The New York Times’ lead analyses the Bush administration’s expected transfer of significant power to state governments. The new White House will treat states as partners, not “interest groups”; Bush’s ideology relies on the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which assigns to the states “all powers not specifically granted to the federal government.” The Los Angeles Times publishes a new statewide poll revealing that most Californians see the energy shortage there as the result of private sector greed. They also favor reregulation and fear a recession in the next year. Gov. Gray Davis’ approval rating has plummeted in recent weeks as the state copes with conditions in the energy market radically different from those present in 1996 when the industry was deregulated. The Washington Post leads with yesterday’s congressional pageant formally confirming George W. Bush’s election to the White House.
Shouts and grumbling accompanied the announcement of vote tallies, presided over by the president of the Senate, Al Gore, the Post reports. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus objected one by one to the assignment of Florida’s 25 votes, though the representatives’ objections were not officially heard due to another in a series of arcane 1877 laws that we have seen resurface in recent months. The NYT early edition exiles an AP version of the story to Page 15, next to the briefs.
The European Union has frantically launched an investigation into NATO weapons containing depleted uranium that were used in Yugoslavia, the NYT reports. More than a dozen veterans of the Kosovo war have died of leukemia, which many experts attribute to the uranium. A byproduct from the refinement of nuclear fuel, the uranium is used on the tips of armor-piercing antitank weapons.
The LAT’s top non-local story sketches Bush’s strategy for dealing with Democrats in Congress: Compromise only once the fruits of ideological stubbornness have dried up. The Democrats contend that Bush’s conservative agenda does not take into account his defeat by more than half a million popular votes. A top adviser to the president-elect tells the Times that despite Sen. John McCain’s locomotivelike momentum on campaign-finance reform, Bush will stick to his own priorities: education reform, tax cuts, prescription drug benefits for seniors, a military pay raise, and boosting religious charities’ role in administering social services.
Redundancies tend not to work well as headlines. Take these two, posted on the NYT Web site yesterday evening. The first is from the site’s AP ticker, the second is the Times’ own: SEVERE COLD HITS EASTERN RUSSIA and ASHCROFT GETS HIGH MARKS FROM CHRISTIAN RIGHT.
The latter piece, under a different headline as the Times’ early edition off-lead, anoints attorney general nominee and former Sen. John Ashcroft the most highly decorated political leader the Christian right has produced to date. Influential Christian leaders stepped up their lobbying efforts immediately after the election, trying to push Ashcroft into the office of the attorney general. There, they hope, he can defend popular rightist positions against abortion, gun control, homosexuality, the National Endowment for the Arts, and impediments to prayer in school.
The NYT runs a companion profile of Bush’s nominee to run the department of the interior, Gale Norton. Her laissez-faire ideology toward environmental policing, the paper reports, suffered a black eye after an early ‘90s cyanide spill, when the federal government had to step over weak Colorado environmental laws to prevent further damage to the Alamosa River. Norton, a pupil of Reagan’s diversity-conscious Interior Secretary James Watt, contends that the most efficient environmental policy gives polluters incentives to police themselves, rather than feel the wary eyes of government agencies.
Herbicides sprayed on coca farms by the Colombian military are killing legitimate crops and causing some illness in local residents, according to the Post off-lead. U.S.-sponsored flights, daily since Dec. 22, have targeted poorer regions, where residents grow lucrative coca beside food and livestock. Drug czar Barry McCaffrey has labeled the chemical “totally safe,” although the EPA enumerates adverse effects of the Monsanto product on people.
The Post runs a gushing profile of Bill Clinton as steward of the economy, citing a poll of historians that ranks him the fifth-best manager of the economy among U.S. presidents (but dead last in moral authority). The piece points to the president’s 1993 deficit reduction plan as the stimulus needed to reduce interest rates and knock the economy into shape. Credit where credit is due, of course, but it should also be pointed out that far and away the most heavily quoted individual in the story is Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who has worked in the department since 1993.
Comedic actor Harry Shearer, best known as Derek Smalls in This is Spinal Tap and several voices on The Simpsons, pens a clever NYT “Week in Review” piece that measures Bush’s top Cabinet picks with a new yardstick: the Bork-o-meter, named for federal judge Robert Bork, whose 1987 nomination to the Supreme Court was defeated in the Senate. The more “borks” a nominee receives, Shearer writes, the tougher time he or she will have during the confirmation process. Ashcroft leads the field with nine borks, Defense nominee Donald Rumsfeld should sail through the Senate borked but once. It does not appear that Bork himself, who landed at a conservative D.C. think tank with Newt Gingrich et al., was asked to verify the results.