Today's Papers

Going for Barak

USA Today and the Washington Post lead with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s narrow survival of a no-confidence vote just before leaving for Camp David, where, starting today, he will engage in U.S.-hosted peace talks with Yasser Arafat. The Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide news box with Barak as well. The Los Angeles Times fronts Barak but goes instead with cataclysmic news from the international AIDS conference underway in South Africa, headlined thus: “AIDS TO CUT AFRICA LIFE EXPECTANCY TO UNDER 30.” It turns out that the headline is a bit oversold, because the story says it’s only some African countries, not the entire continent, where life expectancy is projected to drop below 30. USAT also fronts AIDS/Africa life expectancy. The New York Times also fronts Barak, but goes instead with the revelation of an unusual political conflict: Although congressional Republicans have tried to block the Federal Communications Commission’s plan to license hundreds of new low-power radio stations (after having been lobbied by big broadcasting companies concerned about station interference), about half the first batch of applications for low-power licenses turn out to be from churches, more than half of which are fundamentalist or evangelical.

Both Barak leads say that despite his parliamentary problems, he thinks he can rally public support for a Palestinian peace agreement. But both papers also show how thin that support is currently: They note that a recent poll shows just slightly over half of Israelis say that Barak has a mandate to make concessions–about, for instance, the status of Jerusalem and the treatment of Palestinian refugees–in the upcoming talks.

The WP and NYT front George W. Bush’s speech to the NAACP’s national convention, in which he acknowledged the historical breach between blacks and the Republican Party and vowed to find common ground. Bush’s reception was polite rather than enthusiastic, and there was a small protest over a recent Texas execution. But, the papers point out, the attendees seemed to take notice that in giving his speech to the convention, Bush was doing something that neither of the previous two Republican nominees did–he showed up.

The LAT front reports that Gen. Barry McCaffrey is expected to testify today before Congress that his drug office plans to work more closely with the movie business to promote films that “responsibly communicate anti-drug campaign messages.” This comes, notes the paper, after all the flak the White House drug office already received earlier this year when it was caught quietly trying to do the same with television. What has been left unexplained to this point, says the LAT, is whether the drug office is planning, as it did in the TV effort, to offer movie-makers financial incentives for message-carrying.

The WSJ weighs in with a revelation about this past spring’s South Carolina Republican primary. Until now, authorities have had no idea about who originated and paid for the mass mailing claiming that John McCain criticized the Confederate battle flag then flying atop the state Capitol. But the Journal reports that a Bush ally who’s also a lobbyist for the government of Cambodia now acknowledges he helped foot the bill. The story includes this reaction from McCain: “Fascinating! … It is the ultimate irony that a regime that has destroyed the democratic process in that poor country is now funding a foreign agent who contributed in a major way to the seminal defeat of my presidential campaign.”

The NYT offers up separate pieces about the military experiences of Al Gore and George W. Bush. The material in both is well trod and the respective psychological profiles familiar: Gore as earnest politically aware straight-arrow, Bush as loosey-goosey partyer who took up flying in the reserves for the adventure. There is one neat wrinkle with Gore. There has been much talk (and the Times joins in) about whether or not Gore, as a senator’s son, got special attention in the Army. The story doesn’t reach any definitive conclusion, but it does front a picture of Gore (“one of the lowest ranking men on the base”) being chatted up by a visiting Gen. William Westmoreland, at the time the head of the Army. The stories seem to operate on the assumptions Vietnam = dripping-with-danger and Reserves = cushy-cushy. But is that true? How about some stats comparing the dangers of being a journalist in-country with being a stateside fighter pilot? One question: Why does the Gore story get the front while Bush is stuffed?