Today's Papers

Hollywood Squares

The papers roll out pre-convention packages identical to those they printed two weeks ago: The New York Times’ front touts a telephone interview with the nominee about his acceptance speech and investigates the party’s main campaign donors; the Washington Post reports on the delegates’ mood, which sank during the Republicans fete, but was given a boost by Gore’s selection of Lieberman; the Los Angeles Times focuses on the city itself, which is expecting “Best, Worst.” The Post and NYT (at least) spoke to Democratic National Committee Chairman Ed Rendell (he had breakfast with reporters) on the party’s strategy for confronting Republicans and chiseling the vice president’s name from the term “Clinton-Gore.”

Gore tells the NYT that his speech will not indulge in “the vaguest of generalities,” as many do, but it will address concrete initiatives and emphasize his plan to hold town meetings throughout his would-be presidency, a forum which served him well as a U.S. representative and senator. The paper carries its Gore interview into the jump, but from there quickly turns to issues that will lurk in Los Angeles. The Democrats find themselves simultaneously maximizing and minimizing the Clintons’ presence. The White House canceled a number of press interviews this weekend to lower the president’s profile. (The paper also says Clinton angrily canned a NYT interview days after a report that his-and-hers fund-raisers for the Clintons would draw attention and dollars away from Gore’s.) Rendell tells the Times how he convinced the president to speak on Monday instead of Tuesday: People will still have their televisions switched on Monday if Clinton speaks right after the Titans-Rams football game.

A NYT off-lead reports that the Democrats have seen greater success attracting donors with deep pockets. Eighteen contributors have joined the party’s “Leadership 2000” program  by giving or raising at least $350,000. The paper points out that this trumps the Republican Regents’ bar of $250,000, but does not mention that there are 139 regents. According to the NYT, Democrats have raised $118.6 million in soft money and the Republicans have raised $137 million. Coincidentally, the ratio of one to the other is nearly identical to the ratio of voters polled by the WP and ABC News who prefer Gore (43 percent) to Bush (52 percent).

The streets of Los Angeles were largely empty yesterday except for the thousands of police scattered about in anticipation of mobs and demonstrators. The city’s plan to maintain order while the Democrats anoint Al Gore consumes the LAT’s lead. After the jump, the story picks up on Gore, who campaigned yesterday in Springdale, Pa., home of Rachel Carson, whose 1962 book Silent Spring initiated the environmentalist movement. The LAT runs an inside story on the last time D.C. politics and Hollywood glamour crossed paths, in 1960; the WP fronts that story’s current variant–what stars will turn up at political get-togethers? Former Clinton spokeswoman Dee Dee Myers penned a discursive tract for the Post’s “Outlook” section on the stark differences between the company-town cultures of D.C. and L.A. (L.A. folk understand DC politics as “show business for ugly people,” she writes.)

The WP says Gore advisers describe the convention as “a political coming out party for a man who … remains largely unknown to many of the voters who will decide the outcome of the election in November.” What? The papers gobbled up similar comments about the public’s unfamiliarity with George W. Bush two weeks ago. If this is true, given both the daily barrage of print, broadcast, and online material over the past 18 months and Gore’s 12-year status as a presidential hopeful, it indicates a significant failure of either voter interest or the media’s ability to disseminate information useful for decision-making. The latter seems unlikely.

Many of the flawed tires that Firestone recalled last week can be traced to a plant in Decatur, Ill., criticized by former employees for lack of quality control, the Post reports in its off-lead. Court records from suits consumers have brought against the company show that “employees had powerful financial incentives to release botched tires to the motoring public.” The story enumerates inspection oversights at the plant. For example, instead of tossing out tires that contained bubbles and blisters, workers were told to pop them “with an awl–a tool with a handle and a pointed instrument similar to an ice pick.” Post readers must count few handymen (or women) in their numbers. Odd, then, that they seem to use ice picks.

Both the Post and the NYT review British journalist Godfrey Hodgson’s new biography of  Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, The Gentleman From New York. Jonathan Yardley’s piece in the Post is more a review of Moynihan’s work than Hodgson’s, which must mean that the book isn’t seriously flawed. Moynihan, Yardley writes, has long confounded pundits by swaying between liberalism and conservatism–as those words were understood before they became shorthand political caricature. Former NYT Washington correspondent Todd Purdum praises Moynihan as an intellectual giant and Hodgson as a splendid chronicler of that giant’s “evolving interior intellectual monologues.”

In a NYT op-ed piece, former New York Post editor Jerry Nachman amusedly poses a question to colleagues in the media: How can so many journalists be liberal if they constantly write about how the government doesn’t work? Nachman cites poll findings that 91 percent of journalists voted for Clinton in 1992; 43 percent of the aggregate did. His colleagues’ talk during convention week, he says, has transformed from political analysis to “whether I can get them into the Playboy Mansion soiree.”