Today's Papers

Hillary Rashomon Clinton

USA Today, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times lead with Madeleine Albright’s meeting yesterday in Pyongyang with North Korea’s Kim Jong-il–the first ever between a senior American official and a North Korean leader. The Washington Post goes with a local story but gives the get-together big top-of-the-page play. The Wall Street Journal tops its front-page world-wide news box with the threat Ralph Nader poses to Al Gore in six key states, a development fronted yesterday at the WP and also developed today on the NYT’s top. An LAT front-pager says that so many states are still in play in this election that it may be the first since 1968 that will come down to which side has a better “ground game,” that is, is better at getting out the vote of its supporters–a big switch from the papers’ months-long emphasis on swing voters.

All the North Korea leads point out that while little information was released about the talks between Kim and Albright, they undoubtedly involved U.S. concerns about North Korean missile testing and exports. And the coverage makes it clear that what’s in it for Kim is help with a desperate food shortage. Much is written about this, but it’s driven home best by a single fact in USAT: A recent famine killed 2 million of the country’s 22 million people.

Albright spent much of yesterday with Kim at a mass outdoor performance at May Day Stadium, and the NYT and the WP make the most of the incongruities involved in an American secretary of state having to sit through it all, smiling. The NYT’s Jane Perlez writes that the “gargantuan spectacle of about 100,000 performers … celebrated the cult of her host,” and that among the “several images in the show that must have unnerved Dr. Albright” was “one depicting the launch of a long-range ballistic missile.” And then there was the closing scene titled “We will support our powerful nation with rifles.” The Post has the missile launch, too, plus a women’s brass band playing a toe-tapper called “The General and People Are a Single Mind.”

The NYT fronts news that although health-care advocates are urging President Clinton to opt for a public ceremony for signing a just-passed bill extending government funding for breast and cervical cancer treatment to thousands of low-income women, Clinton will sign the bill privately. Several White House officials admit the reason to the paper: Rick Lazio, now running for Senate against Hillary Clinton, was one of the bill’s key advocates (Hillary Clinton, the paper notes, was also instrumental in getting the bill passed), and they don’t want to give him a platform to highlight this. The Times then shrewdly quotes from a Bill Clinton radio address made last year while the cancer bill was still before Congress: “This is an issue that transcends political boundaries.”

The WP and NYT report that the Ivory Coast’s military ruler, faced with early returns showing him well behind in Sunday’s election, has taken control of the vote-counting building and suspended the prearranged schedule for announcing results. Now, this is very similar to the Yugoslavia election story that recently got such big front-page play–so why does it get so buried? (The Post puts it on Page 28.)

The NYT reports that for the first time since the Census Bureau started keeping track, its latest numbers indicate that families in which both parents work are now in the majority. The story quotes a number of folks saying that the trend is here to stay and doesn’t quote anybody who deplores it. By the way, if you’re looking for information in the story about births out of wedlock in America–31 percent of all babies born–don’t bother with the headline or the lead paragraphs. You’ll have to wait until the last–the 24th–paragraph.

Richard Cohen and E.J. Dionne both file their WP columns from Hillary Clinton campaign appearances. Cohen finds her “boring” and says that while she’s giving her stump speech, he is “fighting sleep.” Dionne, on the other hand, says that when she arrives, “she might as well be Oprah or Julia Roberts.”

A small item on USAT’s “Life” front reports that 28 older TV writers filed a $200 million civil rights lawsuit Monday against the major TV networks and entertainment companies. According to the blurb, the writers often have to hide their ages to get hired. Today’s Papers finds this perhaps the stupidest form of hiring prejudice imaginable because 1) it’s based on the belief that the hottest commodities are about young people, taken together with the idea that to create about X you must be X (yeah, like Babe was written by a pig); and 2) ageism is the only known form of prejudice where the practitioners are guaranteed to become the victims.