Today's Papers

Nixon Was the One

The Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times lead with President-elect George W. Bush’s last three Cabinet nominees, also the top story in the Wall Street Journal’s front-page news box. USA Today puts the nominees inside and goes instead with the Senate’s ongoing discussions about Democrat/Republican power-sharing. The story explains the Senate Democrats’ strategy: leverage their 17-day pre-Inauguration majority status and the attendant possibility of taking control of Cabinet confirmation hearings into parity with Republicans in committee memberships, staffs, and budgets.

In their headlines and top paragraphs, the leads emphasize that Bush, with his naming of current Secretary of Commerce Norman Mineta to be his secretary of transportation, has made good on his pledge to include a Democrat. The other two people named: just-defeated Michigan Sen. Spencer Abraham for secretary of energy and former Reagan administration Civil Rights Commission head Linda Chavez for secretary of labor. The NYT lead notes high up the slated Cabinet’s reflection of Bush’s “inclination toward social conservatives.” The WP lead calls the slated Cabinet “strikingly diverse” and quickly runs the numbers, observing, “The six white men in Bush’s Cabinet will be in the minority. Bush has nominated two black men, three white women, one Asian American man, a Hispanic man and a Hispanic woman.” The NYT and WSJ do the same, with the latter claiming that the math is “similar to President Clinton’s first Cabinet.” Later, in addressing Chavez’s political leanings, the Times makes a Mendelian (if not Mengelian) leap in political quotafication when it notes that Chavez not only doesn’t speak Spanish but “her father’s ancestors came from Spain; her mother is of English and Irish descent.” (There is no discussion in any of the leads about whether Mineta speaks Japanese or Abraham speaks Arabic.)

Everybody notes that Linda Chavez is an opponent of affirmative action, but when the WP and NYT leads quote AFL-CIO President John Sweeney describing Chavez as “an avowed opponent of the most basic workers’ rights,” neither story identifies any Chavez positions that might have occasioned the remark.

The NYT and LAT leads mention that Abraham once advocated abolishing the Energy Department. The WSJ and WP run this inside. An NYT editorial mentions it, too, adding that Abraham’s appointment is “a further insult to environmentalists still reeling from Mr. Bush’s selection last Friday of Gale Norton as interior secretary.” With reference to Mineta, the NYT mentions only three others who had served in the Cabinets of Democrats and Republicans. Both the Times and the Post report that before accepting the nomination, Mineta informed both President Clinton and Al Gore that he’d been contacted about it.

A separate LAT front-pager says that the Bush Cabinet “will have more experience–both inside and outside of Washington–than those who advised any of his immediate predecessors.” But the paper’s editorial on the matter, which focuses on Abraham’s dearth of energy-related knowledge, is headlined “EXPERIENCE-CHALLENGED.”

The WP lead reports that a Bush spokesman yesterday criticized the treaty creating a permanent international war crimes tribunal that President Clinton just signed, saying that it would not be sent to the Senate for ratification in its current form, and that the spokesman said the Bush administration would continue the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gays in the military. The LAT lead says that, in a brief press exchange after his Cabinet announcements, Bush promoted his tax cut plan and restated his intention to escalate exploration and development of U.S. oil and gas resources.

The WP runs an exclusive on its bottom front about Edmond Pope, the American ex-naval officer recently convicted in Russia for spying and then pardoned and sent home by Vladimir Putin. The paper reveals another reason for Pope’s arrest and trial besides Putin’s oft-cited interest in reminding Russians that the KGB’s successor is still very powerful: At the time Pope was in Russia trying to procure information about a unique Russian torpedo design, the Squall, a Canadian spy operation was trying to buy some of the actual torpedoes from a former Russian republic. The paper says that the U.S. and Britain were “junior partners” in the operation (which fell through) and that Pope didn’t know anything about it. The story oh-by-the-ways another detail in the middle paragraphs that may even be more relevant to what really happened: Although Pope was trying to get the torpedo information for his own business ventures, he “was asked by officers in Navy intelligence and research to report on details he gleaned about the Squall and other Russian technologies,” and in fact, was also doing some torpedo research in Russia under a U.S. government contract.

USAT and the LAT reefer their obits of My Favorite Martian star Ray Walston, dead at 86. But alongside its Walston item, the NYT obit page has the passing, at 102, of Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker, “who for many years served as Richard Nixon’s psychotherapist.” The paper says Hutschnecker was “the only mental health professional known to have treated a president.” The obituary says that it was Hutschnecker’s opinion that although Nixon “didn’t have a serious psychiatric diagnosis,” he had “a good portion of neurotic symptoms.”