The Week/the Spin

Deformed Party 

The Reform Party split in two. An anti-Pat Buchanan faction walked out of the party’s national convention. The “old guard” forces under John Hagelin, a former Natural Law Party candidate, set up their own convention several blocks away. They filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Buchanan broke party rules to win the nomination. The FEC must decide whether Buchanan or Hagelin gets the party’s $12.6 million in federal campaign money; the decision will likely face a court challenge. Ross Perot remained quiet. Pundits’ spin: First Perot retires, then Gov. Jesse Ventura splits, then Hagelin walks out—is there anybody left but Buchanan?

President Clinton asked voters not to visit his personal sins on Al Gore. During a public Q & A at a church, Clinton said, “Surely, no fair-minded person would blame [Gore] for the mistakes I’ve made.” He added that he has been “trying to totally rebuild [his] life” since the Lewinsky scandal and that if he “hadn’t been knocked down in the way [he] was and forced to come to grips with what [he] had done,” he never would have confronted his sexual weaknesses. He credited pastoral counseling with restoring his inner peace. Gore aides’ off-the-record spin: Hey, Bill, mind repeating those remarks at the Democratic National Convention?

Investigators believe a piece of metal on the runway may have caused the Paris Concorde crash. The metal may have burst one of the plane’s tires, causing chunks of tire to puncture a fuel tank, leading to the fire. The July 25 crash killed 113 people; Air France has grounded its fleet of supersonic jets until a cause is found.

A low-cost, generic version of Prozac will be available as soon as next summer. A federal appeals court stripped Eli Lilly & Co. of the last two years of its patent on the antidepressant, which has far fewer side effects than older antidepressants and has been taken by 38 million people. Lilly, which saw its stock drop 30 percent, will appeal. A generic version may cost less than a third of the drug’s $90-per-month price. Drug consumers’ spin: This decision will spur more patent challenges, which will lower drug costs for needy patients. Drug companies’ spin: This decision will spur more patent challenges, which will reduce our incentive to invest in better drugs. Financial analysts’ spin: This decision shows how billion-dollar gambles on a single product can go awry.

A producer of Survivor will develop an outer-space edition. The creator of the top-rated CBS show signed a deal with MirCorp, the company in charge of commercial leasing aboard the 14-year-old Russian space station, to develop Destination Mir. Show contestants would be put through physical and psychological testing by MirCorp, and the winner would receive a 10-day trip aboard the space station, financed by the TV program. Survivor creator’s spin: “I’m really big into large adventure experiences.” Analysts’ spin: It may not have scientific value, but it’ll be more exciting—and maybe more successful—than recent NASA missions.

Al Gore punished Rep. Loretta Sanchez for refusing to move a fund-raiser from the Playboy Mansion. The vice president revoked Sanchez’s Democratic National Convention speaking slot after she refused to pull out of a voter-registration fund-raiser partially financed by the Playboy Foundation. Also, Gore is reportedly angry about Los Angeles fund-raisers being held by President Clinton (for his presidential library) and Hillary Clinton (for her Senate race), which threaten to draw money and attention from the convention. Pundits’ spin: Now that Gore has the upright Joe Lieberman on the ticket, he’s getting uptight about ethics. Republicans’ spin: Since Gore and the Democrats have taken more than $100,000 from Hugh Hefner and his daughter since 1992, Gore should go to the fund-raiser, not feign outrage. (Slate’s David Plotz wrote about the Sanchez fund-raiser in his ” Assessment” of Hefner; for links to Slate’s coverage of the Democratic convention, click here.)

Bridgestone/Firestone recalled 6.5 million tires. The tires have been implicated in shredding at high speeds, which may have led to several dozen deaths. The company has not discovered a defect, but the accidents occur in warm climates and affect primarily one tire size associated with Ford Explorers. Firestone’s spin: “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers.” Safety watchdogs’ spin: If you believed that, you would have done this months ago. Business analysts’ spin: Give them a break. Firestone’s last recall nearly bankrupted them.

The United States will send hundreds of military consultants to Africa. American soldiers will train about 4,000 Nigerian troops to fight rebels in Sierra Leone. After signing an American-sponsored peace accord last year, the rebels have taken over the government and systematically dismembered civilians. Humanitarian activists’ spin: President Clinton is responsible for this mess, and he abandoned Somalia and Rwanda, so this is the least he can do.

An NAACP chapter president made anti-Semitic comments about Joe Lieberman. Dallas chapter president Lee Alcorn told a Christian radio station that “we need to be very suspicious of any kind of partnerships between the Jews at that kind of level because we know that their interest primarily has to do with, you know, money and these kinds of things.” NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, who served with Lieberman in Congress, denounced the comments and suspended Alcorn’s membership. Meanwhile, online services reported thousands of anti-Semitic comments on political message boards. Alcorn’s spin: My comments were taken out of context. Anti-Defamation League’s spin: Perhaps this is expected, but it’s still sad.

Al Gore officially named Joe Lieberman as his running mate. The Connecticut senator and Orthodox Jew is a political moderate. Lieberman’s spin: Choosing me was “an act of chutzpah.” Jewish spin: ‘Bout time. And unlike most successful American Jews, he’s more religious than assimilated. Pro-Lieberman spin: He’s religious, moderate, an environmentalist (look out, Ralph Nader!), and a critic of President Clinton’s adultery. Anti-Lieberman spin: He’s Jewish, Orthodox, insufficiently liberal, weak on the First Amendment, and would remind voters of Clinton’s adultery. Generous Republican spin: He’s admirably anti-Hollywood, bipartisan, and a mensch. Ungenerous Republican spin: He wanted to sic a prosecutor on Gore. (For past Slate articles on Lieberman and the vice presidency, click here and here. For Ballot Box’s take on the pick, click here; for Chatterbox’s, click here; for the TV pundits’, click here.)