Today's Papers

The Mark of McCain

USA Today

leads with President Clinton’s expected proposal today of a $280 million increase in federal funds targeting the enforcement of current gun control laws, a move the paper says is explicitly calculated to meet a recurring NRA criticism: that federal firearms prosecutions have steeply declined under Clinton. The New York Times carries the gun enforcement money inside, but joins the Los Angeles Times in leading with the abrupt postponement of the Israel-Syria talks that had been scheduled to resume in West Virginia this week. Both papers report that one factor was the publication in the Israeli press last week of the working paper for the talks, which displeased Syria by revealing some of its heretofore unpublicized concessions, such as allowing some sort of Israeli intelligence ground station to remain in the Golan Heights and endorsing the exchange of ambassadors and the opening of borders. The story also sits atop the Wall Street Journal’s front-page news index box and is fronted below the fold by the Washington Post, whose top non-local story is the paper’s new polling on the New Hampshire primaries showing that both the Democratic and Republican races are “up for grabs.” Meanwhile, the LAT’s front-page poll detects strong leads for Bush and Gore in the Iowa caucuses.

The NYT take on the Israel-Syria talks mentions a prosaic angle behind the sudden turn of events: Yasser Arafat is scheduled to see President Clinton at the White House on Thursday and the Syrians didn’t much relish “languishing” down in West Virginia during those festivities.

The NYT top-fronts Kofi Annan’s choice of former U.N. arms monitor Rolf Ekeus to lead a new U.N. commission that will attempt to complete the task of assessing the chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons capabilities of Saddam Hussein. The NYT goes on to note that last night Russia registered its objection to the appointment, throwing it into doubt and inducing tension between Washington and Moscow, but the paper should have, like the LAT does over its inside story on the matter, mentioned the Russian balk in the headline.

The NYT reefers last night’s Gore-Bradley debate centering on racial issues, while the others stuff it. The coverage notes that the only real harsh disagreement between the two came on the question of police racial profiling. Bradley challenged Gore to get President Clinton to sign an executive order banning the practice immediately and Gore replied that he didn’t think his boss “needs a lecture from Bill Bradley.” Both the NYT and LAT top-front pictures of some 46,000 marchers in Columbia, S.C., protesting the state’s practice of flying the Confederate battle flag on the state Capitol. The NYT says the protest was perhaps the greatest civil rights rally since the 1960s and that it drew a surprisingly high number of white marchers–about 5 percent to 10 percent of the crowd. Today’s Papers doesn’t know what’s more depressing–that the white turnout was so small or that it’s seen as so large. USAT sees only a “smattering” of whites in attendance.

The WSJ reports that a study to be released today finds that while the income gap between rich and poor widened in the U.S. overall during the ‘90s, the size of the gap depended on the state in question. The average income of the top 20 percent of families was $137,500, or more than 10 times that of the poorest 20 percent, which was $13,300, but in nine states–New York, Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, California, Rhode Island, Texas, Oregon, and Kentucky–the top figure was more than 11 times the bottom.

A gap of another sort is detailed on the USAT front: The death rate for liposuction is 20 times to 60 times higher than the death rate for all operations performed in hospitals, according to a new study. The main reason given by the paper is that liposuction is mostly performed in doctors’ offices, where the procedures aren’t required to be so strict. But the reader can’t tell if this is enough of an explanation, because the story doesn’t say what the overall mortality rate is for all in-office procedures.

Look for John McCain to take a bit of a beating over a remark reported inside the WP. In New Hampshire, McCain said he’d served in the Navy with many gays. When asked how he knew that given that they hadn’t come out to him, he responded, “Well, I think we know by behavior and by attitudes.” He went on to say that he wouldn’t “pursue” such sailors, meaning apparently that he wouldn’t try to get them expelled from the service. The Post reports that an official of the Human Rights Campaign, a major gay rights group, said McCain’s remark was “a form of prejudice.” The paper doesn’t say it, but it’s worth noting that if McCain is right that gaydar is pretty much universal, and suppressing awareness of gays in a unit so as to maintain cohesion is the point of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,”–a doctrine McCain supports–then well, the doctrine has no point, since everybody already knows and hence unit cohesion is already threatened.