Today's Papers

Panning for Goals

Everybody leads with George W. Bush’s acceptance speech at the Republican convention. The picture dominating the top front at the LAT magnificently captures the exhilaration of Bush’s first hurrah.

The underlying theme of the speech, heard for the first time but not the last, is summed up by the Chicago Tribune thusly: Although times are good, “things could be so much better, if only there were a president of different character.” Hence, Bush’s pledge, quoted by everybody: “We will use these good times for great goals.” Both the NYT’s Johnny Apple and the LAT’s Ron Brownstein observe that this line attempts to undercut the Gore prosperity argument. Bush’s list of great goals include: shoring up Social Security for younger workers via letting them establish private savings accounts; addressing failed schools by providing federal financial assistance to help pay for attendance somewhere else, including private schools, and by converting Head Start into a program to teach all children to read; building a national missile defense system; cutting taxes across all income brackets.” Another goal is a ban on all “partial birth” abortions. Question: Why don’t the WP or NYT leads mention this? And why doesn’t the WP lead mention Bush’s call to end the inheritance tax? In missing these details, the papers fail to identify issues that could be election flashpoints in that they are diametrically opposed by the Clinton-Gore administration. The LAT gets this right, not only noting the stances, but also accurately reporting that they got huge responses inside the convention hall.

Another Bush point that is underreported: his pledge to build up the U.S. military again and give it a leader once again it can respect. (Free idea for the papers: Do a story, perhaps including polling, exploring the active duty military’s attitude toward President Clinton and toward Bush. Is there really a huge difference there?)

When the NYT quotes Bush’s pronouncement that he “will keep the promise of Social Security–no changes, no reductions, no way,” it says it’s eerily reminiscent of père Bush’s “Read my lips, no new taxes.” But none of the papers note the rhetorical backstory for his claim that “we must tear down that wall” between wealth and poverty–Ronald Reagan’s Berlin challenge to “Mr. Gorbachev.” This is not a small thing to overlook because it represents a Republican willingness to focus with Cold War intensity on domestic problems.

High up in the NYT lead, Bush is quoted as mocking Al Gore by saying, “I do not need to take your pulse before I know my own mind. I do not reinvent myself at every turn. I am not running in borrowed clothes.” The papers report, but do not contrast to this thought, yesterday’s decision by the Bush campaign to bring John McCain back from Washington to the convention last night, after apparently first deciding he shouldn’t be there because he might distract from Bush’s night.

Question: Why is it that most of the leads don’t mention Bush’s joke about Gore: “If he’d been there at the moon launch, it would have been a ‘risky rocket scheme.’ And if he’d been there when the Internet was invented …”?

The papers generally give the speech high marks. The LAT is the most grudging, claiming that although there were no Bushisms, at times Bush appeared tense and his delivery was sometimes “wooden.”

Everybody runs inside situation reports on the Gore veepstakes. The list is said to include: Senators John Kerry, Joseph Lieberman, John Edwards, and Evan Bayh, and House members Richard Gephardt and Governor Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

It’s at inward-focused times like this that the U.S. is most vulnerable to external attack. And sure enough, the papers report–inside–a U.S.-owned vessel was boarded yesterday by Canadian sailors swooping down from a helicopter. But the U.S. didn’t take official offense. The maneuver was prompted by a three-week stalemate in which, because of a billing dispute with a Canadian shipping company, the ship would not deliver its cargo of three Canadian soldiers and ten percent of Canada’s armor returning from Balkan peacekeeping duty. The NYT quotes a Canadian newspaper’s not knowing what’s worse: that Canada can’t transport its own army, or that ten percent of its armor can fit on a single ship.

There’s a great little nugget in the WP’s account of the sentencing of James McDermott, a former investment bank CEO who was convicted of leaking bank merger secrets to his porn star mistress, who then made profitable trades off the information. In open court, McDermott, who could have gotten more than two years in prison, cited his daughter’s bad health, his alcoholism and depression, and his history of charitable works. He was sentenced instead to eight months. The Post reports that “immediately after sentencing, a lawyer was overheard discussing the case on a courthouse phone and remarking, ‘She bought it hook, line and sinker.’ “