Today's Papers

“Hopelessly Dysfunctional” Fracas

The New York Times leads with a Clinton administration plan to bolster tax collection efforts. Since 1995, the number of Internal Revenue Service auditors shrank by 25 percent while the number of tax returns grew by more than 10 percent. Two years ago, Congress enacted a bill to shield citizens from overzealous auditors. To comply with the bill, the IRS needed to shift 3,000 workers away from enforcement efforts. As a result, fewer returns are audited, businesses are successfully sheltering more of their profits, and less revenue is recouped from tax cheats. The administration wants to boost the IRS budget by 9 percent so the agency can hire more auditors.

The Washington Post leads with Russia’s abandonment of an agreement to convert dual-purpose atomic reactors to civilian energy plants. Russia is reversing its promise to halt the production of military-grade plutonium in exchange for $80 million in American aid. Cost overruns and experts’ warnings that converting reactors could lead to nuclear accidents prompted the Russians to shelve the plan. Russia is willing to shut the plants if the United States will provide $230 million to compensate Russia for the cost of replacing atomic power with conventional energy. The Los Angeles Times leads with a local scandal: Two former police officers regularly gave an informant crack in exchange for information.

A LAT front-pager suggests that the inclusion of Jörg Haider in Austria’s governing coalition presages the far-right’s rise throughout Europe. In Italy, the anti-immigrant Northern League is turning up its racist rhetoric and welcoming a visit from Haider. In Belgium, the far-right Flemish Bloc plans to duplicate Haider’s feat in fall elections. In Spain, extremists rioted and destroyed immigrants’ property last week.

Another Los Angeles Times front-pager credits George W. Bush with successfully retooling his campaign: “The New George W. is barnstorming South Carolina in a McCain-style bus” and staging three town meetings a day. The Post claims that “tensions between John McCain and George W. Bush reached a new level of bitterness.” A camera caught Bush agreeing with a supporter’s call to hit McCain where it hurts. McCain attacked Bush for “making a mockery” of campaign-finance laws. A WP front-pager recaps the Republican action in South Carolina, claiming that the battle has “pushed both candidates to new levels of performance and endurance.”

A reefered NYT piece pushes the conclusion that the Palmetto State primary is a “must-win” for Bush. He is spending more time in South Carolina, recasting himself as a reformer, expanding phone appeals to moderate voters, and buying up almost all available broadcast ads. The piece emphasizes that Bush’s state advertising budget is a whopping $3 million, but later reveals that the last-minute Bush ad buys total only $45,000 and the McCain campaign is “spending closer to $2.5 million” (a hefty chunk of McCain’s relatively paltry war chest).

The NYT empathizes with the states overlooked because of the campaign’s tight focus on early primaries. Presidential contenders rarely visit the interior West, including: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Candidates routinely ignore issues, such as land use and nuclear waste disposal, that are important to the Republican-leaning region.

The Post fronts a picture of two Reform Party officials struggling to gain control of a microphone amid the chaos of a party meeting. Shouting matches and shoving battles erupted when Ross Perot followers rose up to wrest control of the party from their recently installed chairman, Jesse Ventura supporter Jack Gargan. The party replaced Gargan with Perot partisan Pat Choate. Gargan allies staged a floor demonstration screaming “fraud,” “thievery,” and “revenge.” According to the NYT, the Nashville police were needed to calm the “near riot.” The fracas took place just one day after Ventura claimed the party had become “hopelessly dysfunctional.” The Reform schism could help McCain because his campaign stresses reformist themes. Both papers note that, due to recent events, the party will probably bestow its nomination and its $12.6 million in federal campaign funds on Pat Buchanan.

The New York Times Magazine offers readers a lighthearted Valentine’s Day essay on philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s lessons for lovers. Schopenhauer teaches that romance overwhelms reason because humankind is governed by the urge to reproduce. Amour is nothing more than “the will to life’s discovery of an ideal co-parent.”