Today's Papers

Bloated Corps

USA Today

leads with a primary package containing a story asserting that Bush-McCain might not be resolved until the Republican Party convention in late July and also an interview with Al Gore, who the paper depicts as ready for the fall election. The New York Times lead finds post-primary shock among Bush’s staunchest supporters–perhaps because the day after the South Carolina primary they read in the Times that “Bush Halts McCain.” The Los Angeles Times leads with a significant intensification of the investigation into LAPD corruption–the announcement Wednesday that federal prosecutors and FBI agents would begin investigating alleged civil rights abuses by L.A. cops. The Washington Post leads with a story that it started nibbling at earlier this month: that the Army Corps of Engineers has been angling to increase its budget by more than 50 percent.

According to the USAT lead, Gore sees the Bush-McCain contest as the Republican Party “at war with itself,” and the two men as nearly indistinguishable right-wingers, who “both want to take away a woman’s right to choose. They both want to drain money from public schools. They’re part of the crowd that wanted to eliminate the Department of Education. They both supported the Contract with America. They both have risky tax schemes …”

For its Army Corps of Engineers story, the WP obtained an internal-use Corps slide show setting specific budget increase goals for various activities, evidence, the paper says, of a conscious effort by military officers to grow the already 37,000-strong agency. When the paper brings the slide show to the attention of a civilian assistant Army secretary, the response is “Oh my God. My God. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I can’t believe this.” The paper points out that the man is supposed to know, since he’s the Army secretary overseeing Corps policy.

USAT is alone among the big dailies in fronting the possibility that as a response to stepped-up violence in Kosovo, the U.S. is considering sending Marines in to augment the U.S. and other NATO forces already there. France has just ordered in 700 additional troops.

The NYT is alone in fronting the publication of a report prepared for the European Parliament alleging that a U.S. Cold War-era eavesdropping network is now being used to help American companies prevail over European ones. Both British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a State Department spokesman denied this, with the latter saying that the National Security Agency is not authorized to provide intelligence information to private firms. The paper also has ex-Clinton CIA Director R. James Woolsey Jr. saying that “basically the United States does not conduct industrial espionage.”

The LAT fronts the admission to be published today by the New England Journal of Medicine that nearly half its printed reviews of drugs since 1997–19 out of 40–were written by researchers with a financial interest in the companies that manufacture them, in violation of the journal’s stated policy. The LAT broke this story last fall, a fact noted by the Wall Street Journal’s account, but not by the WP’s (in the early edition, anyway). That the LAT rode herd on this one is a great example of ethical compartmentalization–after all, the NEJM lapse the LAT pointed out is very similar to that it committed itself when it did a magazine package on the Staples Center without disclosing it’s a business partner.

The NYT reefers, while everybody else goes inside with, a promotion discrimination complaint filed yesterday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by some black Secret Service agents. The Times piece functionally makes a brief for the agents, by describing in detail the lead complainant’s impressive training and accomplishments. There’s nothing in principle wrong with this, but if the paper is doing that because it thinks the agent has a good prima facie case, it should say so and if on the other hand, there is a preponderance of pro-complainant information in the story only because the Secret Service is taciturn, then the paper should just file a shorter, more balanced story.

A letter writer to the WP wonders how John McCain can say, “I hated the gooks and will continue to hate them as long as I live” and be allowed to explain it by reference to his POW experiences. Isn’t that, the writer asks, like somebody defending his use of the “n-word” by saying, “I didn’t mean all black people, just the ones I don’t like.”? Today’s Papers can’t help but also notice that in the letter the word “gook” is used, rather than “the g-word.” Now, it’s not clear whether this is the writer’s choice or the Post’s. But it’s the wrong choice, and the Post’s style sheet should indicate that the paper takes all racial slurs equally seriously.