All the papers lead differently today. The Washington Post goes with the 106th Congress’ return to work this week after its August hiatus. The New York Times fronts the resumed business on Capitol Hill but leads with Clinton’s three-day diplomatic jaunt to New York, slated to begin tomorrow with an inaugural speech at the United Nations summit. Clinton’s most pressing challenge is what a senior White House official called “the last real chance” to revive an Israeli-Palestinean peace agreement. The top non-local story at the Los Angeles Times updates Gore and Bush’s debate debates. Yesterday, Bush charged that in refusing to accept his new debate schedule, Gore betrayed a promise to debate the Texas governor “anytime, anyplace, anywhere” and mimed the president’s evasions in the Monica Lewinsky affair. The USA Today goes with “sensitive” and not-yet-publicly released findings from the Federal Election Commission confirming that the AFL-CIO had privileged information about–and veto power over–the Democratic National Committee’s election plans in 1996. The fact that these suspicious ties were found to be completely legal, for the USAT, only “further shreds the nation’s already tattered campaign finance laws.” And the Wall Street Journal tops its “World-Wide” box with tales from the recently pummelled campaign trail, tracking Al Gore and Joe Lieberman’s six-state, 27-hour “work-a-thon” over the holiday weekend.
Both the WP lead and the NYT coverage of the forthcoming congressional battles place President Clinton in the catbird seat: His vetoes of the GOP bills to repeal the marriage and estate taxes should stand, and his domestic agenda is likely to receive billions of dollars, especially with Congress under a Sept. 30 fiscal-year deadline for action to keep the government running. The papers stress that the final days of this Congress will be dictated by political pressure on House and Senate GOP leaders to avoid any legislative “train wrecks” prior to the crucial November elections. The Post emphasizes the late-September deadline, which should give the president “considerable leverage over spending bills,” including the nearly $23 billion that currently separates Clinton’s fiscal year wish list from that of the Republicans.
Legislation likely to pass before the fall elections, according to both the WP and the NYT, includes the minimum-wage hike and the extension of normal trade relations status to China. Legislative compromises on heated issues in the presidential campaign, especially those surrounding health care and education, should prove more elusive. Any progress on gun control or juvenile crime is unlikely. The NYT downplays the strategic advantage of the congressional deadline for the Democrats but notes that the Democrats in Congress, the White House, and the Gore campaign “appear to be working in concert and framing a unified message” on the “big issues” of prescription drugs, Medicare, and HMO reform, unlike the Republicans.
President Clinton’s attempt to jumpstart a Middle East peace during his whirlwind New York trip will be frustrated by the frenetic atmosphere of the U.N. summit, according to the NYT’s interview with Sandy Berger, Clinton’s national security adviser. Unlike at Camp David, Clinton will most likely not have any three-way meetings with Arafat and Barak, who will also be negotiating with Arab and Jewish interest groups (respectively) this week. While at the United Nations summit, Clinton also will announce a plan to shore up U.N. peacekeeping missions and meet with President Jiang Zemin of China, from whom Clinton wants assurance that China’s missile exports to Pakistan will cease.
The WP off-leads with the surprising economic turnaround of North Korea, a country rumored to be “at the crossroads of life and death” just a few years ago. The story credits the rebound to outside food aid from the United States, renewed economic trade with South Korea, and the political maturation of Kim Jong Il, who successfully consolidated power following his father’s death in 1994. Still, critics see in U.S. aid to the country the potential for a dictatorial regime to strengthen its military and build weapons of mass destruction. The Bank of Korea calculated the economic growth the country last year at 6.2 percent, but the recovery remains “relative, and fledgling.” In the absence of much hard data, the WP cites a number of regional analysts and international businesspeople, who swear by the healthy appearance of schoolchildren, the verdure of the rice paddies, and increased bicycle traffic in city streets that North Korea is on the mend.
The WSJ’s coverage of the Gore-Lieberman day of labor, also fronted by the WP, found the veep looking like “the alpha male of the 2000 presidential race” as he took his populist message on a testosterone-fueled tour through working-man’s America. In Philadelphia, after delivering 100 cheesesteaks to local construction workers, Gore kicked back at a pub and watched the Eagles defeat the Dallas Cowboys; in Michigan, he toured a General Motors plant, and in the wee hours of Monday morning, he led a rally among firefighters in Tampa, Fla. Both the WSJ and the WP noted how Gore took pains to contrast his marathon performance on the trail to his opponent’s slower pace. But the WP rightly wonders whether Gore’s new taste for down-home chats with the folk is the best way “to find the millions of fence-sitters all across America.”