Today's Papers

Campaign Reforming

The Washington Post and the New York Times lead with the shake-up at the top of the Gore campaign. Out: Tony Coelho, for health reasons, at least in part. In: Commerce Secretary William Daley. The Wall Street Journal puts the story atop its front-page world-wide news box. USA Today puts the campaign news deep inside, going instead with the Colorado wildfires currently being fought by 4,300 firefighters. The fire story confuses a bit, with the subhead calling these the worst early blazes “in years,” but the body copy saying it’s the worst “since 1996.” Perhaps the clearest statement of what’s going on is in the fourth paragraph: The acreage already destroyed is twice the 10-year average. In coverage no doubt influenced by Los Angeles’ large Korean population, the Los Angeles Times’ top non-local coverage is a large two-story package on the North-South Korean breakthrough. One of the stories says that ,according to the Clinton administration, the proximate cause of Kim Jong-il’s sudden reach-out was last winter’s chronic power blackouts in his capital city, Pyongyang.

The coverage points out to varying degrees that while Coelho’s health problems are real–he was admitted to a hospital just this week for an inflamed colon and his epilepsy has flared up quite a bit this year–there were also other reasons why he departed. Everybody notes that Coelho didn’t make TV appearances on behalf of Gore–a clear liability–because he didn’t want to deal with press questions about leaving Congress under a cloud more than a decade ago (although only the LAT specifically mentions the questionable acquisition of the $100,000 junk bond that occasioned his departure) or about the current investigation into his spending as head of the U.S. mission to a World Exposition in Portugal in 1998 (again, the LAT has the most detail here). But overall, the NYT sees the exit as more freighted than the other papers do. The Times calls the move “inevitable, given the way Mr. Gore’s campaign has struggled in recent months,” and says that insiders say Gore and Coelho have never worked well together. The Times also says Coelho was responsible for what it calls one of Gore’s “biggest political fiascos”–Gore’s call for Elián González to be given permanent residence in the U.S. Daley, the papers agree, comes with no such baggage.

The papers continue to work their way through the congressional financial disclosure forms. Both the NYT and the WP notice that seniority in the House leadership seems to be inversely proportional to wealth, with some back-benchers worth millions and some of the leaders having no net assets besides a checking account. But it’s the NYT that seizes on an oddity in Rep. Rick Lazio’s portfolio: In 1997, he made his first-ever options purchase and in less than two weeks realized a 600 percent gain on the highly risky transaction. The paper reports that some securities experts say such a profile would have ordinarily led to an insider trading investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. In addition, notes the paper, Lazio’s trading in Quick & Reilly stock was very successful, adding that former senior executives of the firm are among his major campaign contributors. Lazio’s options trades, observes the Times, have a lot of the same features as those famously executed by his Senate opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The WSJ notes that the investment holdings of Congress reflect a move by lawmakers towards the New Economy, with fully 13 percent of the membership owning shares in either Microsoft, Cisco Systems, or AOL.

The papers report that President Clinton met with Yasser Arafat yesterday in an attempt to avoid a breakdown in the sputtering Israel-Palestinian Authority peace talks. But it’s the WP that reminds the reader that Arafat is hardly a democrat, with a piece describing how he suppresses press critics in the territory he administers. One columnist’s reporting on labor strife and official corruption earned him a jail cell, which isn’t new to him–he’d previously done a week behind bars for running an article favorable to Arafat too deep in the paper. (It’s not just Today’s Papers that notices these things.)

Does the Microsoft case have its own Watergate? The WSJ reports that on two occasions recently a woman approached the cleaning crew in the Washington, D.C., office of a pro-Microsoft trade association, offering cash for association trash. Both deals were refused. And the cops are still investigating a non-robbery break-in at Microsoft’s offices nearby.

A NYT editorial takes note of the conflict in Russia between Vladimir Putin and the oligarchs who control most of the key sectors of daily life, including the media. The 450-or-so-word editorial builds to the conclusion that “Mr. Putin must find a way to challenge the power of the tycoons that does not eviscerate the liberties Russians so recently won.” Here in a sentence is what’s wrong with most editorials: It’s talking to somebody who isn’t listening and isn’t telling him anything.