Today's Papers

Fast Friends

All three papers lead with the summit between presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin of Russia. The two leaders met in Slovenia, formerly of Yugoslavia, on the last leg of Bush’s five-country European tour. The Washington Post (“Bush and Putin Set Cordial Tone”) puts Putin’s warning about “unilateral actions” on missile defense in the first graph. The New York Times (“Putin Urges Bush Not To Act Alone on Missile Shield”) also goes high with the quote but, like the Post, conveys a certain optimism on the subject. The Los Angles Times provides the most pessimistic rendering of the meeting (“U.S. View on Shield Rejected by Putin”).

All accounts note that the two leaders took an apparent liking to each other in their first encounter. At the post-meeting press conference, the men were all smiles. Putin even drew chuckles while pretending to search for a declassified 1954 Soviet memo asking to join NATO. In another moment, Bush joked, “I was so impressed that [Putin] was able to simplify his tax code in Russia with a flat tax. I’m not so sure I’ll have the same success with Congress.”

All the papers stress the personal tone of the meeting, though their accounts on how long it lasted are fuzzy. According to the NYT, the 30 minutes allotted for chit-chat extended to 90 minutes, leaving only 20 minutes for serious discussions. The Post calls it a “100-minute summit,” and the LAT puts the total at “roughly” two hours. Whatever the length, the meeting appears to have been more personal than political. “I looked the man in the eye,” said Mr. Bush, adding, “I was able to get a sense of his soul.”

As a sign of their budding friendship, the presidents have made plans to visit each other’s countries as well as their country homes, starting in the fall. As Bush said, “I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.”

On the issue of missile defense, Putin wants a “constructive dialogue.” In a possible departure from the firm opposition that he has voiced over the past year, the Russian president acknowledged that “we have to look at where they come from, and then make some decisions as to how we have to counter them,” as the WP quotes. The WP takes note of Putin’s “conciliatory tone” and speculates about a possible shift in policy. The NYT also senses a change and suggests that Putin’s remarks were more than just “conventional diplomatic etiquette.” For the LAT, the situation is not as rosy and it goes high with Putin’s comments that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty is the “cornerstone of the modern architecture of international security.”

The prevailing verdict is that the summit beat expectations, as Putin himself mentioned. In a Page A10 article, the NYT offers, “seldom have two leaders so strikingly overcome the limited expectations about their first meeting.” And in an above-the-fold fronter, the Post reports that a man who is known as the “toxic Texan” convinced his European peers of his confidence and goodwill, even if his actual policies left his host countries worried. The prime minister of Sweden, Goran Persson, sums up this sentiment.  His statement “We simply disagree,” makes the WP headline. On the subject of missile defense, as well as greenhouse gas emissions, there’s still a significant continental divide, the stories note. Again, the LAT is the least optimistic and runs a Page One news analysis story on “Europe Sees Climate Pact as Flawed but Vital.”

As Air Force One ferries the president home, the Navy’s target field in Vieques, Puerto Rico, stays on the NYT’s radar screen, though in the back pages. For some residents, the Navy’s handling of the situation smacks of colonial rule. For them, the 2003 withdrawal date is too far away and they will continue their protests. But “a great part of the Vieques family is divided,” says one islander who does not mind the Navy’s presence. Some of those who depend on the Navy for their livelihoods claim that Bush caved to pressure from a vocal group of outsiders.

Both the NYT and the LAT carry front-page stories about Roger Clinton and an alleged cash for pardons arrangement. Four Texas businessmen have told federal authorities that they funneled $230,000 to Roger Clinton in order to get pardons for friends as well as diplomatic passports, neither of which were received. According to one source, Roger said, ” ‘I can get anything you want.’ He said ‘Bill would give me anything I want. My brother Bill will do that.’ “

In Father’s Day stories, the NYT takes a front-page look at the rise of single fathers with primary custody. According to census figures, there are over 2 million single dads, accounting for at least one-sixth of single parents, up 50 percent since 1990. On Page One of the WP’s “Style” section, there’s a story about a bride who was walked down the isle by her two fathers: her step-dad and her biological father. 

In a top-left front-page piece, the NYT looks at why more Native Americans aren’t offered Division I college athletic scholarships. The article explains that the under-representation of Native Americans is due to both stereotypes as well as cultural impediments back on the reservation. For example, in many tribes  individuality is scorned. For those stand-out athletes who leave the reservation, they often aren’t welcomed when they return home, being perceived as “sell-outs.” In addition, many Native Americans have difficulty adjusting to life off of the reservation. Still, for those that want a chance to succeed in college sports, it’s difficult. According to one young athlete, “When you’re from a reservation, you’re being judged before anyone meets you. The recruiters see us from a Hollywood stereotype of the drunken Indian. They think we’re lazy, not worth the scholarship.” Or, as a frustrated high-school coach says, “[T]he major programs would rather take a chance on an inner-city kid who may have committed a felony than a Native American kid who may want to go home on the weekend.” 

If college coaches are overlooking the talent pool on Indian reservations, major-league baseball is making no such mistake in the Dominican Republic. According to a front-page WP article, the line between exploitation and recruitment is blurred. The piece delves into the business practices of Enrique Soto, who “speculates in infielders.” A few years ago, Soto found a scrawny 13-year-old named Willy Aybar, fed him protein supplements and ground balls for three years and then taught him how to sign his name under a Dodger’s contract with a $1.4 million bonus. Soto deposited the first installment–$490,000 after taxes–into his own account, from which he pays the family a monthly stipend of $2,000. Even though Aybar’s family has moved from its one-room shack, some in the Dodgers organization feel that Aybar has been swindled. Soto denies that he’s exploiting or cheating these players and claims that the money goes toward his business of developing new prospects: He feeds and houses young players and gives them a chance at the big leagues. Even at the prodding of his more educated Dominican teammates, Aybar is hesitant to challenge the connected Soto. Why? His little brother is coming up through the ranks.