Today's Papers

Bill’s Big Bill

The Washington Post leads with President Clinton’s introduction of a bill to secure “permanent normal trade relations” (né, “most favored nation status”) with China, a story fronted by the New York Times and Los Angeles Times (it also tops the Wall Street Journal’s “World-Wide” box). The NYT and LAT lead with follow-ups to yesterday’s Super Tuesday coverage. All the papers front Bill Bradley’s expected withdrawal from the presidential race and his endorsement of Vice President Gore.

In a speech at Johns Hopkins University, Clinton explained that without passage of his trade legislation, the U.S. will not have as much access to Chinese markets as China’s other partners in the World Trade Organization. (The only other WTO nation shunned by the U.S. is Cuba, notes the Journal.) Clinton compared passage of the bill to Nixon’s trip to China, and defeat to the Senate’s rejection of the League of Nations treaty after World War I. The NYT and LAT report that Clinton appeared to have been waiting for Gore to secure the Democratic presidential nomination before introducting the long-delayed legislation, which the AFL-CIO opposes. More congressional Republicans than Democrats support the bill, and the House vote–which Clinton wants by mid-May–will be close. The Post says that the White House plans to lobby as hard as it did for the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993. The NYT adds that Paul Wolfowitz, a senior foreign-policy adviser to George W. Bush, introduced Clinton at Johns Hopkins. (Tactfully, Wolfowitz did not mention that Bush’s support for the bill is stronger than Gore’s.) Grist for Clinton’s opponents can be found in the Journal, which reports that Taiwan’s Nationalist Party presidential candidate–identified with strong cross-straits relations–has been surging in the polls since last week’s saber rattling by the mainland.

The NYT Super Tuesday follow-up reports that both Gore and Bush will start campaigning immediately. The paper uses Bob Dole in ‘96 and Michael Dukakis in ‘88 as examples of campaigns that lay dormant before the summer conventions and suffered as a result. (The Times fails to note, however, that Dukakis enjoyed a large lead in the polls after the ‘88 Democratic convention. So his campaign’s inactivity that spring could not have hurt him that much; in fact, it probably saved him money.) The Journal’s piece compares 2000 to 1901, when Teddy Roosevelt–having assumed the presidency amid peace and economic prosperity–fought his party’s regulars to shape a centrist, reform-oriented coalition. The Post reports that Bush has spent a jaw-dropping $64 million during the primary season, and now has only $4 million. (Gore has $7 million.) The LAT repeats the conventional wisdom that both candidates will tack to the center to win independent votes. A “Democratic consultant” quoted in the piece offers this trenchant insight:

What Bill Bradley and John McCain point out, among other things, are the vulnerabilities of Gore and Bush: The kind of voters they had appeal to are the kind of voters Bush and Gore didn’t have appeal to.

The Post and LAT front the Israeli Supreme Court’s 4-1 decision that the Jewish Agency–a quasi-governmental body controlling 93 percent of Israeli land–can no longer bar Arabs from living in certain types of cooperative settlements. The decision, which the Post compares to Brown vs. Board of Education, overturns 50 years of policy and strikes at the heart of Zionist ideology. The LAT puts it best when it writes that “the court stepped into Israel’s existential debate over whether it is first and foremost a democratic or a Jewish state.” The NYT, which, of all papers, does not carry the story, reefers an agreement between Israel and Palestine to resume peace talks later this month. (The Post carries the peace-talks story on Page A20.)

The LAT fronts Donald Trump’s deal to manage a Palm Springs casino owned by an Indian tribe. The agreement comes just hours after the passage of California’s Proposition 1A, which amended the state constitution to give Native Americans exclusive control of slot machines and card games. The LAT fronts, and the Post runs inside, stories that put Prop 1A in a larger framework: Because the GOP race was competitive and the Democratic race was not, Tuesday’s primary featured a unusually conservative electorate. This partly explains why voters passed referendums defeating the recognition of gay couples married out of state, increasing punishment for juvenile criminals, and opposing a plan to publicly finance some state elections. (They did keep a large cigarette tax and passed bond issues for land preservation.)

The NYT off-leads a fascinating piece on the rapid decline in illegal-alien deportations. The article has some stellar shoe-leather reporting from the streets of Chicago, where many illegals now work low-wage jobs without fear of discovery. (In fact, some illegals now have deportation protections written into their employment contracts, the Times says. These provisions require employers to demand a warrant before the INS can search the workplace and to alert the employee’s labor union if a raid is pending.)

But the thesis of the NYT story–that the INS has deliberately neglected enforcement in order to fight rising labor costs in a tight market–doesn’t hold up. Only two INS officials are quoted, neither of whom admit to any macroeconomic motives behind non-enforcement. The Timesonly evidence of an economic link is the sharp drop in arrests of non-criminal illegals since 1997. But this need not be explained by a secret INS war against wage inflation. For instance, the California GOP–which was famously hostile to illegals–has been thrown out of office since ‘97. The Times itself mentions another possible impetus for the decline in arrests: INS border enforcement has been stepped up. In other words, the arrest statistics might simply reflect a reassignment of the agency’s limited enforcement resources. The Times also fails to mention the many possible causes of the low wage inflation of the “new economy,” such as the rise of stock-option remuneration, increases in worker productivity, and labor markets made more fluid by outsourcing, part-time contracts, and technology-assisted job placement.

A correction from today’s NYT:

Because of an editing error, a brief report yesterday about a Southwest Airlines jet that struck a fence on Sunday after landing in Burbank, Calif., misstated a finding from the National Transportation Safety Board about the plane’s speed. The board said the plane was traveling about 37 miles an hour when it hit the fence, not when it landed.