Today's Papers

I’m Not a Crook

The Los Angeles Times leads with the results of its new poll about the energy crisis. Californians overwhelmingly favor construction of new power plants, but they don’t want to relax environmental regulations to get them built. They approve of the way Gov. Gray Davis has responded to the crisis, but they are unhappy with President Bush’s handling of it so far. The New York Times lead reports that the Navy will convene a formal court of inquiry into the collision between a submarine and a Japanese boat near Hawaii. The Navy rarely opens courts of inquiry, but it wants to put Japan, which complained about the early stages of the investigation, at ease. The inquiry could lead to criminal charges against the sub’s captain and two other officers.

The Washington Post fronts word that Bill Clinton publicly defended the Marc Rich pardon and explained his reasons for doing it, but the story doesn’t mention until the third paragraph that Clinton’s statement appears on the op-ed page of the New York Times. In the piece, which is datelined from Chappaqua, Clinton lists eight specific “legal and foreign policy reasons” for his decision, which he says served “the best interests of justice.” The foreign policy consideration Clinton cited was pro-pardon advocacy from Israeli officials (Rich has given extensively to Israeli causes). Clinton called the allegations that the pardon was granted in return for political donations from Rich’s ex-wife “utterly false,” reiterating that “there was absolutely no quid pro quo.” Clinton also said the pardon accusations “have been particularly painful.” The WP reports that the op-ed piece is part of an organized damage control campaign. Clinton’s lawyer David Kendall wrote the first draft, and former chief of staff John Podesta “worked extensively” on the final draft.

The WP fronts another pardon story, a profile of Denise Rich, whose finances are being investigated by Congress and federal prosecutors. Rich’s money comes from her father, a shoe magnate; her job as a popular songwriter; and her divorce settlement with her Marc Rich, though its exact terms are unknown (when she filed suit in 1992, Rich asked for $500 million). Rich has made significant contributions to Democratic causes since the early-1990s, but she started giving more when she started lobbying for the pardon. Still, her friends say she is an uncalculating woman “who wants noting more than to write popular songs, do some good and have a good time.” Friend Geraldo Rivera said, “She is naïve, almost innocent about the hard, cruel world.”

The LAT off-lead, a long special report that recaps the pardon controversy in great detail, is tougher on Denise Rich than the WP front-pager and tougher on Clinton than Clinton is on himself in his NYT op-ed. The LAT calls the pardon “a saga of secrecy, tenacity, sleight of hand and pressure from Rich’s ex-wife and one of her friends, who together have steered millions of dollars to Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s causes and those of fellow Democrats.”

Each paper runs a different front-page story about Iraq. The LAT describes the negative international reaction to Friday’s airstrikes and argues that they may have helped Saddam Hussein, whose strategy since the Gulf War “has been to make Iraq appear a victim rather than a villain.” China and Russia have both criticized the Bush administration, as have Egypt, the key U.S. ally in the Arab world, and France, which once flew bombing missions alongside American and British planes in Iraq. An NYT analysis outlines the difficulty of formulating a decent policy toward Iraq. President Bush wants to increase the pressure on Hussein while at the same time keeping expectations in the U.S. low, because he cannot feasibly force Hussein out of power. The economic sanctions haven’t worked, and pressure from countries that want access to Iraqi markets keeps America from strengthening enforcement. Airstrikes help some, but nobody has the stomach for escalation. The Iraqi opposition, which is funded by the U.S., has so far failed to make headway. The WP explains the many ways Hussein defies sanctions. Oil experts recently discovered that Iraq has been secretly pumping $3 million of oil through a Syrian pipeline every day.

Bites To be Romanian: The WP goes inside with news that the mayor of Bucharest has declared war on the 300,000 stray dogs that terrorize the city of 2.2 million. Under the new proposal, dogcatchers round up strays, and if nobody claims them after 10 days, they are killed. Even the dogs that get claimed are sterilized. A few animal lovers, including Brigitte Bardot, have come to the doggie defense. But one Bucharest resident who was bitten two weeks ago is all for the plan. “Kill them all,” she said.