The Week/the Spin

Day of Reckoning Redux 

Timothy McVeigh will be executed Monday. Last week federal Judge Richard Matsch ruled that McVeigh did not prove that the FBI deliberately withheld the trial documents that mysteriously appeared days before his initial execution date, May 16. McVeigh appealed the ruling and lost. Matsch’s spin: “Whatever in time may be disclosed [about the FBI] will not change the fact that Timothy McVeigh was the instrument of death.” McVeigh attorneys’ spin: The documents offer “credible evidence” of other conspirators. Legal experts’ spin: Matsch’s decision stood because he oversaw McVeigh’s trial and knows the case cold. Attorney General John Ashcroft’s spin: “Timothy McVeigh is responsible for the brutal murder of 168 people, including 19 children, and he will now be brought to justice.” (Click here to find out if McVeigh’s public confessions can be used against him.)

British Prime Minister Tony Blair won a landslide re-election. The Labor Party’s margin was almost as great as when it swept to power in 1997 and was essentially unchanged from the start of the campaign in early May. The Tory defeat was worse than in 1997. (The Liberal Democrats gained seats.) Tory leader William Hague resigned after conceding defeat. Voter turnout was 60 percent, the lowest since 1918. Press reports hinted that newly re-elected Blair would try to rush a referendum on joining a single European currency. Meanwhile, the pound hit a 15-year low against the dollar. Pundits’ spin: 1) Not only will Blair be the first two-term Labor PM, his victories will have been larger than Margaret Thatcher’s. If he fails to deliver, he’ll have no one to blame but himself. 2) The Conservatives will become more centrist and Euro-friendly after this disaster. 3) Voters stayed home because they’re disenchanted with politics. 4) No, they stayed home because there was no contest.

A White House-commissioned report countered President Bush’s statements about global warming. In March Bush drew international criticism by withdrawing the United States from the Kyoto Accords—which establish mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions—and by saying he was unsure whether global warming exists. This week the National Academy of Sciences reported that most scientists believe in global warming and that human activity contributes at least partly to the rising temperatures. White House’s spin: We’re reviewing our policy. Get back to us later.

A witness confirmed that the Nepalese crown prince shot his family. Last weekend government authorities alleged that a royal heir, 29-year-old Prince Dipendra, shot his father King Birendra, his mother, six other members of the family, and himself because they refused to let him marry the woman of his choice. Then the comatose Dipendra was made king. Then Dipendra died, and his uncle, Gyanendra, was made king. Then Gyanendra blamed the nine deaths on an accidental explosion. But a royal in-law who escaped the shooting now backs the original story, asserting that Dipendra shot his family in a drunken stupor. Confused subjects of the Hindu country, located between India and China, have rioted. Maoist guerrillas’ spin: Birendra and Dipendra were assassinated because they wouldn’t use their army against us. Subjects’ spin: We don’t believe anybody. This is an international conspiracy. Media’s spin: 1) Oedipal regicide—great story! 2) An accidental explosion—also good. 3) An army-inspired assassination under the cover of oedipal regicide—the best!

James Hahn was elected mayor of Los Angeles. The white city attorney defeated a Latino state assembly speaker, Antonio Villaraigosa, 54 percent to 46 percent. An unusual coalition of white, tough-on-crime conservatives and black liberals supported Hahn, whose father had represented black districts as a city supervisor. Villaraigosa, who outpolled Hahn in the primary, had the support of the mayor, the governor, non-police unions, and Latinos. Hahn’s 11th-hour TV ad linking Villaraigosa to the pardon of a crack dealer helped sway voters, polls show. Pundits’ spin: 1) Latinos lost this year, but soon they will run the city. 2) After eight years of Republican rule, liberals have won back City Hall.

A federal appeals court ruled that states can prosecute FBI agents. In a 6-5 decision, the 9th Circuit reversed two earlier decisions barring the state of Idaho from prosecuting Lon Horiuchi for shooting to death Randy Weaver’s wife. (The FBI surrounded Weaver’s cabin in 1992 after he failed to show up for trial on illegal-weapons charges; Horiuchi said he did not see the wife but thought he saw a cabin occupant wave a gun at a government helicopter. Weaver was convicted of the gun possession charge but received more than $3 million in compensation for the death.) Majority judge Alex Kozinski’s spin: “When federal officers violate the Constitution, either through malice or excessive zeal, they can be held accountable for violating the state’s criminal laws.” Minority’s spin: “Agents make mistakes. … We seriously delude ourselves if we think we serve the cause of liberty by throwing shackles on those agents,” who acted without malice. (To read Kozinski’s “Breakfast Table,” click here.)

Anthony Quinn died at 86. The Mexican-born actor, who won Oscars for Viva Zapata! and Lust for Life and starred in La Strada, was best known for the title role in Zorba the Greek. Quinn’s spin: “I was born with very little talent but great drive.” Critics spin: It’s true. He wasn’t the greatest actor. Admirers’ spin: It doesn’t matter. His “specialty was the almost wordless projection of temperate masculine force.” He didn’t play Alexis Zorba, he was Zorba.

The economic outlook worsened. First-quarter productivity fell at the fastest annual rate since 1993, while unit labor costs—an inflation indicator—soared. Manufacturing- and service-sector purchases also fell. Analysts’ spin: Productivity was what made the inflation-free, high-growth 1990s possible. If productivity keeps falling, inflation will rise and the Fed won’t be able to lower interest rates without worsening it. Wall Street’s spin: As long as tech profits continue to rise, the rest of the economy can tank for all we care. Buy!  

Hamas refused to join a Middle East truce. The terrorist group responsible for last week’s suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, which killed 20 Israelis, rebuffed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s attempt to broker a cease-fire with Israel. Arafat pledged a cease-fire immediately after the attack, the deadliest since the Palestinian uprising began eight months ago. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s spin after the bombing: We’ll let Arafat meet with Hamas to arrange a truce. If that doesn’t work, we’re ready to retaliate. Hamas’ spin: “Our policy is to continue the intifada. … Resistance means to attack the Israelis everywhere by all means.” Sharon this week: Arafat is a “murderer and a pathological liar.” America’s spin: Calm down, boys. We’re sending our CIA director to negotiate a deal.

The Producers won the most Tony Awards in Broadway history. The stage version of the 1969 Mel Brooks movie won 12 awards. (The previous record holder was Hello, Dolly!, which took 10 awards in 1964.) Nathan Lane beat co-star Matthew Broderick for best actor in a musical. David Auburn’s Proof won for best play, best direction of a play (Daniel Sullivan), and best leading actress in a play (Mary-Louise Parker). Tom Stoppard’s The Invention of Love won for best leading actor in a play (Richard Easton). Mel Brooks’ spin: “I want to thank Hitler for being such a funny guy on stage.”