Today's Papers

It Depends What the Meaning of “Arrest” Is

Everybody leads with day-after DUI stories. The Washington Post headline reads, “BUSH SEEKS TO MINIMIZE DUI FALLOUT.” The Los Angeles Times goes with “ON THE TRAIL, BUSH MOVES TO PUT OUT FIRE FROM HIS PAST.” The New York Times opts for a headline that is almost wholly unrelated to the content of its story: “BUSH ASSAILS DEMOCRATS ON MISSILE DEFENSE.”

The WP story is the only one of the three to focus exclusively on the Bush campaign’s reaction to the controversy over George W. Bush’s 1976 arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. Bush alluded to the arrest during a speech in Michigan. “It’s become clear to America over the course of this campaign that I’ve made mistakes in my life,” he said. “But I’m proud to tell you, I’ve learned from those mistakes. And that’s the role of a leader, is to show wisdom, to show experience to people who’re looking for somebody to lead.”

The WP says Bush “fought gamely” to fend off the controversy, but the story emphasizes his “lack of candor” in dealing with the situation. Reporters wanted to know why Bush told a Dallas Morning News reporter two years ago that he had never been arrested after 1968. Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes disputed the reporter’s version of the story and added that, two years earlier in 1996, Bush said, “I do not have a perfect record as a youth” when the Dallas Morning News asked him if he had ever been arrested for drinking. This, of course, requires the definition of “youth” to be extended to include 30-year-olds. The Gore campaign is keeping its distance from the controversy, the paper reports, though “beleaguered strategists” were comforted by a new joke: In the newest poll, Bush is “up .10.”

The LAT account links Bush’s attempt to “quell controversy” with Gore’s effort “to reinforce voters’ questions about the governor’s experience and credibility.” Gore spent the day harping on Bush’s statement Thursday that his Social Security program frightens some politicians “because they want the federal government controlling Social Security, like it’s some kind of federal program.” Gore’s response: “Do you want to entrust the Oval Office to somebody who doesn’t even know that Social Security is a federal program?” The Gore campaign is airing a TV ad in Florida and Pennsylvania that includes Bush making the remark. (The WP and NYT run separate front-pagers on Gore’s Social Security strategy.) The LAT also notes that Bush went an entire day without mentioning Gore’s exaggerations and that Dick Cheney omitted the Republican ticket’s standard “honor and integrity” line from his speeches until reporters asked him about it.

The WP fronts a look at the nation’s 100 million nonvoters. They’re younger, less affluent, and less educated than voters. They can be grouped into four categories: the apathetic, who make up almost 40 percent of the nonelectorate; the deeply cynical, who are about 25 percent; the disenchanted, another 25 percent; and the disconnected, the roughly 15 percent who don’t vote because they can’t–they’re unregistered, or not yet citizens, or unable to get to the polls. (The numbers add up to more than 100 percent, but they’re the numbers the WP reports.) Says one of the nonvoters from the apathetic group: “For crying out loud, we’re living in America, how bad can it get?”

The LAT fronts the news that there’s a 1-in-500 chance an asteroid will strike the Earth in 2030 “with a force up to 100 times the Hiroshima bomb.” No asteroid has hit the Earth since 1908, when one leveled 700 square miles of forest in Siberia. That impact caused a massive fireball to explode with enough force to knock people off their feet 40 miles away. But experts don’t see the need for Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck to reassemble their Armageddon team yet. “In the unlikely event that it hits the Earth and the unlikely event it was at the high end of the scale, then it would be of concern,” one scientist tells the WP, which runs the story inside. “But again, the likelihood of that happening is less than the likelihood of us getting hit that same year by an [unknown] object of comparable size.” Thanks for reassuring us.