Today's Papers

Fighting Fire with Fire

The New York Times and the Washington Post lead with Al Gore’s first response to the Republican convention. Gore delivered his remarks in Chicago yesterday to a group of 3,400 firefighters and battled George W. Bush’s post-convention bounce in the polls by dismissing the convention as a “masquerade ball for special interests” rather than the coming-out party for newly compassionate and multicolored G.O.P, as per its Republican billing.  The Los Angeles Times leads with (and the NYT fronts) new employment statistics released by the Labor Department that the U.S. unemployment rate held at 4 percent last month. The data, showing a gain of 138,000 private-sector employees and a rate of workers’ pay increases still higher than consumer price increases, comes as welcome news to analysts who feared that the Federal Reserve’s attempts over the past year to slow the U.S.’s red-hot national economy by raising short-term interest rates would trigger inflation. The labor secretary interpreted the data as another sign that the economy’s growth has gone from “spectacular” to “steady and solid” (NYT).

The papers agree that Gore’s speechifying yesterday was peppered by what the WP called “populist us-versus-them rhetoric” designed to appeal to minorities, environmentalists, and union members. The NYT notes the more personal tenor of Gore’s speech, which drew on his Vietnam and Army service, and offers compelling explanations for Gore’s military service other than his stated “love of country”–an attempt to protect his anti-war father, then Tennessee senator, and to prepare for his own future political career. The WP’s lead reports early that the United Auto Workers–which has stalled a Gore endorsement for months–is expected to finally deliver one during its international board meetings next week. Neither the NYT nor the WP lead can quite resist quoting in full Gore’s critique of the convention’s sloganeering: “But you and I both know that a slogan never put out a raging fire, a sound bite never saved a child from a burning building and political positioning will never heal sick children who don’t have health care.”

Although Gore continues to hint around about a “surprise” veep pick, the WP lead reports that Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry is now the prime attraction as Gore’s mating season draws to a close. Reportedly shying away from Sens. John Edwards (North Carolina) and Joseph I. Lieberman (Connecticut), Kerry is described by the WP’s Capitol Hill source as the “consensus” pick. A final decision may come as early as Sunday.

The NYT off-leads with the ongoing talks between Arab kings and presidents in the 10 days since the collapse of the Camp David negotiations. While the Arab leaders unequivocally support Yasser Arafat on the stickiest issues in the dispute–Arafat’s claim to East Jerusalem and his demand for the return of Palestinian refugees–the NYT reports that the leaders’ internal negotiations since Camp David have moved toward a new consensus that may enable a lasting deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. According to a Palestinian-Jordanian political consultant, “an Arab umbrella” may prove crucial to a peace deal since Arafat is “too weak to make concessions with the Israelis” if he stands without the support of other Arab leaders. The NYT makes clear that the fact that Arab countries are even attempting to “finesse” issues like Jerusalem (by distinguishing between political and religious sovereignty) or refugees is cause for guarded optimism.

The WP goes below the fold with an anatomy of “the Pinochet Effect”–a rapidly spreading series of legal battles in which, in the wake of the former Chilean dictator’s near-extradition, governments and human rights groups are attempting to investigate and prosecute dictators and/or war criminals. According to an adviser for the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, the phenomenon, especially visible in Argentina and Uruguay, dovetails with heightened international attempts to try human rights violators in international tribunals. The Effect, it seems, has proved ineffectual for the likes of Uganda’s Idi Amin (who has subsidized protection in Saudi Arabia) and former Haitian President Jean-Claude Duvalier (who was once assured sanctuary by the U.S. and European powers).

The NYT fronts the recent public-works brainchild of New York’s mayor Rudy Giuliani–a bronze statue of Frank Sinatra on a traffic island in Times Square, at 44th Street and Broadway. The crooner’s daughter, Nancy Sinatra, has signed on to fund the project. But the local community board and area developers are worried about further crowding and mass spectacle in an already congested and over-themed area. They’re also curious about the connection between Sinatra and New York theater. The mayor’s chief of staff strongly denies that any public opposition to the Sinatra shrine exists, but the NYT reports that local groups–until now embarrassed to air their beef with the departed Chairman in public–have requested a meeting with the Mayor to request moving the statue. An anonymous developer remarked, “If it is something the mayor wants, then I think there will be a statue,” and Today’s Papers says: That’s life.