Today's Papers

Crazy Like a Fox

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with President Clinton’s long-expected veto of the Republican-backed bill that would have eliminated the “marriage penalty.” Clinton called the proposed $292-billion, 10-year tax cut “fiscally reckless.” The Washington Post runs the story inside and leads with word that Defense Secretary William Cohen is expected to recommend this week that Clinton make limited steps toward the construction of a national missile defense system.

All the papers report that Clinton tied the bill to other Republican-backed tax cuts to repeal the estate tax and reduce taxes for some Social Security recipients, but there’s some dispute over his choice of wording. The LAT and WP say he called the bill “the first installment of a fiscally reckless tax strategy,” but the NYT reports that he used the word “installation.” Neither the House nor the Senate is believed to have the votes to override the veto, but they’re going to try anyway. The LAT does the best job of explaining the details of the tax cut. It would have raised the standard deduction for married couples from $7,350 to $8,800, double the deduction for single filers. The bill also would have expanded the earned-income tax credit and the 15 percent tax bracket. It would have eliminated the extra taxes paid by 25 million couples, but it would also have reduced taxes for 21 million couples that already enjoy a “marriage bonus.” The NYT reports that Clinton told wealthy donors at a Hillary fund-raiser that they would be better off without the tax cut. “We’ll give you lower interest rates and a better stock market,” the president said. “You’ll make more anyway.” Clinton emphasized that he would sign a Democrat-backed version of the bill that benefits only couples with lower incomes, and he repeated his offer to sign the Republican version of the bill if the GOP passes his version of a Medicare prescription drug benefit. A question for the president: Why is the tax cut “fiscally reckless” on its own but fiscally responsible when paired with a massive new spending program?

The papers also include the responses of the presidential candidates to Clinton’s veto. Bush said he would have signed the bill, and Al Gore said he would have vetoed it. The NYT story includes a sentence that unknowingly sums up the entire presidential campaign so far: “Mr. Gore has called Mr. Bush’s plan risky. Mr. Bush dismisses Mr. Gore’s stance as government as usual.”

The WP lead  stresses that Cohen has not yet made a formal decision about the missile defense system. His expected “limited green light” recommendation would be to postpone the decision to actually build the system until the next administration but to assign contracts this winter in case the next administration wants to begin building the system next year. The contracts would allow the Defense Department to buy cement and rocks to begin construction of a radar station in Alaska, to convey the material to Alaska, and to build an electric generation plant at the construction site. The story notes that two of the three flight tests of the missile defense system have failed, but the Pentagon said not much money would be wasted if the next president decides against building the system, because the materials could be used elsewhere. Cohen’s recommendation is thought to be the single biggest factor in Clinton’s decision, along with a “national intelligence estimate” still being revised. The story says it isn’t clear whether the recommended steps would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Amazingly, the intelligence estimate does not estimate how other countries will react if the president approves what Cohen is expected to recommend.

The WP fronts  the discovery of 10 new planets, bringing the total of confirmed planets to “roughly 50.” Whether this includes the roughly nine planets in our own solar system isn’t stated. One of the planets orbits a star so close–10.5 light years, or 61 trillion miles (“right on our own block” in the words of one scientist)–that it is visible to the naked eye. None of the new planets resemble Earth.

The NYT and WP front a pair of stories about Vicente Fox, Mexico’s new president, and his departures from his country’s political traditions. The WP focuses on Fox’s open embrace of his Catholic faith, a taboo in a country so adamant about the separation of church and state that priests and nuns could not vote, wear clerical garb in public, or own property until 1992. Most Mexicans, 90 percent of whom are Catholic, want their leaders to seem more modern by displaying their personal religious beliefs, but there is some concern that Fox will inflict his religious convictions on others through policy. The NYT reports on Fox’s efforts to court his defeated rivals, an unusual step for a Mexican president. Fox is also flouting tradition by allowing his transition team to work publicly, with media coverage, the paper reports. Fox does not take office until Dec. 1, but the next session of Congress begins Sept. 1.

The NYT fronts  General Motors’ plans for its latest model: the Hummer, its version of the Humvee military transport. The current Hummer, now known as the H1, is 7 feet 2 inches wide, weighs as much as two Jeep Grand Cherokees or three small cars, and seats four. That makes it one full ton heavier than the Suburban. The H1 costs $100,000, but GM has plans for a $45,000 H2 and a $25,000 H3. GM plans to market the Hummers to “rugged individualists” who, inexplicably for individualists, “seek peer approval.” The company wants to sell 150,000 Hummers a year.

The NYT reefers  a report on migrant child farm-workers, who often work six days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day, for less than the minimum wage. The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act set more lenient standards for farm work than for nonagricultural work. Democrats in Congress plan to introduce legislation making it harder to hire 12-, 13-, and 14-year-olds.

The WP reports  inside that Bush claims his repeated statements about restoring “honor and dignity” to the White House are unrelated to President Clinton. Bush also said he doesn’t plan on making Clinton’s character an issue in the fall campaign. But apparently he does plan on making Clinton’s speeches an issue. An NYT story  and a WP op-ed  suggest that Bush modeled passages of his acceptance speech at the GOP convention after previous Clinton addresses. Examples: Bush’s call to end “the soft bigotry of low expectations” echoes Clinton’s 1997 condemnation of “the tyranny of low expectations.” And Bush’s statement that “Medicare does more than meet the needs of the elderly; it reflects the values of our society” mirrors Clinton’s 1997 remark that “Medicare is more than just a program; it reflects our values.”