The Washington Post leads with George W. Bush’s choice of Richard Cheney as his running mate, which will, the paper says, be made official today. The Cheney story also sits atop the Wall Street Journal front-page worldwide news box and is fronted everywhere else. The New York Times leads with a telephone poll indicating that most voters see important policy differences between George W. Bush and Al Gore. USA Today leads with a sanguine Camp David situation report (“Peace Hopes Grow”). The Los Angeles Times leads with a blow to prospects for managed care as the norm for Medicare recipients: The federal government reports that 933,000 of them will be dropped from HMO plans this year, an attrition rate a full 30 percent higher than had been anticipated by plan administrators just last June. The paper reports that the Clinton administration responded to this loss by pushing its plan to add prescription drug coverage as a Medicare benefit.
The WP lead notes that Cheney is not charismatic and does not deliver an important state, but he does reflect Bush’s interest in a running mate who would be a strong asset in the White House and who might reassure voters about Bush’s own lack of foreign policy experience. The LAT also makes the foreign policy point.
Everybody raises the issue of Cheney’s health and cites the clean bill of health he’s just gotten from famed Texas heart doc Denton Cooley. USAT makes Cheney’s health the main angle, with the one wrinkle that it has Cheney’s own doctor quoted as disagreeing with Cooley’s statement that Cheney’s heart function is normal, because every heart attack (and Cheney’s had three) damages some heart muscle.
The LAT bothers to report that Cheney recently sold nearly half of his stock in the Dallas oil company where he’s the CEO, without bothering to explain what this could possibly signify.
The papers go surprisingly light on the question of whether or not choosing Cheney makes George W. look unduly influenced by his ex-president father. And don’t at all delve into the question of whether or not it risks portraying the next Bush administration as just a repeat of the last one. And nobody questions a process in which the headhunter comes back from the hunt with his own head.
The NYT shares a good deal of USAT’s optimism about Camp David, saying that a skeleton of a draft agreement is being slowly hammered out. But the paper is getting conflicting accounts from sources about whether this document addresses the status of Jerusalem. The LAT account sees promise in the length of time President Clinton met yesterday with the technical experts who would actually draft any agreement. USAT and the NYT find uplift in a picture of Clinton with negotiators from both sides, which depicts them all taking notes. The WP sees the talks’ prospects as “murky.” Only USAT claims that as part of the negotiations, the White House is again considering the release of convicted spy-for-Israel Jonathan Pollard, an idea that proved unacceptable to the director of the CIA at the last U.S.-hosted Palestinian-Israeli talks.
The NYT is alone in fronting the details of the transcript of last April’s Department of Justice interview of President Clinton released last night. The highlight, according to the Times, is that Clinton denied any recollection of a $1 million campaign pledge being made to him by Indonesian businessman James T. Riady, and denied that he ever asked Riady to financially help Web Hubbell. The Times notes that these details are apt to be overshadowed by the Cheney story but quotes the White House denial of any intentional timing of the release of the document to take advantage of that.
Back to Cheney for a beat: The most egregious problem with the coverage is that nobody makes any effort at all to communicate anything Cheney has ever said in his 25 years of public life. The NYT goes positively Chauncey Gardiner with passages like:
“Bush talked about him over the years,” one adviser said. “He’d say, ‘Cheney said this. Cheney said that.’ It was clear they talked to each other.”
During the early stages of Mr. Bush’s candidacy last year, the adviser said, Mr. Bush sometimes alluded to the fact that Mr. Cheney himself had considered running for president in 1996. “He would say, ‘This is how Cheney approached the issue in 1995,’ the adviser recalled.” and “We sat around for two to three hours in the evening, just talking about everything under the sun from foreign policy to domestic politics,” Mr. Shultz said in a telephone interview today. “Governor Bush was forever turning to Cheney, asking him what he thought.”