Today's Papers

Play It Again, Sam

The New York Times leads with the admission by a wealthy Texan that he paid $2.5 million for commercials that criticized John McCain and touted George W. Bush’s environmental record. The Washington Post lead announces the Clinton administration’s decision to propose tougher rules for “organic” foods, and the top story at the Los Angeles Times is local: Los Angeles’ police chief abolished the anti-gang units like the one at the center of the LAPD’s corruption scandal. All the three papers front photos of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who discarded his wheelchair and marched around the Santiago tarmac at his homecoming yesterday, greeting family and friends and looking a lot less sick than he should.

The NYT reports that Texas billionaire and Bush buddy Sam Wyly is behind the “pro-environment”/anti-McCain TV ad that has been running in New York, California, and Ohio (the three states with the most delegates to dole out next week). Wyly stepped forward yesterday after the McCain campaign asked the Federal Communications Commission to find out if funding for the ad had been properly disclosed. The NYT explains that these kinds of ads are part of a growing phenomenon called “issue advertising.” They can be paid for by political parties or interest groups, and so long as they don’t explicitly appeal for votes, they are not subject to regulation. Sam Wyly’s ad opens “a picture of McCain superimposed over smokestacks belching dirty air” and goes on to praise Bush’s environmental record. How this doesn’t qualify as an appeal to vote for Bush is a mystery. The Times does admit that the law is a somewhat “fuzzy” when it comes to the “issue ad” issue. The ad will continue to run through Super Tuesday.

The WP lead, sourced to people “who have been briefed” and advocates “familiar with the proposal,” reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s official definition of “organic”–to be revealed next week–will include a ban on irradiation and pesticides and restrict the use of antibiotics in animals (which might lead one to wonder what, exactly, has been qualifying as “organic” in the first place). The story suggests that the new rules should satisfy organic producers and consumers–who sent a record 270,000 letters to protest the USDA’s first organic proposal two years ago–as well as unstick trade-sticking points with Europe, which has banned some of the practices prohibited by the new rules.

The WP off-leads with Bill Bradley’s dying bid for the presidency. According to the report, Bradley’s own obstinance and the inexperience of his campaign staff did him in. (No, he hasn’t lost yet, but the WP reports that Bradley is trailing in all 15 states set to vote on Tuesday and that his own friends and supporters are already looking for ways to explain the inevitable.) The Post misses the chance to compare Bradley’s cool treatment of the press–“he remained a stranger to reporters who traveled with him for months”–with McCain’s warm embrace.

The NYT fronts the possibility that McCain will sweep the New England primaries next week. But the five states combined count for just 102 or the total 613 delegates at stake on Tuesday. California alone is worth 162, and New York is worth 101, which explains, the Times points out, why neither McCain nor Bush has set foot in New England since the New Hampshire primary.

Another NYT front story announces President Clinton’s intention of sending a bill to Congress next week that would permanently normalize trade relations with Beijing. Clinton would like to grant China normal trading rights as a step toward paving the way for China to join the WTO. But the bill might be a hard sell. Organized labor has mobilized against the China trade measure and rank-and-file Democrats are expected to vote against it in the House, and renewed tension with China over Taiwan has pro-trade Republicans torn. Al Gore, hoping to pocket the labor vote, has been noncommittal and has sent “mixed signals” so far.

The WP fronts a report on the military’s plans to instruct the members of the armed forces not to harass gays in uniform. Part of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, this new element has been dubbed “don’t harass.” Each of the services has developed its own training program. Not surprisingly, the substance of the programs varies: servicemen in the Navy will watch a slide show on “developing and building trust,” in which two of the 25 slides cite harassment of gays as “hurting teamwork;” those in the Air Force will be introduced to “don’t harass” during a two-hour lesson on military law.

Buying Time:

During which TV shows should a presidential candidate run an ad? According to the LAT, media buyers pour over computer printouts and TV schedules to find the perfect programs. Working with tight budgets, they buy strategically–a few prime-time spots combined with a big number of cheaper ads, run late at night or in the day. Californians can expect to see Al Gore during the Doral-Ryder Open golf tournament and The Rosie O’Donnell Show; George W. during Oprah and Third Rock From the Sun; and Bill Bradley during Oprah, America’s Dumbest Criminals, Jesse, and Friends. The early bird gets the worm: McCain, expected to launch a “last-minute air assault,” has already been locked out of some of his first choices.