Today's Papers

The Best Policy

The Washington Post leads with a commendable follow-up to a story that it broke Sept. 29, 1999. Eighteen-year-old Jesse Gelsinger, who suffered from a rare liver disorder, died from a blood reaction caused during a gene therapy experiment administered by the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Human Gene Therapy. “There’s little question that Gelsinger was a willing and eager participant” and his father remains supportive of the Penn team. But the Post’s investigation reveals a number of variables–Institute head James Wilson had financial interests in seeing the therapy succeed; “the Penn study experimented with the healthiest rather than the sickest” patients, and more–that raise serious questions about whether the experiment should have occurred.

The New York Times lead, Post off-lead and an Los Angeles Times front piece all reflect on what the 106th Republican Congress has accomplished in a year which began with Senate acquittal of Clinton. The Post notes the 106th “was notable more for what it did not do than for what it did”; NYT and LAT concur. Failures include the inability to restructure Medicare and Social Security and pass gun control legislation or the $792 billion tax cut; and the rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The Post and NYT cite the overhaul of Depression-era laws limiting the interaction of banks, securities firms and insurance companies as the 106th’s most significant feat. The LAT notes it, but says “the GOP’s most striking accomplishment” was promising “to end the long-standing practice of using Social Security revenues to finance other parts of government.” The Democrats backed them up on their pledge. NYT emphasizes the congressional Republicans’ post-impeachment resentment of Clinton, an idea echoed by the LAT. The NYT piece points out that “Despite their minority status, Democrats have largely set the agenda for this Congress.” The Post piece anticipates that, although House Speaker Dennis Hastert is less divisive than ex-Speaker Newt Gingrich, the 106th might have a tough time resolving unfinished business as it heads into an election year.

The LAT lead reports Clinton acknowledged “the U.S. government’s support for the widely despised military junta that ruled Greece more than 25 years ago” during a speech to Greek business and community leaders. In recent years, the president has readily owned up to “mistakes–even horrors–in official American conduct.” This latest admission should help his efforts to get Greece and Turkey to resolve their differences over Cyprus.

NYT off-leads a piece about Republican pesidential hopeful John McCain’s 1989-91 “14-month Senate ethics investigation that ended with his exoneration.” (Today’s Papers wishes the NYT web site had links to related articles from that time.) McCain was accused, with four other senators, of having attempted to improperly influence federal banking regulators on behalf of Charles Keating, from whom they’d accepted legal but large campaign contributions. Politicos and McCain’s friends say the ordeal made him into a “crusader for changing campaign finance and … a Senate maverick.” NYT says his “strategy for surviving … was candor, especially with the press” which “gained him admirers in the news media, if not among his Senate colleagues.”

Michael Lewis also praises McCain’s honesty–and his bravery–in a refreshing NYTMagazine piece that bemoans the dominance of adversarial political journalism.

In her piece, NYT Op-Ed writer Maureen Dowd lets McCain stick up for himself against “whispered insinuations from Republicans, including some George W. Bush supporters, that his years in Vietcong dungeons, which included two suicide attempts, drove him cuckoo.” He says his years spent in solitary gave him confidence, self-knowledge, and prepared him for life’s difficulties. Dowd notes that wannabe presidents are now getting “questioned for serving, not dodging” and thinks that some candidates might be worried about how they’ll compare to “inspiring war hero” McCain.

Inside, the Post runs news that the “Republican Governors’ Association (RGA) offered an institutional endorsement” of Texas Gov. George W. Bush, symbolizing their willingness “to use their muscle and prestige to help him win the nomination.”

Under the fold, the Post calls a foul on Bill Bradley for reneging on his promise to play a chivalrous campaign game; the Democratic hopeful has taken verbal jabs at his competitor Al Gore recently. Though Bradley’s camp has emphasized his disdain for campaign tactics like opponent-bashing and building platforms around focus group research, he seems to be increasingly relying on such conventions as the New Hampshire primary approaches; it’s about 10 weeks away.

An LAT poll shows Gore up only one percentage point over Bradley in New Hampshire though he’s got an 18-point advantage nationally. Similarly, Bush has four times the support McCain does nationally, but only leads him by 8 points in N.H. The poll also shows voters prefer Bush to Gore by 55 percent to 40 percent. Voters would still choose Bush over Bradley, but by a smaller margin: 50 percent to 41 percent.

Leaning on anecdotal evidence, the LAT says in a front piece that California’s most severely ill mental patients get sufficient care only after actual or near catastrophes. One example: A paranoid schizophrenic who had been briefly hospitalized at least 15 times killed a 25-year-old woman.