Today's Papers

Only Emir Business Deal?

The Washington Post and New York Times lead with presidential primary stories focusing on Bush vs. McCain, also the top story in the Wall Street Journal’s front-page news index. USA Today has a front-page Super Tuesday “cover story” but goes with an AP story on the Israeli Cabinet’s approval of the nation’s complete and probably unilateral troop withdrawal from southern Lebanon by July. Ditto for the Los Angeles Times, which puts the campaign below the fold. The Israel-Lebanon story is carried inside at the ordinarily Middle East-sensitive WP and NYT.

The consensus of the coverage is that McCain will sweep the New England states voting Tuesday but that he will lose to Bush in the delegate-rich states of New York, Ohio, and California. It’s clear that, at this point, for McCain the campaign is mostly about the campaign. The papers recount his continued criticism of Bush spots and other negative ads funded by a key Bush supporter. “It’s so Clintonesque, it’s scary,” he’s quoted as saying in the WP, “Raise the soft money and run the attack ads.” The Post also quotes McCain’s reaction to Bush campaign ads criticizing him for opposing funding for two breast cancer research projects in New York: He was “offended” in part because his own sister has breast cancer. The paper does not observe, however, that this sort of family medical disclosure is precisely what McCain bridled at when reporters asked him how he’d handle a daughter contemplating an abortion.

Meanwhile, the WP says Gore has “dropped all pretense of a primary race,” seeing him as now focused almost exclusively, not on Bradley, but on Bush.

President Clinton visited Selma, Ala., yesterday to commemorate the famous bloody voting rights march that took place there 35 years ago. The WP and NYT stuff the story, even though Clinton is the first sitting president to do so. The LAT fronts the event in the form of a “Column One” by Jack Nelson, who covered civil rights campaigns in the South for the paper (although as he reminds today, he wasn’t in Selma for “Bloody Sunday”–he was off in Atlanta covering Martin Luther King; both would quickly return when news of the outrage spread). Nelson finds that the local Selma government now has many blacks in powerful positions but that the business community there is still overwhelmingly white. Curiously, the city has the same white mayor it had at the time of the march, who is described in the LAT story as now an old friend of Rep. John Lewis, a hero of the day who was seriously beaten by police.

There’s a very significant political fact that the coverage omits: None of the presidential candidates seems to have mentioned Selma.

The WP’s lead editorial defends Slate’s right to publish exit poll information it has come in possession of via traditional news-gathering techniques. The editorial reasonably observes, “Media reporting often entails discussing other news groups’ as yet unpublished stories. The press should not be less subject to media scrutiny than everyone else.” Today’s Papers should add that it is still waiting for a detailed review and analysis in the press of the research purporting to show that early disclosure of poll results neither depresses turnout nor otherwise changes voting trends. For even if the press should be able to scrutinize the press, it shouldn’t be able to control elections.

The NYT, WSJ, and WP all report that Lockheed Martin has won an agreement to sell 80 F-16 fighters to the United Arab Emirates. The coverage emphasizes what a financial shot in the arm this is to the company but doesn’t mention one word about the external aspects of the deal. Why doesn’t anybody in the press wonder why the UAE needs what the Journal gleefully describes as “among the most sophisticated F-16 fighter jets in the world”? Or wonder about what impact this sale will have on the stability of the region? Will Iran or Iraq, for instance, now escalate somehow in response? Will U.S. fighter pilots now have the additional difficulty of someday flying against these advanced aircraft? The papers don’t say–they seem to view foreign military sales purely as a stock price and jobs support program.

Back to Selma: President Clinton’s words quoted in the Post are too beautiful not to pass along: “[T]hose of you who marched 35 years ago set me free too on Bloody Sunday–free to know you, to work with you, to love you, to raise my child to celebrate our differences and hallow our common humanity.”