Today's Papers

Post No Bill

Everybody goes with the latest from the presidential campaigns. The Los Angeles Times’ election coverage headlines and goes high with the Gore campaign’s rejection of President Clinton’s offer to campaign in several important tossup states out of, it says, Al Gore’s fear of being too closely associated with Clinton. (Although, the paper reports, Clinton will appear at rallies in California, New York, and Arkansas.) The turn-downs, says the paper, have drawn some “grumbling” from some Democratic candidates and officials mindful of Clinton’s stump power who are worried that their party’s rank and file is less engaged in the election than the Republicans’. Some polling evidence of this is cited in the LAT and USA Today leads, with the latter’s latest poll suggesting that while 90 percent of Republicans support Bush, only 85 percent of Democrats support Gore. Otherwise, the papers note, the polls are all over the place. The Washington Post lead also has the intraparty dispute over Clinton’s involvement but leaves it to the last paragraph.

The WP emphasizes the candidates’ itinerary as a barometer of the race’s closeness, noting that George W. Bush appeared yesterday in Minnesota, a state not carried by a Republican since 1972, while Gore spent the day in Florida, which Democrats have captured only three times since 1952–and where Bush’s brother is governor. (The New York Times campaigner on Bush makes this general point as well.) The Post declares that the daily message alterations are apparently over for both candidates, with Gore sticking with a critique of Bush’s Social Security numbers as “fuzzy” and Bush continuing to say Gore is a devotee of lavish government spending. The NYT has all this, too, breaking out separate articles on the respective candidates’ days.

The NYT off-leads a hopeful sign from the Middle East: After Yasser Arafat met late Wednesday night with former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Israel announced that it had agreed with the Palestinians to try to stop the violence and return to “security cooperation.” If this takes hold, the Israeli government sources tell the paper, Israel will freeze the plans it had prepared in retaliation for the deaths of three of its soldiers yesterday. The paper says that Israel is hoping that Arafat’s long relationship with Peres, with whom he shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, can lead to better communications between the two sides. Because, it adds, quoting Israel’s chief spokesman, “there is no chemistry between Arafat and Barak.” The story mentions the Israeli soldiers’ deaths in the second paragraph but holds off on revealing that six Palestinians also died Wednesday until the eighth (both sides’ losses are mentioned together in a print-version-only subheadline, though). The LAT puts the agreement deep inside, and while the WP front-page Middle East situation report plays it high, there is no mention of it in the headline.

The LAT goes above the fold with its report that in the first eight months Lotronex, a Glaxo Wellcome drug for women with irritable bowel syndrome, was on the market, five people who took it died. The paper says that over the past year, the Food and Drug Administration has “repeatedly played down questions about the drug’s safety,” sided often with Glaxo Wellcome on important regulatory decisions, and disregarded pre-approval concerns expressed by one of its own staff doctors. A company rep is quoted saying that three of the deaths were not caused by Lotronex. The story says that this matter is the latest example of how the pressure to bring new drugs to market can clash with the FDA’s mandate to protect the public. The story should have noted that several times in the past few years the LAT (and particularly the reporter, David Willman) has powerfully helped to document this problem, and online it should have linked to some of its previous articles in this genre.

The NYT and WP both take looks at the NAACP’s new ad that features the daughter of James Byrd Jr., the black man who was chained to a truck in Texas and dragged to death in 1998. In the ad, she describes this horror and then says: “Even after such a brutal act as this, hate crimes legislation in many states still remains nonexistent. I’m Renee Mullins. James Byrd was my father. On Nov. 7, let it be known we will not be dragged away from our future. Vote on Nov. 7. Please.” The Times’ “Accuracy” paragraph on the ad says that it “subtly reminds viewers that Governor Bush did not support Texas legislation that would have imposed stiffer sentences for people convicted of crimes motivated by sexual, racial or religious bias,” but does not mention that two of the three men convicted of Byrd’s murder got the death penalty and therefore couldn’t have gotten a stiffer sentence. The WP’s review of the ad does mention this.

The NYT Gore front-pager reports that Jimmy Buffett appeared on stage with Gore at a rally in Florida, but the Wall Street Journal reports that Gore also has the endorsement of Warren Buffett, who cites in particular the candidate’s positions on abortion rights and campaign-finance reform. The paper lists some other heavy-money types on Gore’s side, a group that includes George Soros, but adds that he does much less well than Bush among CEOs. Indeed, says the paper, a recent list of Gore’s biz backers doesn’t include a single Fortune 500 CEO.