Today's Papers

Testing the System

The Washington Post, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times lead with the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday upholding limits on campaign spending by political parties–on funds they spend in coordination with particular candidates. (The court had already ruled that spending limits cannot be applied to parties when they act independently from their candidates.) The Wall Street Journal puts this atop its front-page worldwide news box. The New York Times stuffs the campaign ruling, leading instead with the court’s ruling that contrary to the position held by both the Bush and the Clinton administrations, immigrants convicted of certain crimes occurring before the 1996 law tightening immigration rules do not face its automatic deportation provisions, but rather are entitled to judicial hearings, a ruling that the WP and LAT also front. The NYT fronts another court decision, that newspapers and magazines do not have the right to include articles written by free-lance contributors in publication electronic databases without securing the author’s permission to do so. The WSJ puts the free-lancer ruling atop its front-page business box, and everybody else stuffs it.

The papers note that the Supreme Court campaign decision, which upheld a limit on campaign spending done by political parties, did not address “soft money,” the unlimited donations to political parties from unions, businesses, and individuals. But the coverage consensus is that the ruling is a plus for the drive to restrict or forbid soft money. USAT calls the court’s move “at least a symbolic boost,” and the WP says that “the tone and logic of the court’s opinion yesterday implied the court might uphold a soft money ban.”

The WP and NYT point out that in his dissent from the campaign-spending limits decision, Justice Clarence Thomas complained that with it the Supreme Court has “offered only tepid protection to the core speech and associational rights” but “has extended the most generous First Amendment safeguards to filing lawsuits, wearing profane jackets, and exhibiting drive-in movies with nudity.”

The NYT lead declares that beyond the immigration ruling’s impact on thousands of legal immigrants who’d run afoul of the law, it was also an important statement that “federal courthouse doors remain open to challenges to deportation policies adopted by the executive branch.” The paper predicts that “other immigration policies are likely to come under judicial scrutiny.”

The NYT off-leads an unplanned operation in Skopje, Macedonia, by American troops yesterday in which they escorted several hundred armed Albanian rebels away from crowds of hostile Slavs. The paper reports that the operation set off a “huge riot” in the city by some 5,000 Slavs, during which a U.S. diplomat was slightly wounded by a gunshot, and several foreigners, including two BBC journalists, were beaten up.

The WSJ fronts an important new trend in college admissions. This year, the University of California began assigning less weight to SATs and more to SAT IIs, which used to be known as achievement tests. A rising number of California high-school students are choosing to take their only optional SAT II (they are required to take the math and writing tests) in Spanish–their native language. The Journal says that although California voters have struck down bilingual education and race-based admissions preferences, Hispanic students are using their language edge on a test designed for those studying Spanish as a foreign language “as an undeclared affirmative-action policy” for getting into one of the nation’s best universities. The WSJ goes on to note that a similar stratagem is widely practiced with the AP Spanish test and also by Asian-Americans on SAT II exams in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. The story says that African-Americans, lacking any such native language leverage, are disadvantaged by the trend.

A NYT insider running (online at least) under the headline “STEALTH BOMBER, ONCE SCORNED, GAINS FRESH BACKING,” reports that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is considering buying 40 more of the B-2 bombers that Northrop Grumman stopped making four years ago. If he does so, the story explains, they wouldn’t cost the $2.2 billion apiece they used to–the price would drop down to $735 million a copy. High up, the story says that a key reason is the bombing accuracy the plane exhibited in the air war against Yugoslavia. The story quickly follows with critics’ worries that the plane isn’t all that stealthy. Lower down comes the information that to preserve whatever stealthiness it has, the plane’s every nick or dent must be repaired by special tape and epoxy and that gaps around panels opened for even routine maintenance must then be specially resealed, and that these follow-up measures can be extremely time consuming. Nowhere comes the information that it now appears that stealth planes may be detectable via the microwave towers springing up everywhere.