The week's big news, and how's it's being spun.
Aug. 29 1998 3:30 AM

The top stories.


Chance of Clinton's Removal Today: 19% The Complete Clintometer

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

Aug. 31  Clinton's support among Democrats in Congress is still bleeding, but slowly. Russia summit offers him another relevance op, though media previews are dismissive. Clinton surrogates discuss issuing their own report to counter Starr's.

Back on board: Chernomyrdin (left) and Yeltsin

Russian President Boris Yeltsin dissolved his "reformist" Cabinet and replaced his prime minister with the one he dismissed only five months ago. The press portrayed Yeltsin's move as a political battle for survival against the backdrop of economic chaos: The recycled prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, gets along with the Communist-dominated Parliament, which has been demanding Yeltsin's resignation. The government shake-up follows last week's devaluation of the ruble. A last resort for Yeltsin in the face of overwhelming debt, the devaluation will raise the prices of consumer goods and increase pressure on Russian banks, of which as many as half were already expected to collapse. The government also halted payment on its treasury bills and foreign debt but denied that it was defaulting. The Clinton administration decried the political shake-up but confirmed Clinton's plan to meet with Yeltsin next week in Moscow. (8/24/98)


President Clinton assembled his legal defense as Independent Prosecutor Kenneth Starr worked to complete his report to Congress. Starr is widely expected to accuse Clinton of perjury, subornation of perjury, and obstruction of justice. Clinton's defense was complicated last week when he told a grand jury that he had previously lied under oath about 1) having an affair with Monica Lewinsky; 2) giving her specific gifts; and 3) talking to her about how to respond to a subpoena. Clinton's lies would constitute perjury only if 1) he knew the statements were false and 2) the statements were "material" to the case at hand. (The courts could rule either way on the "material" question, the Washington Post reported.) Clinton's efforts to influence her grand jury testimony could constitute subornation of perjury, while his role in finding her a new job and his efforts to retrieve the gifts could be ruled obstruction of justice. (See Slate's complete Flytrap coverage.) (8/24/98)


Clinton assembled his political offense, temporarily ignoring supporters' calls for another speech to the nation to apologize for his conduct. Members of Congress floated the idea that a middle-ground solution could be found in which the president is censured by Congress but not impeached. (8/24/98)


Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich announced that no impeachment proceedings could be contemplated until Congress reviews all Kenneth Starr's evidence, not just the Lewinsky findings. He told the Washington Post that it would take "a pattern of felonies" and not "a single human mistake" to start the impeachment process. He also said that Starr's book-length executive summary would probably be made public but that the evidence would remain secret. (8/24/98)

Mark McGwire: pumped up

Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals hit six home runs in five days, bringing his season total to 53--just eight shy of Roger Maris' record. Tainting McGwire's achievement was the news that he takes androstenedione, an over-the-counter muscle-building substance banned by the NFL, the NCAA, and the International Olympic Committee--but not by baseball. Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa hit his 51st homer over the weekend. Both McGwire and Sosa have 32 games left to play, giving them plenty of opportunity to eclipse Maris' mark. Sportswriters cheered the McGwire-Sosa assault on the record, contrasting the feel-good unity of this year's chase with the hostility Maris faced from fans in 1961 when he pursued Ruth's mark of 60. They attributed this year's home run spree to the relentless expansion of the major leagues, which has diluted pitching quality, while simultaneously paying tribute to McGwire's talent: He is the first player to hit more than 50 home runs in three consecutive seasons. (For more on the androstenedione flap, see Slate's "Explainer.") (8/24/98)

Wreckage in Sudan

The U.S. government described its airstrikes in Afghanistan and Sudan as the beginning of "the war of the future" against terrorism, one that might last decades. The U.S. enemies in this war include various terrorist groups, like the one headed by Saudi millionaire Osama Bin Laden, and the nations that harbor them. A spokesman for Bin Laden said he welcomed the U.S. challenge; the Sudanese promised that their country would become a "tomb for its enemies." The United States failed to identify its military objectives in this new war and belatedly placed Bin Laden on the State Department's official list of terrorists. Congress united in support of the bombing, and the press reported the Clinton administration's hints that the strikes averted a terrorist offensive. Pundits debated whether the U.S. strike would deter terrorism (as some say the Israelis' retaliations have) or only widen the conflict (as some say the Israelis' retaliations have). (See "International Papers" for more. Also read up on Afghanistan, Bin Laden, etc., in Explainer.) (8/24/98)