Today's Papers

Withdrawal Pains

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with yesterday’s John McCain and Bill Bradley bow-outs, events that also make the Washington Post front, but are stuffed at USA Today. The Post leads instead with the Senate’s approval of two nominees–a Mexican-American man and a woman–to the federal bench after a delay (two years for one of them, a record four years for the other) organized by conservative Republicans concerned that the two were too liberal. Al Gore opened his post-vote remarks in Spanish. (The coverage doesn’t indicate whether he also donned a dress.) USAT leads with the White House’s expected announcement today of a new FAA effort to work with the airlines to counteract skyrocketing flight delays. The Nasdaq’s break through 5,000 tops the Wall Street Journal front-page financial news box and is also fronted by the WP and LAT.

The NYT’s big print doesn’t mention Bradley’s leaving, and the story proper doesn’t get to it until the fifth paragraph. The two Times leads explain that Bradley actually quit and said he would support Gore while McCain only said he was suspending active campaigning and did not endorse Bush. The LAT explains one concrete difference between the two announcements: By not formally quitting, McCain will continue to receive federal matching funds. How much more? And isn’t this rather money-grubby for Mr. Campaign Finance Reform? The papers don’t go there, nor do they explain exactly what it means that neither candidate has agreed to release his delegates. Do unreleased delegates commit a crime if they vote otherwise? Are they automatically freed after the first ballot?

The coverage points out that McCain did disavow a third-party bid. The NYT describes a short Bush-McCain phone call as what many Republicans hope is the beginning of a reconciliation that would lead to McCain’s endorsement of Bush. But the paper also notes that McCain’s advocacy of campaign finance reform and his tax cut position pull in the opposite direction.

The House yesterday agreed to a $1 increase in the federal minimum wage to $6.15/hour but coupled this to a $123 billion tax cut, which President Clinton said afterwards would prompt him to veto the resultant bill if it got to his desk. The big print over the NYT headline reads, “MINIMUM WAGE RISE OF $1 IS APPROVED”–misleading in that it makes it seem that the bill has cleared the Senate too and leaves to the small print subhead the tie to the tax cut. The LAT headline for the story, “HOUSE VOTES TO HIKE MINIMUM WAGE TO $6.15,” leaves out the tax cut tie altogether.

A WP Page Two story says that the Pentagon yesterday made its most detailed public acknowledgment yet that during the Kosovo war NATO suffered security leaks of its airstrike plans. The story mentions a forthcoming BBC show alleging that a Serbian spy inside NATO might have been responsible, but implies that the Pentagon’s two proffered explanations–1) errant or intercepted faxes or 2) pilots too often not using encryption when talking about missions–are more reasonable. (BTW, Today’s Papers would tend to go for the second, because “covered” radio calls are much harder to understand, and pilots hurtling towards a target are more concerned with hearing flight information clearly than with something called National Security.) The NYT effort on this, a Reuters dispatch, emphasizes NATO’s denial of a spy in its midst, but also says that NATO supreme commander Gen. Wesley Clark is said in the BBC program to have been convinced that there was a NATO spy.

The USAT front-page “cover story” by Jack Kelley describes a recent (post-Elián) attempt by nine Cubans to escape to Florida by boat. Kelley spent several days with them as they made their preparations, which included $1,000 up front to the smuggler providing the boat, but didn’t include a map, a compass, a life jacket, or a motor. On the night they left he went with them to the water’s edge and watched them row away. Bad weather ended the attempt and took three lives. A sign of the tough new post-Elián regime in Cuba is that the male survivors were taken to a prison where they were stripped and hung by their ankles during interrogation sessions. And indeed, Kelley was arrested by Cuban police and held for several hours.

The LAT fronts a story based on an excised version of an internal DOJ report about 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign fundraising that was submitted to Janet Reno two years ago and never made public. The report, the paper says, accused senior DOJ officials of “gamesmanship” and “contortions” to avoid mounting an independent inquiry, and says that those getting special treatment included President Clinton, Gore, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and former chief of staff Harold Ickes.

On the NYT op-ed page, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ron Unz asks a good question. If the Democrats are the party of campaign finance reform, then why did the Democratic Party and labor unions put more than $3 million into defeating Unz’s Prop. 25, a California ballot initiative (which lost last Tuesday) that would have banned corporate political contributions in the state and required all contributions of $1,000 or more to be posted on the Internet?

The WP front breaks the news that the CIA has decided to give a career achievement medal to a former senior official who was fired in 1995 for failing to inform Congress about the agency’s ties to a Guatemalan military officer implicated in the murder of an American.

Is political commentator (and Slate contributor) Arianna Huffington, who will soon be featured (playing herself) in a made-for-TV-movie, spending too much time in Hollywood? Well, on the LAT op-ed page, Huffington says that John McCain’s return to the Senate will be “the chilliest reception for a war hero since McLean Stevenson tried to talk his way back onto ‘MASH’ after ‘Hello Larry’ tanked.”