Today's Papers

Two for the Show

The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Washington Post all lead with campaign coverage. Unlike the WP’s headline, “Two Days to Go, Burden Is on Gore,” the other papers place the burden of 11th-hour stumping on the shoulders of both presidential candidates–Democratic nominee Vice President Al Gore and GOP nominee Gov. George W. Bush of Texas–to win over key swing states. The NYT explains that a dozen states (with 125 of 270 electoral votes needed for election) are up for grabs: Bush leads in states with 222 electoral votes, and Gore is ahead in states with 191 electoral votes. Point is, the RNC chief of staff told the LAT, “It is going to be who gets their people out. Honestly, we’re not going to know that for 48 hours.”

Though Bush is leading Gore 48 percent to 46 percent in the latest WP poll, conducted Wednesday through Friday, there is no accounting for the news that Bush was arrested in 1976 for driving under the influence of alcohol. However, the WP’s Friday interviews with likely voters indicated that less than one in six votes were affected by the news. “But,” as the LAT points out, “whether coincidentally or not,” Gore rose Saturday in the national tracking poll, shrinking Bush’s lead from 4 percent to 2 percent.

The WP’s above-the-fold articles on how the candidates are spending the campaign’s final days paint a somewhat fuzzy picture of the candidate they endorsed on Oct. 22: “Vice President Gore is spending the last hours in a zone of his own–a floating state of mind where cities and time are an indistinguishable blur, moments of silliness and solemnity mingling side by side.” Even more mystifying is, “Gore was in that zone this morning, though this time he certainly knew where he was.” Was there a time when Gore didn’t know where he was? If so, it doesn’t say as much in the article, which goes on to point out inconsistencies in Gore’s stump-speak. Meanwhile, in the companion article on his opponent, “Bush, grinning and looking chipper,” the WP saves for paragraph 16 that during the second presidential debate, it was Bush who was confused about geography, calling Nigeria “an important continent.”

The NYT off-leads, and the WP reefers, the announcement that President Clinton (remember him?) vetoed on Saturday a bill that would have made the act of leaking classified information by present or former government employees a felony. Although the Justice Department and the CIA supported it, Clinton rejected the bill because it might have put the kibosh on legit activities like public statements and media briefings. This is a victory for the papers, both of which urged Clinton, in a joint statement by a group of media companies, to veto the secrecy bill.

The LAT off-leads news that federal authorities are investigating long-distance leader AT&T Corp. for allegedly acquiring new customers from rivals by switching their phone service without their consent.

The WP fronts an article on the increase of aggressive campaigns in Southeast Asia on the part of Islamic fundamentalists “on a mission to transform largely secular Malaysia–long regarded as a model of multi-ethnic harmony in Southeast Asia–into an Islamic state where alcohol sales, gambling and the public mingling of men and women are outlawed.” From Indonesia to the Philippines, Muslim activists have engaged in activities such as ransacking bars, beating up prostitutes, and threatening to kill Americans and Jews. Four thousand deaths in the former Spice Islands and 250 on a southern Philippine island can be attributed to the fight for Muslim supremacy. The WP cites economic disenfranchisement originating with the Asian financial crisis as a primary cause of the increase in violence.

The NYT goes inside with a chilling description of robberies, assaults, and death threats that have plagued Guatemala’s human rights groups since several filed lawsuits in Guatemala and Spain charging former military leaders with genocide. (In the country’s 36-year war, 200,000 people were killed, according to the NYT.) Police say these incidents can be attributed to a general increase in crime. But, as the NYT brackets, the close of October saw the murder of a women’s movement lawyer by heavily armed men, the sexual assault of women at a nongovernmental organization, and the kidnapping and murder of a student who belonged to a refugee and peasant advocate group–not to mention the theft of laptops, research, and testimony rather than valuables.

The WP “Outlook” section fronts a frank dialectic by an African-American mother (and WP reporter) who doesn’t want her 7-year-old son to grow up believing the stereotypes portrayed by rap music and videos. Conversely, she fears sending him a subliminal message that black music is bad while white music is good. “But are we raising a generation of little Oreos?” she wonders, hoping that her son won’t be ostracized if he lacks an affinity for the music of his peers. The reporter’s candid introspection (e.g., “[T]he idea of him watching a music video with a gold-toothed rapper bragging about blowing someone’s brains out, while a teenage girl gyrates her pelvis in his face, is enough to make me apoplectic”) culminates in a call to parental responsibility: “It’s up to us to tell our children what we think they ought to hear. Some values transcend false definitions of race and culture.”