Today's Papers

McCain POW Wow

The New York Times leads with how business lobbyists view the just-concluded session of Congress. Very enthusiastically, says the paper, in a story running under a brutal headline: “CONGRESS LEAVES BUSINESS LOBBIES ALMOST ALL SMILES.” The Washington Post goes with a sum-up of the FBI investigation into EgyptAir 990–an effort that by now involves hundreds of agents in Washington, Cairo, and elsewhere. The Los Angeles Times leads with a mushrooming source of medical inflation–the rising cost of prescription medications advertised on television–which are typically at least twice as expensive as older, over-the-counter, unadvertised counterparts. The paper explains that since the FDA’s 1997 decision to permit prescription drug TV commercials, average prescription costs have climbed at more than double the general inflation rate. USA Today goes with a nonpartisan group’s recently compiled figures indicating that Bill Bradley has a fund-raising lead over Al Gore in California, New York, Illinois, and New Jersey, and is also leading the money race in Iowa and New Hampshire, the two earliest primary states.

According to the NYT, congressional victories for the business lobby this past year included: repeal of Depression-era laws preventing banks, securities firms, and insurance concerns from entering one another’s line of business, a five-year extension of the business R&D tax credit, no increase in the minimum wage, no regulation of health-care plans, no campaign finance reform, and no ban on agribusiness mergers. The paper says business’s “knockout”legislative feat was a triumph over the trial lawyers: passage of a law limiting Y2K lawsuits.

According to the Post lead, the FBI’s willingness to let the NTSB (the government’s accident investigation body) remain for the time being in charge of the EgyptAir investigation, rather than officially ratcheting it up into an up-front criminal probe, has a payoff: It placates the Egyptian authorities, who therefore have been more cooperative in sharing flight and personnel records with the Bureau, which outside the U.S. has no power to seize evidence. Also, shades of the dog who didn’t bark, the Post reveals that investigators are paying close attention to what the praying co-pilot didn’t say: “There was no shocked expletive or puzzled comment, as pilots typically make in an emergency or when highly computerized aircraft suddenly take action without pilot input.”

Both the NYT and WP front stories about the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland, which broke off from Somalia five years ago to escape the daily fighting between warlords there. The papers report that Somaliland has indeed accomplished its goal of becoming a peaceful enclave, but needs foreign cash if it is to actually become an independent nation. This at a time when the developed world is spending less and less on foreign aid.

An inside WP item by Howard Kurtz reports that in an Al Gore radio ad making the rounds, the two women chatting about health care are not the ordinary folks they seem to be, but are actresses reading from a script. Why is this news? Hasn’t Kurtz ever heard of Harry and Louise?

In a NYT op-ed, retired Adm. James B. Stockdale responds to recent allegations that some Senate colleagues of John McCain think he was rendered unbalanced by his five years in a North Vietnamese prison. Stockdale vouches for the rock-solid temperament of his fellow former Hanoi Hilton resident. That’s to be expected–but what’s really newsy here is that Stockdale reports that an old friend he describes as close to the George W. Bush campaign recently called him soliciting comments on McCain’s “weaknesses.” This is the first solid link between Bush and the anti-McCain whispering campaign.

The Wall Street Journal features a Desert Storm memoir by active-duty Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh that was originally delivered to cadets at the Air Force Academy. The talk contains the following compelling and reassuring passage, about a transport helicopter pilot, who came up on the radio volunteering to go pick up a fighter pilot shot down over a heavy concentration of Iraqi troops: “You need to remember a Chinook is about the size of a double-decker London bus with props, and it doesn’t have guns. We kid around a lot about interservice rivalries, but I guarantee that I would follow that Army helicopter pilot into combat. I’ll never forget her voice.”