily Mirror even published a photograph Monday of the bedroom in which it claimed the conception had taken place.

Far the biggest story in Britain, however, was the disgrace of millionaire novelist Lord Jeffrey Archer, who was forced to resign at the weekend as the chosen Conservative Party candidate for mayor of London after being exposed in the Mirror for using a false alibi in a libel action 12 years ago. Archer won about $750,000 in damages against tabloid newspaper the Daily Star after it alleged that he had consorted with a prostitute. Archer now faces possible criminal charges after admitting to getting a friend to lie that they had dined together in a restaurant on one of the evenings in question. In editorials Monday, almost all newspapers sharply criticized Conservative Party leader William Hague for supporting Archer’s candidacy and praising his probity despite the novelist’s controversial past and warnings that he had further skeletons in his closet.

As China’s successful launch into orbit of its Shenzhou spacecraft received saturation coverage in the state-controlled Chinese press, a Chinese military expert told the China Business Times that the test had major military implications. Song Yichang said that the same low-power propulsion technology used to adjust a spacecraft’s orbit in flight could also be used to alter the path of offensive missiles, thus enabling China to overcome U.S. anti-missile defenses.

On the 36th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the National Post of Canada ran a commentary by Corbin Andrews saying that three other men who died on Nov. 22, 1963–C.S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley, and French composer Francis Poulenc–“made contributions to our century that far outweigh Kennedy’s.” The writer said, “His legacy holds power only because it is symbolic of America’s lost innocence. His assassination marks the point when the bubble burst and we finally realized there could never be a heaven on Earth. Of course, Lewis and Huxley had been telling us that all along.”