Today's Papers

Case in Pointlessness

The Washington Post leads with the raid conducted yesterday in Kosovo by U.S. troops against command posts and weapons caches of Albanian militias who had been NATO allies during the Yugoslav war but are now threatening NATO’s peacekeeping mission by launching attacks into Serbia. Some weapons were seized, says the paper, and some shots were fired, but there were no casualties on either side. The Post was alone yesterday in passing along the Pentagon’s warning that such raids were being contemplated. Only the New York Times joins today in fronting the action, but it leads instead with its interview of George W. Bush, which emphasizes Bush’s steadfast refusal to embrace any of John McCain’s campaign positions. USA Today goes with the Dow going up 320 points yesterday and the Nasdaq going down 124. Internet stocks did badly and old-line companies such as airlines, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and retail firms did well. The paper seeks explanations, but instead gets quotations like: “It’s a flight from risk to earnings.” The Wall Street Journal puts the market atop its front-page biz news box, but everybody else puts it inside. The Los Angeles Times leads for the second day in a row with the widening rift between the LAPD chief and the city’s DA over the handling of the police scandal: The chief believes prosecutors are dragging their feet on going after corrupt officers and cannot be trusted with sensitive information, and the DA fears the chief wants to go for a quick but limited investigation.

Besides recording Bush’s reluctance to reach out to McCain, the NYT lead documents Bush’s ample animosity toward Al Gore. In the space of an hour, the paper says, Bush said six times that he didn’t trust Gore. The paper buttresses this impression with an AP dispatch inside on the e-mail Bush and Gore recently traded. In response to Gore’s message of congratulations and his suggestion that both eschew TV ads in favor of a schedule of debates, Bush counterproposed Gore’s disclosure of documents relating to White House fund-raising abuses and chastised him for not addressing the issue of compulsory union dues being used to support candidates. Bush’s close: “This Internet of yours is a wonderful invention.”

A WP front-pager depicts Bush as Texas’ “gun-friendly governor,” focusing on his championing of the law under which in the past five years the state has dispensed more than 200,000 concealed weapons permits. The piece notes that Bush does not own a handgun and has never been a member of the NRA. In addition, it quotes a Texas police chief who originally opposed the conceal-and-carry law as saying that there is no evidence of the law’s association with an increase in gun violence.

Meanwhile, an inside NYT story documents that Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, continues to suffer ill effects from one too many trips to the range without adequate ear protection. According to the paper, he said that because the administration hadn’t prosecuted a man for gun-law violations, President Clinton bore responsibility for his fatal shooting last year of the former coach of the Northwestern University basketball team. Administration officials replied that it’s state officials, not federal ones, who are charged with such matters in Illinois, where the shooting took place. The NYT columnist Bob Herbert writes that gun control advocates need more Wayne LaPierres, because he “embodies the extremism and the craziness embedded in the policies and the philosophy of the N.R.A.” It would be nice, by the way, if the Times, which played a big part in the making of modern libel law especially as it regards public figures, had explained why LaPierre’s calling Clinton an accessory to murder isn’t libelous. Also, is the paper free to pass along such comments with impunity?

USAT fronts an AP story reporting that a three-year congressional investigation found no evidence that the Clinton-era IRS targeted any political enemies for audits, but did find that Clinton administration officials, including Gore staffers, twice tried to improperly obtain secret taxpayer information. The story does not identify the alleged target of the impropriety. The WP runs the story inside.

“At America Online, our mission has always been to build a global medium that changes the way people live their lives. As our company has grown, we’ve learned that if you’re going to try to change the world, a good place to start is in your own backyard. … Companies like ours have grown strong in this climate of change. With that growth has come a new sense of responsibility that we must use our leadership–and the power of the Internet–to ensure that our prosperity reaches every community and classroom in our region.” The words are Steve Case’s and they are the beginning of a) the AOL new employees handbook; b) the AOL voice mail message; or c) the new AOL TV ad. The answer is d) an op-ed in the WP. Case’s column continues on in this vaporous, self-serving way for nearly 800 words, raising two questions: 1) How small does a business have to be before the Post op-ed page won’t let its CEO bloviate thusly? And 2) How much money did the Post lose by not making this spam run as a full-page ad?