The week's big news, and how's it's being spun.
Aug. 19 1998 3:30 AM

Frame Game

The hunt continues

The United States offered a $2 million reward for information leading to convictions in the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The blasts killed at least 200 people, including 12 Americans, and injured more than 5,000. President Clinton said the United States will stand up to the terrorists and that it will hunt them down. The spins: 1) Whodunnit? A few Iraqis and Sudanese reportedly have been detained and questioned, but no firm leads have been reported. 2) Why weren't the embassies better protected? Skeptics argued that we can't protect every U.S. outpost, and Kenya and Tanzania aren't high priorities. 3) How to prevent further terrorism? The dilemma, according to a senior U.S. official, is "how do you [punish terrorists] and still stay within the rule of law?" (See Slate's "International Papers" for more reactions from Kenya and elsewhere abroad.) (8/10/98)

William Saletan William Saletan

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


The House committee investigating the campaign finance scandal voted to charge Attorney General Janet Reno with contempt of Congress. The alleged offense is that she refuses to give the committee memos in which FBI Director Louis Freeh and former Justice Department investigation chief Charles La Bella advised her to seek appointment of an independent counsel to investigate the scandal. Republicans on the committee, led by Dan Burton, R-Ind., voted to charge Reno, while Democrats unanimously opposed them. Reno called it "political tampering" with the investigation and argued (as did Freeh and LaBella) that releasing the memos would expose investigators' strategy to defendants. The spins, in order of ascending cynicism: 1) They're going to prosecute Reno. 2) They'll work out a deal to lift the threat of prosecution. 3) To lift the threat, she'll have to cough up the memos or seek an independent counsel. 4) For being mute and stubborn, she deserves what she gets. 5) Burton is making her look good by comparison. (8/7/98)

Nothing new under the sun--or at the Globe

The Boston Globe asked columnist Mike Barnicle to resign for stealing jokes. Barnicle refused. Globe staffers say Barnicle 1) lifted eight jokes from a George Carlin book in his column last week; 2) told them he got the jokes from a friend and had never seen the book; 3) told conflicting stories about who he had got the jokes from; and 4) was caught on videotape holding and recommending the book. Spins on the Globe's decision: 1) They had to do it because they had recently asked Patricia Smith, a black columnist, to resign for fabricating quotes and stories. 2) Barnicle forced their hand by lying to them after he was caught lifting the quotes. Barnicle's spin: The punishment is "out of proportion. ... This is the only place I've ever worked as an adult, and they want to flush it down the toilet in less than 12 hours." Radio personality Don Imus called the Globe's editors "politically correct wussies."(8/7/98)


President Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich unveiled their parties' fall election messages. Clinton accused Republicans of trying to squander the federal surplus on tax cuts instead of saving Social Security. Gingrich argued that unless Republicans returned the money to taxpayers, liberal interest groups and bureaucrats would squander it on unnecessary programs. (FRAME GAME: Reframing Social Security.) (8/6/98)


The Dow Jones industrial average plunged nearly 300 points on Aug. 4. It was the Dow's worst daily loss this year. The Dow, S & P 500, and NASDAQ fell to 9 percent, 10 percent, and 11 percent below their peaks, respectively. Semanticists debated whether this is a correction, a bear market, or just a big dip. Everyone agrees the causes are the Asia crisis and slower growth in corporate profits. Market gurus reversed their recent predictions about the market's direction and assured investors that this time they've got it right. In moments of candor, a few analysts conceded that the market is a big game of mass psychology, and they have no idea what will happen next. On Aug. 5, the market recovered slightly. (8/5/98)


Geoffrey Fieger, Dr. Jack Kevorkian's lawyer, won the Democratic nomination for governor of Michigan. During the campaign, Fieger proposed tax cuts and argued that assisted suicide is "a personal decision." Kevorkian showed up at Fieger's victory party. The sunny spin: Fieger is a refreshing and entertaining candidate untainted by political experience. The cynical spin: Fieger is a glib sound bite artist who won the primary by spending $1 million of his personal fortune, and the Democrats who nominated him to face Republican Gov. John Engler are committing political suicide. (8/5/98)