Today's Papers

Fast Times at Negativity High

USA Today leads with its interviews with both Al Gore and George W. Bush. The Los Angeles Times   also goes with the latest from the presidential campaigns, finding, says its headline, “NEGATIVITY AT NEW HIGH.” The Washington Post and New York Times front the election but go with yesterday’s Jerusalem car bombing that killed two Israelis and for which the Islamic Jihad terror group claimed credit. The bombing makes the LAT front but runs on Page 15 at USAT.

Gore tells USAT that Bush’s policies would plunge the nation into a “heated recession,” would bring back “giant deficits,” and that they raise serious questions about Bush’s judgment. With reference to the Cole bombing, Gore also tells the paper that “I believe in due process but think that our national interests mean that due process for terrorists, if the evidence is clear, is retaliation.” Bush tells the paper that the American people “trust my ability to elevate the office of the presidency,” and he responds to the question about his level of preparedness by saying that the American people don’t think you have to spend “your entire life in Washington” to be president, citing the example of Ronald Reagan.

The LAT lead emphasizes a new Gore campaign ad questioning Bush’s fitness for the presidency, noting that this is a new move for the campaign in that although Joe Lieberman and Tipper Gore have made this argument previously, as recently as last Saturday Gore had told reporters that “I don’t think it’s my place to say that.” The NYT top-fronter on Gore makes the same point.

The LAT lead notes a barometer of how much in play are several key Midwestern states: Yesterday at one point Gore, Bush, and Dick Cheney were all in Chicago at about the same time, and later Bush and Cheney’s planes were co-located at the St. Louis airport. (The other papers make similar observations.) The LAT lead reports that on a radio show when a host rued the impossibility of voting for Bill Clinton again, Clinton said, “You can get the next best thing,” to which the Bush campaign spokeswoman responded that this shows Gore would be serving a third Clinton term. The NYT and WP break off separate stories inside on Clinton’s remark.

The election stories all mention that on the stump yesterday Bush tried to tie Gore to the Clinton administration’s attempt at health care reform. The NYT even refers to this in its headline, but its story, unlike the others, doesn’t mention that Bush used the term “Hillary-care.” All the papers carry yesterday’s quote from Bush in which he said that some in Washington “want the federal government controlling Social Security, like it’s some kind of federal program.” The NYT adds that Bush seemed “a bit scattered” yesterday, adding that he also “seemingly tried to say that prescription drug coverage would be an ‘integral’ part of his suggested overhaul of Medicare, but he came up with ‘in-grit-able.’”

The LAT lead states that yesterday, reports surfaced that George W. Bush had been arrested in 1976 for drunken driving, which Bush later acknowledged. Both this story and the NYT front-pager on the Bush campaign put this in the sixth paragraph. The early edition WP front-pager on the campaign does not have this although the paper runs a separate story on it inside, as does USAT.

The LAT puts yesterday’s endorsement of Bush by Ross Perot near the very bottom of its lead.

The Jerusalem leads report that the car bombing interrupted plans for both Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat to take to television to call for a cessation of the violence. But the stories find some signs on each side that there will be an attempt to follow through with a cease-fire deal anyway. The WP says that after trying to help mediate the situation last month, the Clinton administration is now “largely on the sidelines.” The LAT puts the Islamic Jihad’s claimed connection to the bombing in the second paragraph, and the WP puts it in the third. The NYT saves that news for the 14th.

The WP and NYT report inside that two war hero Democratic senators, Bob Kerrey and Daniel Inouye, have tried to revive concerns about whether or not George W. Bush actually complied with all the drilling requirements of his National Guard service. The Post concludes, “It is safe to say that Bush did very light duty in his last two years in the Guard and that his superiors made it easy for him.” The Times says that documents it examined indicate that some of the concerns may be unfounded.

The NYT editorial page takes a hard swing at Ralph Nader, saying that Nader “with his nearly $4 million net worth, can afford to be indifferent about the public-policy fallout of a Bush victory” and that his dismissal of Democratic worries about what would happen to abortion rights under a Bush Supreme Court is “male chauvinism carried to a new extreme.” And the paper’s op-ed page carries a well-reasoned defense of those Gore-Nader vote-swapping schemes by anti-ironist and law student Jedediah Purdy. He argues that the maneuver should not be confused with vote-buying because unlike that illegal practice, it enables voters to express more, not less about their political views. (A swap enables, for example, a voter to vote for Gore and to express his belief that Nader should remain part of the national political conversation.) Also, Purdy says that the schemes are good because they undermine the central role of states in determining presidential election outcomes.

The Wall Street Journal “Washington Wire” column unwittingly passes along yet another sign that taxes aren’t high enough: word that the St. Regis Hotel in Washington is offering a three-night “Presidential Inaugural” package (including a “power breakfast” with Larry King) for $100,000.

The LAT lead reports that at one appearance yesterday, Bush ticked off a list of issues that he said had not been addressed during the Clinton-Gore administration, but the paper doesn’t deign to mention what they are. Yet if you’re mystified by all the home-stretch campaigning, the paper is only too happy to explain: “Each man is seeking to boost the turnout of his backers Tuesday, while depressing the voting of his opponents’ supporters.”