Today's Papers

Don’t Cry for Menem, Argentina

The Los Angeles Times and USA Today both lead with the declared end of Timothy McVeigh’s legal challenges. After the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that the McVeigh team had “utterly failed” to furnish grounds for a stay, McVeigh instructed his attorneys to end their efforts on his behalf, clearing the way for his execution Monday morning. The McVeigh developments also sit atop the Wall Street Journal’s worldwide news box. Running McVeigh front and center, the Washington Post leads instead with word that the Bush administration is considering a plan to expedite the missile defense program, with the goal of having a rudimentary system in place as soon as 2004. At the New York Times, the lead announces the Labor Party’s overwhelming victory in the British elections.

USAT reports that with all legal obstacles removed, the McVeigh saga will likely end at 7 a.m. Monday, the time set for his lethal injection. An attorney for McVeigh tells the LAT of his client’s desire for finality and closure. “He has family and friends that he must say his goodbyes to. The introspection and psychological preparation he has to go through only he can know.” And all the papers each run a steely quote from Attorney General John Ashcroft along the lines of the following from the WP, “Timothy McVeigh is responsible for the brutal murder of 168 people, including 19 children, and he will now be brought to justice.”

The LAT goes for the grim particulars, revealing that McVeigh has altered the menu of his last meal since his previous date with the executioner. The paper also adds a telling life-goes-on detail when it notes that fellow prisoners, some of whom are themselves on death row, expressed outrage at having to be “locked down” on the night of McVeigh’s execution and thus unable to watch Game 3 of the NBA finals.

The WP lead reports that the new missile defense plan calls for a gradual approach to the deployment of a shield. A Defense Department source gives the administration’s argument that some shield is better than no shield. But as the story goes on to make clear, the choice is not quite so simple. The new gradualist strategy calls for an increased number of tests (at $75 million to $100 million a pop) and heightens the urgency to scuttle the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty. Boeing, reveals the WP, was instructed to assume in its proposals that “treaty constraints” had been “removed.” The NYT missile-defense piece focuses on European NATO members’ reluctance to end the ABM treaty, particularly before the technology involved has proved workable. But, as the paper acknowledges, a steadfast Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld brushed aside such criticism, telling a NATO gathering, “You end up learning something by trying it.”

Everyone notes that the much-anticipated victory for Tony Blair’s Labor Party in British elections marks the first time in the party’s history that Labor has been re-elected with a parliamentary majority. The NYT sees an affirmation of Blair’s emphasis on the need to improve public services in the face of Conservatives’ call for a tax cut. The WP goes even further, arguing that the results (an earlier account of which appear in the WP) give Blair a mandate for the “radical restructuring” of Britain’s class system.

The British election coverage observes that speculation that a triumphant Blair would place Britain on the road to joining the European common currency sent the pound to an 11-year low against the dollar. And the WSJ devotes a second story predicting that with voters unmoved by Conservative pleas to “save the pound,” Britain’s euro debate is expected to begin in earnest. The WSJ effort also marks the continuation of a second debate: It is the only paper to go British-style in referring to the victors as the “Labour” party.

Yesterday’s signing by President Bush of the $1.35 billion tax cut (obligatory pen-to-paper photos in the WP and NYT) gives the papers one more chance to ruminate on the political implications. The LAT argues that the cuts create a “new fiscal reality” that “handcuffs” Democrats even as they assume leadership in the Senate. Not so fast, say the WP and NYT, which report that debates over how to amend the bill have already begun. New Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle tells the NYT, “I know we’re going to revisit it [the bill],” and the paper’s “news analysis” theorizes that the bill’s backend tax cuts are likely to be rewritten if either the political or economic landscape takes a dramatic change. Meanwhile, the WSJ highlights the fine print measures of the bill that were added at the behest of specific corporations, calling them a “testament to the old way of doing business.”

The LAT fronts news from Japan that at least eight students (ages 6 to 8) were killed when a man burst into Tokyo elementary school and began stabbing. The killings, say the paper, are particularly horrifying and senseless in a culture where criminal violence is rare. Though the man is in custody, no theory on his motive has yet been put forward.

The WSJ fronts word from Argentina, where former President Carlos Menem was arrested and charged with illegal weapons sales to Croatia and Ecuador. The WP notes that Menem was a stalwart of the U.S. throughout his 10-year presidency, garnering Argentina “near-NATO” status and instituting American-lauded free-market reforms that reigned in Argentina’s once-ludicrous levels of inflation. But before readers pen their sympathy cards, they should note that Argentine law forbids prison sentences for septuagenarians, meaning Menem, who turns 71 next month, could only face house arrest. Depending on your perspective, this may amount to either a reward or a death sentence for the aging president, given that his days indoors would presumably be spent with his new bride, a Chilean-born former Miss Universe, age 36.