Today's Papers

The Goat of Christmas Past

The New York Times leads with the results of the Serbian parliamentary elections. The pro-democracy forces won enough seats to amend the constitution and dismantle a government apparatus tailored to a Milosevic dictatorship. The top non-local story in the Los Angeles Times reports that scientists in Massachusetts are planning to clone an extinct goat. The last bucardo goat died last year, but scientists believe they can bring the species back from the dead. Many experts think cloning can be an effective way to maintain bio-diversity, but others believe it will divert attention from more important species protection initiatives. The Washington Post leads with analysis of the new Bush Cabinet. The president-elect has chosen a diverse array of government insiders and corporate executives, which has led some experts to wonder if the Bush administration will be rife with infighting. But Bush has stressed loyalty, and his Cabinet members all have managerial experience and know their roles within the organization. That Bush has tapped so many political insiders demonstrates that although he ran an anti-Washington campaign, he will not create an anti-Washington administration.

An 18-party coalition supporting new Yugoslav President Kostunica won 64 percent of the vote and 177 of the 250 seats in parliament. The new Yugoslav government will be led by Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. Milosevic was not a candidate, but his Socialist Party won 13 percent of the vote, which makes it the largest opposition party. Two Serbian nationalist parties also won seats in the new parliament. Although the pro-democracy coalition swept to victory, its future remains uncertain. The republic of Montenegro has promised a referendum on independence by the summer, and if it declares independence, Kosovo will likely push for the same, further destabilizing an already unstable region. Moreover, Prime Minister Djindjic and President Kostunica do not get along, and most experts believe their coalition will not survive the next election. Djindjic favors a much faster transition to democracy. The paper notes that turnout in the election was 60 percent, substantially lower than turnout in September when Milosevic was thrown out.

The NYT fronts a long Clinton retrospective. It views his presidency in dichotomous terms. On one hand, he was the most skillful politician since Roosevelt. He presided over a booming economy, an era of unprecedented technological innovation, and a peaceful post-Cold War world. On the other hand, his willingness to compromise his core principles when they were politically unpopular, and his immense personal failings turned his presidency into something of a wasted opportunity. His legacy may be the modernization of the presidency (instead of economic growth and successful intervention in the Balkans). His goals were less grandiose than those of his predecessors because his consultants said the country could not stomach big government. He also learned how to use the Internet and cable television to his advantage, giving numerous speeches so voters would always feel in touch with him. The NYT runs the full text of its interview with Clinton inside. 

The WP fronts a Dick Cheney profile that compares the vice president-elect to the CEO of a large corporation. Bush will be the “chairman of the board” of his administration, the public face who sets the tone and signs off on big decisions. Cheney will be in charge of the day-to-day operations. His political style is more that of a corporate executive than a back-room glad-hander. He is famous for his often brutal treatment of subordinates and his willingness to fire staffers who are not performing up to standards. He values ends over means and thrives in a rigid hierarchy that closely guards information. He chooses a small inner circle of advisers and tends to consult only with them. The Cheney mindset is of a piece with the corporate view Bush takes of government, which explains why so many of the early Cabinet appointments have private sector experience.

The WP fronts an article explaining why the economic downturn has come on faster than expected. The unpredictability of the New Economy fueled a longer economic expansion than most experts thought possible, but it might also contribute to an uncertain recession that normal methods cannot control. One problem is that with so many companies raising capital in the stock market, consumer confidence, which economists have trouble manipulating, is more important than ever. In addition, the long period of growth fueled a borrowing frenzy, and now the economy is leveraged to the hilt. Total consumer and business debt has reached a record $12 trillion. Indebted companies and individuals will tend to stop spending as soon as the economy falters.

Christmas Chic Sausage Jackets: The NYT fronts an article attributing the current leather fashion craze to cheap prices made possible by new tanning technologies. It used to be that only the outer layer of an animal hide was considered leather, but now the inner layer of a pig skin can be made to look and feel like the genuine article. What happens to the rest of the inner layer? Sausage links.