Today's Papers

All Whitewater Under the Dam

All the majors lead with the official declaration by independent counsel Robert Ray that the 6-year-old Whitewater investigation has ended without producing charges against President Clinton or Hillary Clinton.

All the Whitewater coverage reports that Ray’s review of the evidence found it insufficient to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the Clintons had done anything illegal in relation to the series of Arkansas land deals at issue. The New York Times points out that this is a weaker description of the Clintons’ behavior than Ray has employed in the past when describing different charges against them that his office had investigated. But only the Los Angeles Times says point-blank (and in the second paragraph at that) that Ray’s findings “did not exonerate the Clintons.” The Washington Post says that Ray’s actual report could be a much more damaging assessment of the Clintons than his overall conclusion, one which will eventually become public, but not for at least three months after Ray submits it.

All the papers report that Ray’s office will still be considering whether or not to indict Bill Clinton (for perjury or obstruction of justice) over false statements he made about his affair with Monica Lewinsky and will also continue to look into the Clinton White House’s failure to produce subpoenaed e-mail. Everybody notes that despite these loose ends, the news is a boon for the Hillary Clinton campaign, but only the LAT says the news is also good for Al Gore.

Whitewater grabs much editorial real estate. The Wall Street Journal’s is titled “THE COVERUP WORKED.” The NYT editorial has the second most anti-Clinton take, with its pointed charge that Ray’s demurral “does not excuse the White House’s long record of obfuscation in the Whitewater matter, including its clumsy meddling with official inquiries and its failure to produce relevant records in a timely manner.” Does this belligerence have any connection to the Whitewater story’s vigorous debut in the pages of … the NYT?

Although all the papers mention that the Whitewater matter eventually led to the Monica Lewinsky scandal and hence ultimately to Bill Clinton’s impeachment, not one bothers to connect the dots. For the record: Whitewater land deal –> Rose Law Firm –> Web Hubbell –> Web Hubbell plea bargain –> suspicions of Web Hubbell being paid off to not implicate Clintons –> general concerns about Clinton quid pro quos deals with potential adverse witnesses –> Monica Lewinsky. Whew!

The top presidential story of the moment seems to be whether or not Al Gore did something wrong in applying drug prices from a congressional study to an anecdote about the comparative costs of medication for his mother-in-law and his dog. The NYT dedicates an article to the matter, and in it checks several pharmacies and veterinary clinics in Washington and concludes that per milligram, the two medications are much closer in price than Mr. Gore’s anecdote suggests. The WP puts Gore’s dog toward the end of a piece about how his campaign deals with the media. In a front-pager about the how the campaigns have come to rely on e-mail for spin control, the WSJ reports that the Bush campaign heavily promoted the dog story via e-mails to reporters.

The NYT reports that in the wake of the Firestone/Ford brouhaha, Congress appears ready, after years of doing anything but, to take some sort of action to enable regulators to tell consumers more about the rollover characteristics of vehicles they might buy. The Times story says 103 deaths have now been attributed to the F/F-up. True enough, but a piece on the WP biz front says that two of those fatalities were family pets. Now that PETA will be on the case, can meaningful tire regulations be far behind?

The WP and NYT front the revelation that a 15-year-old has reached a settlement with the government after it accused him of reaping more than a quarter of a million dollars by using the Internet to manipulate stock prices. The kid had to pay the money back but didn’t have to admit guilt or pay a fine but had to promise to stop. (But he’s not grounded.) It’s the first time the Securities and Exchange Commission has ever gone after a minor.

The NYT fronts a piece under the headline “MILITARY BACKS EX-GUARD PILOT OVER PRIVATE GORE.” The reader soon discovers that the piece should have been headlined “ABOUT 20 MILITARY PEOPLE BACK EX-GUARD PILOT OVER PRIVATE GORE.” And why does Gore’s name make the headline but not Bush’s? The story includes one quote that could come back to haunt Gore. One of his staffers says the tendency of retired generals and admirals to endorse Bush is like “the kind of thing you see in the Third World–all those generals lining up behind the politicians.”

The WP reports that the Army’s new ad campaign (which replaces the fabulously successful “Be All You Can Be” campaign) features not a single gun or soldier. Today’s Papers thinks the ads should have just a touch more of the spirit of those T-shirts it used to see on military bases: “Join the Army. Visit exotic lands. Meet the interesting people who live there. And kill them.”