Today's Papers

Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell

The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Washington Post all lead with yesterday’s announcement by President Clinton that he will defer deployment of the U.S. missile defense system, thus passing the buck to the winner of November’s election. Clinton says that it wouldn’t be prudent to authorize the deployment right now due to technical and diplomatic concerns. The LAT and WP off-lead, and the NYT fronts, the federal warning that 1.4 million more Firestone tires should be replaced; the warning resulted from the company’s refusal to add the tires in question to last month’s recall of 6.5 million, according to the LAT. Turns out these previously overlooked tires actually may be more dangerous than those in the August recall. The NYT off-leads with Bush’s defense of a new ad “that assails Gore,” according to the headline.

According to the NYT, Clinton said the threat of future missile attacks from states like Iraq or North Korea “is real and growing” and, quotes the WP, the Pentagon will continue developing and testing the proposed missile shield network. The administration’s National Missile Defense program called for basing 20 interceptor missiles in Alaska by 2005 and 80 more by 2007. Opponents of the NMD say the program could cause China to increase its nuclear arsenal of about 20 missiles, according to the LAT. That could set off a chain-reaction arms race in South Asia, reports the LAT, citing U.S. intelligence analysts.

Even the mere act of breaking ground at the Alaskan site could have been interpreted as breaking a Cold War-era arms control policy, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. Russia has refused to allow the U.S. to change the treaty and, reports the NYT, “Mr. Clinton was loath to have his name in the history books as the president who withdrew the United States from the accord.” By leaving the NMD decision to his successor, Clinton took himself and Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore out of some potentially hot water. Following Labor Day weekend, Clinton will meet with various world leaders at the United Nations in New York–among them, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, who was campaigning to organize opposition to the NMD. According to the NYT, “leaders throughout Europe … applauded Mr. Clinton’s decision.” Who those leaders are is not clear, but the LAT names British and French foreign ministers as those who praised Clinton’s decision.

Along with some congressional fellow party members, Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush has already denounced Clinton’s announcement as evidence that “the Clinton-Gore administration has failed to strengthen America’s defenses,” according to the WP. On the flip side, Gore, who agreed with Clinton that the U.S. should take more testing time before leaping into a $60 billion diplomatic Pandora’s box, has now been protected from the negative reaction that could have resulted if Clinton OK’d the deployment.

All three papers front yesterday’s announcement from Republican vice-presidential nominee Dick Cheney that if he and Bush win the election, he will forgo millions of dollars in stock options from his former energy services employer. “In order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest,” quotes the LAT, Cheney will not take advantage of any options that vest after he takes office. It is doubtful this will hurt Cheney’s financial standing: As the WP points out, Cheney said in his financial disclosure statement that his net worth is between $8.8 million and $31.9 million. Meanwhile, reports the WP, Gore aides scoffed at a concession they see as too little, too late, claiming that voters will still see the GOP ticket as Bush-Cheney-Big Oil.

The LAT and NYT front, and the WP goes inside with, the news that a federal appeals court in Denver yesterday temporarily blocked the release on bail of Wen Ho Lee, a former Los Alamos physicist who was arrested in December on charges of copying nuclear weapons data from classified computers at Los Alamos to portable tapes. According to the WP, seven tapes are missing, and prosecutors say that if the tapes fell into the wrong hands, the results could do “severe harm to U.S. national security.” Lee’s attorneys contend that the tapes have been destroyed. Although the LAT and WP make it rather confusing who issued the stay and what state they were in, the NYT puts it most succinctly: The federal appeals court judges in Denver issued the one-line order moments before a district court judge in Albuquerque was to hear arguments from the prosecution (who were, ironically, about to request that Lee be kept in prison). Meanwhile, reports the WP, the FBI spent Thursday at Lee’s New Mexico home looking for the missing tapes and any other classified material.

Below the fold, the NYT fronts a piece about how New Yorkers are going to be really pissed when they encounter the effects of increased security as New York City plays host to this week’s U.N. Millennium Summit. The article implies that average New Yorkers care more about their morning commute than about the world issues on the summit’s agenda. Not a single civilian New Yorker is interviewed, but we’re left with this gem: “The Secret Service would not disclose details of its security arrangements.”