Today's Papers

Presidency: Easy to Putin

USA Today

and the Washington Post lead with Sunday’s word from White House officials that President Clinton will, in presenting his final budget plan to Congress next month, ask for tax cuts and credits worth billions. But both stories are quickly forced into speculation mode because the White House didn’t give out any crunchable details. The top non-local story at the Los Angeles Times states that the election chances of acting Russian President Vladimir Putin are excellent in part because of a bill Boris Yeltsin signed on his last day in office that requires candidates to garner the signatures of 1 million registered voters, an accomplishment the paper says will be much easier for Putin–now in control of considerable resources as the head of state–than for any potential rival. The New York Times stuffs taxes and runs a story inside that also suggests Putin’s election inevitability but never mentions the million-vote requirement; the paper leads instead with a story that only the LAT also fronts–the Syria/Israel talks scheduled this week for West Virginia.

The LAT fronts a story suggesting that Y2K preparedness could prove to be a huge boon to the economy. The idea put forth is that under the rubric of Y2K, many companies replaced computer systems wholesale and in the process they gained not just freedom from the millennial bug but also the ability to perform a wide array of new tasks. And the productivity thus gained will pay off for years. Or so the story says, quoting five experts in support along the way, before swerving abruptly to a “to be sure” 11th paragraph that says Y2K preparedness “posed an enormous distraction, soaking up time and money that might have been plowed into projects with a more immediate payoff,” and that “much of the investment went to inoculate older technology against the computer bug rather than to embrace the newest processes that could revolutionize the way work is done.” If the point of the piece was to say that the money spent is now looking like a tough call, then this idea should have been brought up higher and developed. If the point is that despite such comments the preparedness is a boon, then they should have been brought up higher and answered. What the LAT does instead makes for a disorienting neither-fish-nor-fowl story.

The papers visit with some Y2K pessimists post-non-disaster. The Wall Street Journal finds a food storage executive who one month last year sold $12 million worth of food packets instead of the usual $1 million and also spent $100,000 on Y2K contingency measures for himself and his family; the man is now worried that the non-happening could mean his just-past best year might be followed by his worst ever. And the NYT presents the author of Time Bomb 2000, who hands a visitor (= the Times reporter) a free copy. The author expresses few regrets for whatever role he played in getting companies, citizens, and government agencies to avoid breakdowns. But then, his book, says the NYT, has sold a quarter-million copies.

The WP and LAT surprise by fronting the death of former chief of naval operations Elmo Zumwalt Jr.–an anti-bureaucratic admiral who tried to open up his starched white branch to flexible thinking and minority sailors, but who was best known for having ordered the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam, a decision which he came to believe caused the death of his own son and the brain dysfunction of a grandson. The NYT and USAT play it inside (although it seems a bit cockeyed that the latter puts it below a gigantic story-with-pictures about a certain fellating fatso).

There are apparently unstated limits to what the LAT’s “Hot Property” counts as newsworthy about its glitzy buyers and sellers. Sunday’s column, for instance, in reporting that Tim Allen had bought Christian Slater’s house, was only too glad to tick off the actors’ credits but didn’t mention another residential fact the two have in common–they’ve both done time.

Sunday’s NYT sports section ran, under the headline “You Must Remember This,” a selection of the 20th century’s signal sports events. Incredibly, only one of the cited 16 keepers–Bobby Thomson’s home run–occurred before 1960. This foreshortening of the century forced the elimination of such undeniably epochal events as Jesse Owens’ performance in Berlin, Roger Bannister’s breaking of the four-minute mile, and the Baltimore Colts’ sudden death championship win. The likely explanation is worrisome even if (like Today’s Papers) you don’t follow sports: boomer editors who can’t seem to shake boomer sensibilities when they come to work.

The headline over the NYT story about former House Ways and Means major domo Dan Rostenkowski says he’s back “showing a softer side,” but you be the judge. In commenting on Newt Gingrich’s marital troubles, Rosty is quoted saying, “Thank God, all my girls are dead.”