Today's Papers

Bushing Ahead

USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times lead with Bush transition stories. The New York Times top-fronts that but leads with the Federal Trade Commission’s 5-0 approval yesterday of the AOL/Time Warner merger, which everybody fronts and which is also the top story the Wall Street Journal flags in its front-page business news box. The headlines over both (and over USAT’s effort) mention the FTC’s conditions that preserve content competition on the new company’s network of cable TV and Internet connections. The Times reports that corporate rivals Disney and Microsoft, who had weighed in with concerns about competitive access, view the deal approved as a victory for consumers.

The papers’ main transition stories report that President-elect George W. Bush spent a lot of time on the phone yesterday, taking calls from the likes of President Clinton, Jesse Jackson (a “gracious” conversation, says the Bush spokesperson), and numerous congressional leaders. Both the LAT and WP leads report that Bush’s line was so busy, his brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, couldn’t get through. The main thrust of the coverage is that Bush is reaching out to Democrats not just in Congress but also as part of his Cabinet recruiting effort. Everybody mentions that Bush plans to lunch with Sen. John Breaux, a conservative Democrat, who is perhaps being wooed to join the new administration, but everybody also mentions that moves by Democrats out of the 50-50 Senate are not all that likely. The papers consider imminent announcements of Colin Powell as secretary of state and Condoleezza Rice as national security adviser to be sure things.

Underneath all the hearts and flowers, the WP lead goes high noticing something else: Several “well-known Republicans,” including strategists associated with Newt Gingrich, “have begun raising money for a public relations campaign to keep pressure on Bush to pursue a conservative agenda.” The NYT fronts another bit of drama amidst all the comity: Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert said yesterday he did not favor the $1.3 trillion across-the-board tax cut Bush campaigned on, advocating instead a cut targeted at married couples and people inheriting money.

Everybody has Bush starting out his presidency-elect yesterday by attending church. The WP, NYT, and LAT note that during the service, the minister compared Bush to Moses, describing him as being “chosen by God to lead the people.” The LAT adds that later, a Bush spokesman distanced Bush from that remark.

The two Times front what the LAT calls a “significant victory for many women”: the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruling that it is discriminatory for an employer’s health plan to not cover contraceptives if the plan covers prescriptions and other forms of preventive care. The stories point out that currently the overwhelming majority of plans do not offer contraceptive coverage. They also say that the ruling is not legally binding and is directed only at the specific drugstore chain complained about, yet is viewed nonetheless as a bellwether.

The WP fronts and everybody else stuffs word that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin yesterday on humanitarian grounds pardoned just-convicted-for-spying American Edmond Pope, who immediately flew to Germany for medical treatment for his bone cancer. President Clinton welcomed the development, calling Pope’s previous treatment “unjustified.”

USAT fronts a new government study on American teen drug use, and the WP runs a Reuters report on it inside. The Post story is headlined and goes high with its conclusion that “TEEN DRUG USE UNCHANGED.” USAT’s is headlined and goes high with the report’s other main conclusion: “MORE TEENS USING ECSTASY.”

Inside, the WP also has new research on FBI data purporting to show that juvenile homicide arrests have fallen to their lowest rate since 1980. The paper quickly adds, “It was the nation’s fifth consecutive year of declining juvenile crime” and quotes Janet Reno, who released the report, as saying that it shows the “power of prevention.” Today’s Papers certainly hopes that’s true but can’t help but notice that there’s nothing in the story that addresses whether or not the juvenile arrest rate accurately reflects the juvenile crime rate. If not, there is no ground for celebration here.

The WP runs an op-ed by a novelist whose fact-based book on life in the contemporary Navy was partially funded by the NEA. The book depicts scenes of U.S. sailors and marines enjoying sex shows put on by underage girls at an infamous child-prostitute-ridden sex resort in Thailand during official Navy port calls there, and has as a result prompted criticism of the NEA by the American Family Association. The writer, Robert Clark Young, finds it “strange that an organization that claims to uphold family values and to oppose the federal funding of obscenity is not protesting the part of the military budget that goes to support pederasty in the Far East. Apparently, this association has no problem with the funding of such behavior–just with the funding of writers who want to expose it.”

In case you have accidentally swallowed poison, please read this item repeatedly. The WP’s Lloyd Grove reports that Wednesday night, Dick Cheney partied with Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy.

The USAT editorial urges President-elect Bush “to push aggressively for nationwide election fixes.” Today’s Papers thought he’d already done that.