Today's Papers

Final Gurney

USA Today, the Washington Post, and the New York Times lead with the Monday morning execution of Timothy McVeigh. The Los Angeles Times fronts McVeigh but leads instead with the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday that a Christian youth group had the right to hold an after-school Bible study class in a public elementary school already hosting meetings by civic and social groups. Everybody else fronts the ruling, and everybody but USAT fronts the other big decision the court handed down yesterday, holding that cops have to apply for search warrants before using remote high-tech surveillance devices like heat detectors to gather information about what’s going on in a private home.

The first paragraph of the NYT lead contrasts the clinical, orderly death of McVeigh, the first person executed by the federal government since 1963, with the fates of his victims, sent to their deaths “in screams, flames and crushing concrete.” Another contrast widely noted: between McVeigh’s formerly animated and robust presence and the gaunt pale person seen yesterday morning. The Times subheadline notes that McVeigh had no final words (contrary to prior press anticipations, he did not read “Invictus,” although at McVeigh’s request, his handwritten copy of the poem was distributed by the warden after the execution), and the headline over the LAT fronter calls McVeigh “unrepentant.” The coverage does note that a few hours before his execution, McVeigh had a meeting with a local Catholic priest. And the LAT reports that just prior to being given his lethal injection, McVeigh was given last rites. The paper observes that this usually suggests an act of contrition but adds that it was “unclear whether McVeigh confessed his sins or asked for forgiveness.” The WP notes McVeigh’s last bit of Terre Haute cuisine: two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

The LAT puts President Bush’s description of the execution as “a reckoning” on the top of its front. The NYT makes the point that McVeigh’s execution “drew the approval of not one but two presidents” by noting that the Oklahoma City bomber’s death sentence was sought and achieved under Bill Clinton. The LAT goes high with the assertion that McVeigh’s execution leaves “unresolved nagging questions some still have” about the bombing.

The LAT op-ed page serves up a piece by conservative Paul Weyrich arguing that among McVeigh’s victims was the anti-government movement McVeigh professed to be a part of. Anti-government reformers, he writes, “were just beginning to flex their muscles in Congress and they had the public behind them when the bombing occurred.”

The LAT lead reminds that under prior Supreme Court decisions, high-school students could already hold prayer and Bible study meetings on a public school campus, an outside Christian group had already won the right to hold meetings in a public school to discuss morality, and college students publishing a campus Christian magazine had already achieved the same right to school funding as other students. What came with yesterday’s ruling, the paper says, is that now school officials must allow campus hosting of some religious advocacy. The NYT fronter on the decision emphasizes that the new ground the decision breaks is opening up public schools to religious instruction for very young children.

Name one. The NYT lead says that “Invictus” is “a poem favored by teen-agers who are rebelling against their parents.”