Today's Papers

The Republicans’ Martial Plan

USA Today and the New York Times lead with last night’s doings at the Republican convention, both emphasizing John McCain’s fence-mending appearance, which is also the top non-local story at the Los Angeles Times. The Washington Post goes with a World Health Organization report–carried inside everywhere else–to be released today alleging that the tobacco manufacturers have been waging a sophisticated, secret campaign to undermine WHO’s worldwide anti-smoking efforts. The WP and LAT top-front photos of serious clashes between police and protestors outside the Republican convention.

The USAT subheadline points out that McCain didn’t breathe a word of the issue that made him a contender–campaign reform. The papers note the serial appearance at the GOP podium last night of not only McCain, but also Norman Schwarzkopf (via satellite from a battleship–hey, isn’t he retired?), Bob Dole, and Condoleezza Rice. The candidate himself appeared electronically, from Gettysburg. The LAT observes that the mood inside the hall was still quite temperate, focusing more on praising George W. Bush than on criticizing Al Gore. Indeed, comments the paper, the proceedings featured “as many musicians, dancers and videos as an Academy Awards broadcast.” The NYT’s Maureen Dowd gives the scene more of a shiv, calling it “Republican kissy-face and blaxploitation.”

The NYT lead states that last night’s overarching objective was “to assure the national viewing audience that Mr. Bush could be trusted … as a commander in chief” and as a steady hand in foreign policy quite generally despite his lack of experience. The LAT front-page “news analysis” goes high with the same point. The Wall Street Journal makes an observation that helps explain all the martial artifice: This is the first GOP ticket since 1928 where neither candidate has served on active duty. Also attending as part of the shoring-up operation, the papers report, were former Presidents George Bush and Gerald Ford and their wives, as well as Nancy Reagan.

The NYT reports that when an openly gay Republican congressman was at the dais (not in prime time, the paper notes), several members of the Texas delegation protested by taking off their cowboy hats and bowing their heads in prayer.

The fronts at USAT, the NYT, and the WP each run stories about how President Clinton’s recent comment that George W. Bush’s chief job qualification is that “my daddy was president” has Bush père steamed to the point of saying that if Clinton “continues that, then I’m going to tell the nation what I think about him as a human being and a person.” (Thereby already doing so.) Maureen Dowd states the issue with characteristic crispness: “George Senior is fighting for the second term he feels he was gypped out of by Bill Clinton. And Bill Clinton is fighting for the third term he needs to launder his legacy.”

The WP lead explains that the WHO report was written by former FDA Commissioner David Kessler and makes ample use of documents disclosed in tobacco lawsuits. They appear to show, says the paper, that Big Tobacco, especially Philip Morris, tried to subvert the WHO anti-smoking drive by working on other U.N. agencies, usually on the grounds that tobacco was very lucrative for developing countries, by covertly employing scientists who would then produce “independent” reports conflicting with WHO’s efforts, and even by placing scientists inside the organization to serve as moles.

Somehow with all the military references from Philly, there’s no room on any front for this bit of military news: A court martial in Germany has sentenced a GI to life in prison for the sodomy and murder of an 11-year-old Kosovo Albanian girl, acts he committed while on peacekeeping duty there.

The WP is alone in fronting a new JAMA study purporting to impugn the efficacy of the Brady Bill. While the study confirms the oft-repeated national reduction in firearms deaths since 1994, it could find no difference when it compared the 32 states that first installed Brady handgun purchase controls in 1994 and the 18 (plus D.C.) that already had them. Actually, there was one difference noted: The Brady states experienced a sharp drop in gun suicides among adults aged 55 and older.

The WSJ “Tax Report” states that a fairly straightforward question about monetary awards in lawsuits remains unanswered: When the plaintiff prevails and has hired a lawyer on a contingency basis, does he have to pay tax on the entire amount of the award or only on the portion he keeps? Different federal courts have ruled differently, and this one may be headed to the Supreme Court.

Tucked away on the WP’s Page 23, in the “Politics” column is this from President Clinton on Hillary’s Senate run: “It wasn’t her idea. The New York Democratic House delegation came to her and asked her to run.”