Today's Papers

Equatorial Guinea vs. Clinton

The Los Angeles Times leads with news that congressional Republicans, anxious to conclude the session and hit the campaign trail, are compromising on a minimum wage hike and the marriage tax, much to the dismay of the right wing of the party. Passing the wage increase and avoiding a marriage tax cut veto could inoculate Republicans against Democratic accusations of congressional gridlock. The New York Times leads with the national shortage of principals. As the accountability movement has gained momentum over the past decade, principals have shouldered much of the blame for failing schools, and so many veterans are quitting or retiring and fewer young teachers are expressing interest in the position. The Washington Post goes with coverage of the Gore-Lieberman surge, while the LAT and the NYT front their own campaign analysis, noting that Labor Day weekend marks the start of the last leg of the race.

The WP reports that for the first time since 1980, the election is still too close to call on Labor Day weekend. Gore has inched ahead in national polls (10 points in a Newsweek poll that both camps say is inaccurate) and reversed the electoral college advantage that Bush maintained throughout the summer, but Bush claims he always expected the race would be dead even after the conventions. The Gore campaign is especially pleased that it has pulled even in Florida, where Bush will now be forced to spend resources he would prefer to use elsewhere. The Bush campaign plans to go negative to counteract the Gore momentum, but the aggressive posture poses two problems: First, will voters be annoyed by the attacks because Bush had promised to run a civil campaign? Second, will voters buy the charge that Gore lacks leadership when they tend to agree with him on the issues? The LAT and NYT focus on the fight for swing voters. The NYT reports that the contest could come down to fewer than 1 million voters in 10 states and claims that Bush has done a better job of targeting the undecided so far. Campaign preview for next week: Bush on prescription drugs in Allentown on Tuesday, Gore on his economic plan in Cleveland on Wednesday.

The LAT fronts the uncertain prospects for the Palestinian state Yasser Arafat is expected to declare soon. The government is rife with corruption and nepotism, and the judicial and legislative branches are non-factors. Arafat is a dictator who refuses even to allow the writing of a basic constitution that would limit his powers. The corruption and inefficiency scares off private investment, which a Palestine would need to free itself from economic dependency on Israel. In another Middle East story, the WP fronts the release of new Palestinian textbooks. Although they do not label Israel on the map of the Middle East and are dismissive the few times Israel is mentioned, they represent a less belligerent attitude than the Egyptian and Jordanian textbooks they replace, which include lengthy harangues against Israel and Jews.

The NYT fronts analysis of President Clinton’s Friday announcement that the U.S. would defer deployment of a missile defense system. The administration was considering missile defense in part because it wanted to protect Gore against attacks on Clinton-Gore defense policy and in part because Defense Secretary William Cohen took an interest in the project. But Clinton never intended to act unilaterally and insisted from the beginning that the Russians be willing to amend the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. When Boris Yeltsin was replaced by the less flexible Vladimir Putin, the prospects for treaty renegotiation (and thus missile defense) deteriorated rapidly. Administration officials grew so opposed to the idea that they reportedly celebrated when a missile defense test failed in July. But Secretary Cohen was still a strong supporter, and Clinton delayed making final decisions to give his foreign policy advisers time to work out their differences (they never did). The WP goes inside with the story and puts less emphasis on the diplomatic problems with Putin and Russia and more on the failed test.

The NYT fronts word that the debate over globalization will dominate the upcoming United Nations summit meeting. But it will differ from the protests at the WTO and IMF meetings because activists more or less respect the U.N. and because little countries get just as much speaking time as superpowers. (The paper points out that the president of Equatorial Guinea is scheduled to speak after President Clinton.) Developed countries will focus on expanding international legal and human rights standards. Developing countries, on the other hand, will warn against the rise of a new imperialism whereby wealthy countries (and corporations) exploit newly open economies.

The NYT goes inside with reports of a backlash against civil unions in Vermont. The poorer farming and logging communities in the central region of the state have started a Take Back Vermont campaign aimed at ending civil unions, getting Republican Ruth Dwyer elected governor, and defunding a program called Outright Vermont, which teaches tolerance of gays and lesbians in public schools. Gay activists say the opposition to Outright Vermont is perhaps the scariest manifestation of the backlash because it posits the existence of a gay agenda to convert students.