Today's Papers

Split Screens and Texas Screeds

The Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the New York Times all lead with Congress’ approval of the fiercely contended spending bill. The 74-24 vote in favor was the last piece of the $1.7 trillion federal budget for 2000, and it allowed senators to adjourn for the year. All three papers report that although both parties had to make significant compromises to pass the bill, both Democrats and Republicans are touting their local victories within the bill: President Clinton’s plan to hire more teachers will receive its requisite funding, and the Republicans are assured of more money for medical research.

The LAT highlights the Republican claim that passage of the bill could mean that the Social Security trust fund will remain untouched for the first time in 30 years, an assertion that the NYT treats with deep skepticism. In addressing the individual parts of the spending package, the NYT points out that the budget still exceeds the set spending limits for this year by $30 million. Whereas the LAT and the NYT address the provisions of the bill in terms of the dollar amount assigned to them, the WP tends to foreground the legislators who backed or opposed particular provisions. The WP account also includes more of the behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing that took place in the final hours. The second paragraph of the WP piece examines a regionally motivated disagreement over dairy subsidies that very nearly incited a last-minute, all-night filibuster. The LAT and the NYT both include the threatened filibuster, but less prominently. A sense of grateful relief that the filibuster never materialized and that the budget was finally sent to the president pervades all three papers–they seem to be as glad to be done writing about it as the senators are to be done haggling over it. The NYT reports that after the agreement was reached, members of both parties emptied silently out of the chamber.

The WP off-leads and the NYT fronts federal judge Thomas Penfield Jackson’s appointment of Judge Richard Posner to act as non-binding mediator in the Justice Department’s suit against Microsoft. Both sides welcomed the appointment. The NYT centers its coverage on the present status of the suit and whether a mediator can help bring about a settlement. The WP goes with a close scrutiny of Posner’s record as a conservative jurist skeptical of government-regulated business. A WP companion piece, though, warns that it’s impossible to pigeonhole Posner’s views and proclivities, and that neither side in the case should feel as though it’s been appointed an ally.

The NYT off-leads the European security summit in Turkey, where new limits on conventional armaments, and simplifications of the procedures for their inspection, were adopted. The Russian war against Chechnya stood in stark contrast to the goals of the security talks, but Russia said that despite the mass of criticism it was receiving in Turkey, its conduct toward Chechnya would remain unchanged. The LAT goes with a local off-lead that could eventually have national significance: a federal appeals court ruled in San Francisco that state and local governments cannot ban outdoor tobacco advertising. But such bans have been upheld in other regions of the country. The matter will likely go to the Supreme Court.

The WP fronts the protests that met President Clinton upon his arrival in Athens. Many Greeks expressed their lasting outrage at the U.S.-led bombing of Yugoslavia. The story is slugged, “Thousands Protest Visit, U.S. Policy; President Shielded from Violence,” and the article develops more fully that juxtaposition between the fury in the streets and the tranquility in which the president was able to conduct his visit. In its live coverage of the day’s events, Greek television split the screen between Clinton’s speech at the airport and images of marauding protesters hurling rocks and firebombs. Mimicking that split-screen strategy, the WP places the article, in which Clinton is quoted to say that “If people want to protest, they ought to have a chance to do it,” under a three-column photo of riot police confronting angry demonstrators in front of stores they had set on fire. Reefering the story, the LAT also contrasts the violence of the protests with the placidity Clinton enjoyed while in the country. And the LAT also offers more specific details of the protests: 10,000 demonstrators assembled; 15 injured and 20 detained by police.

All three papers front Gov. Bush’s speech in which he outlined his foreign policy agenda: in short, a new American internationalism. He would treat China as a competitor, not a partner; and he wouldn’t allow Russian brutality in Chechnya to go unpunished. All three papers assert that Bush made the get-tough speech to answer critics of his foreign policy abilities, but each paper draws different conclusions about the speech’s effectiveness. The WP heads its story with “Bush Urges Engagement; Opposes Test Ban Treaty,” suggesting a certain reckless bluster. The NYT hints that it was merely a well-rehearsed set-piece that will crumble when Bush debuts it live at the upcoming debates with his Republican opponents. The LAT stands alone in reporting that the speech received endorsements from some prominent Republicans, such as Sen. Richard Lugar.

EgyptAir Flight 990 receives less and less front page space every day. It doesn’t make the front of the NYT, and the WP relegates it to a reefer on the safety board chairman’s statement that media leaks have “clouded” investigations into the disaster