Today's Papers

The Right Stuff?

The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times agree on today’s top story: the acquittal of four white police officers in the shooting death of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant killed last year in the vestibule of his own apartment building in the Bronx. Diallo, the officers later learned, was reaching for his wallet, not a gun, when he was fired at 41 times. The verdict, announced yesterday evening after nearly three days of deliberations by a jury in Albany, N.Y., cleared the defendants of all criminal charges, from murder to reckless endangerment. All three papers run essentially the same inside-the-courtroom photo of two of the officers locked in a tearful hug.

The Diallo verdict set off protests outside Diallo’s apartment, where hundreds of people gathered to express their outrage. The crowds seem to have respected Diallo’s parents’ appeal for calm–only minor scuffles were reported city-wide and just two people were arrested. The NYT fronts and the WP stuffs a second story on the acquittal, assessing public opinion. Most New Yorkers were shocked by the verdict, but some felt relieved and vindicated. The WP is the only paper to point up Mayor Rudolf Giuliani’s post-trial bad timing: during a news conference in which he praised the verdict and extended sympathy to the Diallo family, he lashed out at his own critics, whom he accused of “a vicious kind of police bias.” According to the Post, this was the “emotional centerpiece” of Giuliani’s speech. On the presidential campaign trail, only Bill Bradley, who described himself as stunned, offered a heartfelt reaction. The NYT quotes: “I think that it shows that when racial profiling seeps so deeply into somebody’s mind, a wallet in the hand of a white man looks like a wallet, but a wallet in the hand of a black man looks like a gun.”

The NYT fronts and the WP and LAT off-lead with yesterday’s Dow Jones plunge below the psychologically charged 10,000 mark. The Dow is now down 14.22 percent since the beginning of the year, while the technology-dominated Nasdaq, which hit an all-time high yesterday, is up 12.81 percent. What’s going on? There’s consensus on this one: Alan Greenspan is expected to raise interest rates, and investors, doubting the stability of “old-economy companies,” which rely on capital that is sensitive to interest rates, are flocking to hot “new-economy companies.”

The NYT dares to ask the question so many people have been wondering: Would McCain run as the Reform Party candidate if he loses the Republican nomination? According to the NYT, McCain claims he only wants the Reform nomination if he wins the Republican race. But can McCain be nominated by both parties? Technically, yes, but it’s unlikely. First of all, McCain and Ross Perot, who is still an influential player in the Reform Party and hasn’t ruled out running himself, would have to patch things up. According to the NYT, McCain once described Perot as “nuttier than a fruitcake” (mocking Perot-speak?). More important, however, some state rules make it impossible for anyone to be a joint nominee. The Reform Party would need McCain to lose the Republican nomination, accept the Reform nomination, and draw enough votes to keep the party alive. A three-way race in November might just be a joint nightmare for Gore and Bush.

The WP fronts two stories on the campaign–a horse-race report on McCain’s gains on Bush in Virginia and an analysis of Bush’s unprecedented spending. The stories are separated by a photo of Bush, jumping on the new-media bandwagon and answering questions during his first online chat, at America Online headquarters. (The Post notes that AOL employees have donated a whopping $62,000 to presidential campaigns, mostly to Bradley, and AOL’s Steve Case has given $1,000 to both Bush and McCain.) McCain is going after the Democrats and independents in Virginia, who are allowed to vote in that state’s primary on Tuesday (so long as they pledge not to participate in another party’s primary), but both candidates are concentrating their time in Washington state, which also holds an open primary on Tuesday.

As for Bush’s spending, the WP makes the case that the Bush campaign runs through money like water. Little expense has been spared; the Bush campaign has spent twice as much as McCain on travel alone, chartering its own plane and moving around in presidential-style motorcades. The WP isn’t critical of Bush, however. In fact, the tone is tinged with awe at Bush’s larger-than-life spending. “With $71 million collected so far, the Bush campaign is much like a house built for giants, with accoutrements to scale.”

The LAT fronts a fascinating analysis of McCain’s leadership style. Tracing McCain’s failed 1998 fight for anti-tobacco legislation, the LAT paints a picture of a visionary who can build coalitions and isn’t afraid to take on his own party’s leaders when he’s convinced they’re wrong. The final quote of the piece, from a political scientist at the University of Kansas, sums things up quite nicely: “The very reason someone like Bush might criticize John McCain–he’s not known as one of the legislative heavy hitters–that may be a reason why McCain might make a pretty good president. The best legislators simply do not have the temperament to run for president.” So, McCain is a reformer without results, but that might just prove he has the right stuff! In the winner-take-all state of California, where only Republican votes count toward delegate selection, this very well could be his best ad.