Today's Papers

Nickles Turns on Dime

The Washington Post leads with the first call by a Republican senator for Trent Lott to step down as GOP Senate leader. Sen. Don Nickles, who is the Senate’s second-ranking Republican and has long had his eye on Lott’s top spot, told a Sunday news show, “I am concerned Sen. Lott has been weakened to the point that it may jeopardize his ability to enact our agenda and speak to all Americans. There are several outstanding senators who are more than capable of effective leadership.” The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal word-wide newsbox, and USA Today lead with former V.P. Al Gore’s announcement that he won’t run for president in ‘04. Last week’s NYT said that would happen. The New York Times leads with a local story: Transit workers in New York City did not strike at midnight as originally planned and agreed to continue negotiating. The Post strongly suggests that Lott is toast. Republican Sens. John Warner and Chuck Hagel called yesterday for a meeting to, as the WP puts it, “discuss Lott’s future.” Meanwhile, according to the Journal, Hagel said, “The genie is out of the bottle. This thing is growing like poison ivy around everyone’s ankles.” In order to convene a vote on pink-slipping Lott, Nickles needs five other senators to sign a letter supporting the move. (Here’s a Slate article detailing the process for firing a majority leader.)The WP also says Lott is planning a counterstrike: His people are reportedly combing Nickle’s record “to get evidence that it smacks of intolerance” (WP’s words). Gore made his announcement last night on 60 Minutes, saying that he’s staying out of the race because there’d be too much baggage from the 2000 election. “I personally have the energy and the drive and the ambition to make another campaign. But I don’t think it’s the right thing for me to do,” he said. “I think that there are a lot of people within the Democratic Party who felt exhausted by [2000], who felt like, ‘O.K., I don’t want to go through that again.’ And I’m, frankly, sensitive to that feeling.” Gore’s decision opens the gates for his former running mate, Sen. Joe Lieberman, who had said he wouldn’t run if Gore did. Meanwhile, Gore also acknowledged that this was probably his “last opportunity” to land in the Oval Office, though he didn’t completely rule out pulling a Jordan.The NYT goes high with a leak that the Pentagon is considering expanding its propaganda efforts—what’s known in Pentagonese as psychological operations, or psy-ops—to friendly nations. “We have the assets and the capabilities and the training to go into friendly and neutral nations to influence public opinion,” said one unnamed officer. “We could do it and get away with it. That doesn’t mean we should.” Trying to give a sense of what the proposed propaganda policy might entail, the Times says there are “suggestions” that the “military might pay journalists to write stories favorable to American policies or hire outside contractors without obvious ties to the Pentagon to organize rallies in support of American policies.” Who told the Times that? If it’s those opposed to the plan—thus raising the possibility that the “suggestions” have nothing to do with reality—the paper should at least say so. The Times also didn’t see the actual wording of the proposed policy change and instead quotes leakers quoting it. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, again, the Times should tell readers what the leaker’s agenda is. In other words, the NYT should acknowledge that the article itself is part of the larger story—it’s being used to influence the news it’s reporting on. That’s natural, yet papers often pretend otherwise. Everybody goes with high with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s comments that he won’t agree to early elections despite the White House’s push for them. Chavez, who has been facing a massive nationwide strike for the past two weeks, said—correctly—that the constitution doesn’t allow for such a vote. He did say, though, that he would consider resigning “if I realize that I have failed.”According to a piece reefered in the NYT, U.S. intel officials have concluded that Russia has been helping Iran build two nuke plants that are believed to be part of a nuclear weapons program. Although the story leaves it unclear whether this is a new revelation—“U.S. SAYS RUSSIA HELPED IRAN IN NUCLEAR ARMS EFFORT”—the White House has actually been complaining about Russia’s help for a while. In a piece that the WP decides to stuff, the Post reports that the administration is preparing to argue that low and middle-income workers pay too little in taxes. A White House advisory board is apparently writing a report showing how the wealthy pay too much in taxes and deserve a break. As the Post mentions, the WSJ had a much-noticed editorial last month making that same point. (And here’s a Slate article saying the idea is nuts.)Better never than late? The NYT has what looks like a ho-hum correction, saying that a piece about science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke misstated the name of a law professor: “The professor is Glenn Harlan Reynolds, not Roberts.” As the paper mentions, the original article ran November 28 … 1994.