The papers lead with the resignations of Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and National Economic Council chief Lawrence Lindsey. The announcement came on the heals of a new unemployment figure—a jobless rate of 6 percent for November, an eight-year high, according to the New York Times.
The personnel moves are believed to be merely cosmetic: a new face on the Bush doctrine of tax cuts, less regulation and more trade. Replacements are to be announced next week.
All the papers talk about the first President Bush’s mistakes and W.’s fear of repeating them. “In an almost eerie fashion, the arc of Bush’s career in the White House has followed that of the elder President Bush from tepid voter endorsement to towering popularity for military and foreign policy successes,” the Los Angeles Times writes. But the last war with Iraq ended, perhaps too early, leaving George H.W. “to look on helplessly as his economic advisers squabbled while a sinking economy demolished his chances for re-election.”
If O’Neill is remembered, it will be for, in the NYT’s words, “rattling financial markets with off-the-cuff remarks about the value of the dollar.” Earlier this year, he told a German newspaper, “We are not pursuing, as it is often said, a policy of a strong dollar.” Lindsey’s big gaffe came in September, when he said a war with Iraq could cost $200 billion, a high estimate and one made before Bush made public his aggressive intentions. “That made it clear Larry just didn’t get it,” an unnamed official says in the Washington Post. The NYT reports that the shakeup had been decided on as far back as Nov. 5th.
It was O’Neill’s old friend and one-time advocate, Dick Cheney, who wielded the ax late Thursday night, the NYT reports in a separate blow-by-blow account. O’Neill was “angry and hurt,” according to the Times.The oustings come in advance of Bush’s upcoming speech on the economy, planned for this month but now perhaps on hold until the new team is in place. Bush still has to find someone to take over for Harvey Pitt at the SEC, as well.
The NYT fronts Hans Blix’s meeting with the U.N. Security Council on Friday and his response to the administration’s criticisms of his work. He has been asked to go faster and more aggressively, which he could more effectively do, he said, if the U.S. would share its intelligence. The administration is holding back in anticipation of Iraq’s weapons declaration—a 10,000-page potboiler expected Saturday night, a day ahead of the deadline. The WP fronter on the subject notes, with perhaps a hint of admiration, that Iraq has become “increasingly adept at meeting U.N. requirements without revealing significant new information.”
The NYT covers the recent controversy in its own pages following the rejection of two sports columns two weeks ago. The columns, both weighing in on Augusta National’s refusal to admit women, will appear in the paper tomorrow. Executive editor Howell Raines defended the rejections, asserting that one column violated a Times policy by responding directly to a Times editorial, while the other suffered from structural problems. It’s not clear what changes have been made to make them now fit for publication. As tabulated by USA Today, the NYT has devoted 33 articles to the Augusta dispute since July, compared with 27 in the LAT and 22 in the WP.
The State Department is investing in the power of the pen, according to an Arts & Ideas piece in the NYT. It’s publishing an anthology on what it means to be an American writer—and who better to say than American writers? There will be 15 of them in all, including the likes of Michael Chabon, Charles Johnson, and Richard Ford. The 60-page book will be available free at U.S. embassies around the world but can’t be distributed in the U.S. because of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which “bars the domestic dissemination of official American information aimed at foreign audiences,” the Times reports. The book may be a propaganda piece, but it is not wholly uncritical of the U.S., which, as Julia Alvarez writes in her essay, is not “free of problems or inequalities or even hypocrisies.”
Finally, in return for her shopping-without-paying spree at Saks last December, Winona Ryder got 60 days of community service, $10,000 in fines, three years probation, and some mandatory head shrinking, the LAT reports. “If you steal again, you will go to jail,” the judge told the two-time Oscar nominee. She’ll also partake of drug rehab—she had a hypodermic needle and eight kinds of prescription drugs on her when she was booked at the Beverly Hills jail. More from the judge: “I have a 16-year-old son named Ryan who asked, ‘Why would Winona Ryder steal from Saks Fifth Avenue when she has enough money to buy anything?’… You’re the only person who can answer that.” Winona had no comment.