Today's Papers

Waging War

The New York Times’ top non-local story is a NYT/CBS News poll showing that the Democrats have a significantly higher approval rating than Republicans on most election issues. The Los Angeles Times’ top non-local story is the Senate’s 55-44 passage of a $1 minimum-wage hike–a bill that has not passed the House and would likely be vetoed by President Clinton for the tax breaks it gives to businesses. (The NYT reefers this story.) The Washington Post   leads with the revelation that the Army has rated two of its 10 divisions as unready for war, the first time any division has received such a designation in seven years. This “C-4” rating means that the units in question–based in New York and Germany–need more soldiers, equipment, and training to participate in a regional conflict. The Post says this is partly an appeal for more money. The NYT, which credits the Post, runs this story inside. USA Today   leads with a Y2K scoop: Nearly 50 percent of local 911 emergency services–such as fire, police, and ambulance corps–are not Y2K compliant. This statistic comes from the final report of President Clinton’s Year 2000 Conversion Council, to be released today. The Council also says that 60 percent of health-care facilities and one-third of schools are unprepared; however, the federal government, the telecom industry, the financial sector, transportation services, and the oil and gas industries are over 90 percent ready.

The NYT poll finds that the Dems have a greater-than-10-point electoral advantage on health care, education, and Social Security. (The Republicans lead on military readiness, but this issue holds little weight with voters, the poll finds.) Moreover, Congressional Democrats have a 7-percent-higher approval rating than Congressional Republicans; if this holds, the NYT says it would ensure a Democratic House in 2001. George W. Bush holds a significant but shrinking lead–about 10 points–over both Al Gore and Bill Bradley (the difference between the two Democrats in a race with Bush was not statistically significant). Bush led Gore by 15 points in October and 17 points in September. Both Democratic candidates have a greater-than-10-point lead over John McCain, however.

The Wall Street Journal   reports that 14 Pfizer executives sold 1.2 million shares of the company in the days leading up to Pfizer’s hostile takeover bid for Warner-Lambert. Since the bid was announced last Thursday, Pfizer shares have dropped 9 percent.

A Journal opinion piece describes why there have been so many pharmaceutical mergers recently. Scientific breakthroughs tend to produce small start-ups firms that pioneer new methods of research and secure valuable patents. Soon, the establishment companies realize they need the new research technology and patents, and the small firms realize they need economies of scale to keep producing successful drugs. Thus the antibiotic revolution produced a spate of mergers in the ‘40s and ‘50s, breakthroughs in heart and digestive drugs produced mergers in the ‘70s, and the genetic revolution is producing mergers in the ‘90s. Also, the move in Washington to create new prescription coverage for Medicare recipients threatens to lower drug prices, which in turn pushes firms to produce newer drugs with higher margins, which requires more research money and new technology.

On the NYT Op-Ed page, Garry Wills argues that the true test of a presidential candidate is not temperament or virtue but the shrewd ability to communicate with a constituency.

What disqualifies a leader is the kind of flaw that would turn away followers. By that measure, Mr. McCain’s anger is not what a pastor would encourage for the good of a man’s soul, but it makes little difference at all in his ability to attract followers.

Gore’s problem, therefore, is not that he is a “beta” (vice presidents–even Lyndon Johnson–must be) or that he is reserved (so was Lincoln), but that hiring a Dick Morris hanger-on like Naomi Wolf and trying to hide it shows a “stunning lapse in intelligence,” a daft inability to perceive what will mobilize and what will alienate the voters.

On the Post opinion page, Michael Kelly asks his colleagues in the media,

Why does everyone loathe us so? Because, my little preciouses, we are so loathable. … Reporters like to picture themselves as independent thinkers. In truth, with the exception of 13-year-old girls, there is no social subspecies more slavish to fashion, more terrified of originality and more devoted to group-think.

 To this, Today’s Papers readily, wholeheartedly, and unconditionally agrees.