Today's Papers

General Excitement

The New York Times and Washington Post lead with the opening session of the Republican Party convention, which the Times describes as featuring the GOP’s “newly moderate and disciplined face.” The convention also tops the Wall Street Journal’s front-page news index. USA Today fronts the party party but goes instead with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s narrow survival of a Monday no-confidence vote coupled with the defeat of his ally Shimon Peres in his bid for the nation’s presidency. The Los Angeles Times fronts both the convention and the Israeli political situation but leads with the first details of the judicial and police reforms forthcoming from Mexico’s president-elect, Vicente Fox: a plan to create a new federal prosecutor-general’s office along with a new FBI-style investigation agency, while getting the army out of the drug enforcement business.

The NYT lead emphasizes the enthusiastically received convention speech last night of Gen. Colin Powell, pointing out right away that although he made the same call for the inclusion of minorities that he made when he spoke at the last Republican convention, there was one topic from that speech he didn’t breathe a word of yesterday: abortion rights. Everybody notes that when George W. Bush was piped in to the proceedings via satellite, he hinted that Powell would be serving in his Cabinet. The NYT says the upshot of Powell’s remarks taken together with those of Bush’s wife, Laura–about education and her husband’s values–was that the rightful place of women, independents, and Democrats is in the Republican Party. The story goes on to contrast the party’s drive to put blacks prominently on stage as speakers and entertainers with the estimated 4 percent of convention delegates who identify themselves as black. The story also notes the political utility of Mrs. Bush’s insistence that her husband is devoted to Head Start given that Dick Cheney is now widely known to have voted against the program. Everybody quotes her reference to the various Clinton scandals, her claim that out on the campaign people “say to George, ‘I’m counting on you. I want my son or daughter to respect the president of the United States of America.’”

The WSJ takes note of Laura Bush and the 10-year-old girl who sang the national anthem and concludes that “Republicans celebrated Women’s Night.”

The WP lead contains President Clinton’s line about the new GOP, delivered during a fund-raising dinner: “It’s a brilliant strategy. It’s a pretty package. If they wrap it tight enough, no one will open it before Christmas.” Other papers carry the remark inside.

The WSJ op-ed page features a defend-Dick Cheney’s-voting-record package, including an argument that a vote against South African sanctions wasn’t a vote for racism, another saying that Head Start doesn’t work, and one defending his votes against various gun control measures on the grounds that such laws are strictly symbolic.

Everybody goes inside with news of the Department of Justice report just out criticizing the INS for rushing the naturalization process so much in 1995-96 that some 180,000 immigrants were naturalized without proper criminal background checks. In addition, the report found that while some in the White House, particularly aides to Al Gore, were interested in the INS naturalization program for a variety of reasons, including political ones, there was no evidence that the White House manipulated the citizenship program in order to boost the voter rolls for the ‘96 election, as some Republicans have charged. The LAT reefers the story on the findings under the slug, “Gore Aides Criticized.” Compare that with the WP’s headline: “Report: Politics Didn’t Fuel ‘96 Citizenship Rush.”

On the WP op-ed page, mental-health experts E. Fuller Torrey and Mary T. Zdanowicz raise a powerful question about society’s handling of its severely disturbed members. They note that a federal judge is currently considering whether the man charged with killing two Capitol police officers can be involuntarily medicated to improve his mental state enough to enable him to stand trial on those charges. Well, then, ask the authors, why do we have a system that prevents involuntarily medicating him before the cops were killed?

The WSJ op-ed page features a sweeping look at U.S. military (lack of) readiness under the Clinton administration, by Republican Party stalwart Mark Helprin. Helprin claims that Dick Cheney cut back the military to the right size at the right time, but that Bill Clinton “characteristically seized upon a thing that didn’t need to be fixed, and set about breaking it.” He has, charges Helprin, reduced America’s military power by one-half while expanding the scope of its involvement. The most arresting thing about the piece, however, is the credit line, which no longer mentions Helprin’s former stated credentials of service in the British merchant navy, the Israeli infantry, and the Israeli air force. Since these would be highly relevant to the essay, Today’s Papers concludes that the Journal no longer believes them. And if so, shouldn’t the paper tell the reader why and perhaps, mirabile dictu, rethink using Helprin?