Today's Papers

Kyoto Oh No

The Washington Post and New York Times lead with the Senate’s defeat of the most comprehensive alternative to the soft-money-banning McCain-Feingold bill, a bill that would have instead put a $60,000-per-year cap on soft-money donations, a bill that was encouraged although not flatly endorsed by President Bush. USA Today reefers the campaign-finance vote and leads instead with a story incompletely headlined “FEMALE SMOKING DEATHS DOUBLE.” Make that since 1965, the story explains, referring to a surgeon general’s report released Tuesday, which notes that this year some 68,000 women will die of lung cancer, compared with the approximately 48,000 who will die of breast cancer. The Los Angeles Times off-leads campaign finance and reefers female smoking to go with the decision of California’s utility commission, despite vocal public opposition at its hearing, to adopt the largest electricity rate hike in the state’s history. The paper reports that California’s governor remarked that the commission was acting independently of him and that he was unconvinced an increase was necessary.

The WP lead notes high that despite President Bush’s association with the defeated campaign-finance bill, his press secretary stated yesterday that senators cannot count on him to veto McCain-Feingold if it passes because “he wants to reform the current system.”

Both the NYT and WP leads quote Sen. Russell Feingold’s assessment of yesterday’s development as “the vote that got rid of soft money,” but the papers enumerate some key remaining obstacles: On Monday, the Senate approved restricting political advertising by independent groups, which might well be an unconstitutional restriction on free speech, and which therefore renders crucial a Senate vote later this week on making McCain-Feingold unconstitutional if any part of it is subsequently found to be so. Also, the Times notes that a key McC-F opponent, Sen. Mitch McConnell, has left open the possibility of a filibuster, a tactic that has defeated campaign-finance reform before, although the paper also notes that the vote totals yesterday suggest this might not work this time.

The WP gets low marks for its lead headline: “SENATE REJECTS HAGEL PROPOSAL/Campaign Finance Vote is Victory for McCain-Feingold Forces.” Could there be anything more inside-the-Beltway and less explanatory?

The USAT lead doesn’t mention that at the release of the report, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said he personally favors giving the FDA regulatory authority over cigarettes, which is the focus of the LAT smoking insider, although the story goes on to point out that the Supreme Court ruled last year that the FDA can’t do this.

The WP fronts a report carried inside elsewhere that EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman told reporters yesterday that the Kyoto protocol for emission reduction–signed by the U.S. but not ratified–is (in the paper’s words) “dead as far as the administration was concerned.” The Post has the extra dimension of an “administration source” saying that the White House recently sought advice from the State Department about how the U.S. can legally withdraw its signature from the agreement. The paper foresees a stunned reaction from European Union officials. Showing (in Charles Peters’ wonderful phrase) a real instinct for the capillaries, the Wall Street Journal puts its coverage of Whitman’s press conference under a headline about how the Bush administration is diverting some money from her budget to state environmental agencies and saves Kyoto for the sixth paragraph.

As momentum gains in the Senate for a quick one-time-only tax rebate, President Bush said yesterday that such a rebate is no substitute for his 10 year/$1.6 trillion tax cut plan. At least that’s what the papers’ copy says. But the headlines are a bit more confusing. The WP header reads: “PRESIDENT INSISTS ON LONG-TERM TAX CUT/Democrats’ Quick Stimulus Rejected.” The NYT’s says: “BUSH SAYS REBATE ISN’T A SUBSTITUTE FOR HIS TAX PLAN.” But the LAT headline reads, “BUSH IS NOW SOLD ON PITCH FOR IMMEDIATE TAX RELIEF.”

Yesterday, a WP fronter bluntly addressed a recent population trend in the greater Washington, D.C., metro region under the headline “A MAGNET FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS.” By contrast, today’s NYT reports on the latest demographic news about Arizona under the headline “ARIZONA OWES GROWTH SPURT LARGELY TO AN INFLUX OF HISPANICS” and doesn’t mention illegal immigration until the second to last paragraph.

The WP goes inside with a beat sweetener profile of Bush domestic policy aide Margaret La Montague, who, it turns out, is “savvy,” has “a keen political instinct,” a “penchant for the intricacies of policy,” and is “disarming,” and “tough,” and also wields a “razor-like sense of humor” (examples of which are apparently only available via the submission of a self-addressed stamped envelope). Reader homework assignment: Calculate what percentage of newspaper profiles credit their subject with an inability to “suffer fools gladly.” Pretty high up, this one checks that block.

The WP’s Al Kamen runs an excerpt from a diplomatic cable sent by a new Bush assistant secretary of state, in which she reminds staffers not to say anything in cables “you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the Washington Post.” The point of the item, of course, is to remind this bureaucrat and others of her ilk, that hey, now you’re DEALING WITH AL KAMEN. The item is headlined, “WELCOME TO THE FRONT PAGE, MARY RYAN.” But Kamen seems just a tad disoriented–his piece runs on Page 21.