The week's big news, and how's it's being spun.
Oct. 4 1998 3:30 AM

The top stories, plus the Clintometer.


  Chance of Clinton's Removal
  Today: 16% (down 1 since Oct. 2)

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William Saletan William Saletan

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

Oct. 5 
  The House Judiciary Committee opens debate on a Republican resolution authorizing an impeachment inquiry. Foregone conclusions: 1) It will pass. 2) Unanimous Democratic opposition (thanks to


Wondering where the "Frame Game" went? Click here.

He's in awe, too

Mark McGwire hit five home runs in his final 11 at-bats, finishing his season with 70. He demolished the previous records not only for home runs in a season (61 and 60, held by Roger Maris and Babe Ruth, respectively) but also for home runs per at-bat (McGwire hit one homer per 7.27 at-bats, compared with Ruth's one per 8.48 at-bats). The Washington Post called it "the greatest sustained six-month spectacle put on by any man in baseball history." Sports pundits compared it to feats by Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, and the 1980 U.S. hockey team, which "so far exceed ... our assumptions about the levels of human performance--that enormous numbers of people feel ennobled by what becomes a sustaining, inspiring shared experience." McGwire's take: "I'm in awe of myself right now." Montreal Expos rookie pitcher Carl Pavano won a place in history by serving up No. 70. (9/28/98)

Man in, man out: Schroder and Kohl

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was defeated by challenger Gerhard Schröder. While lauding Kohl for having guided Germany through the end of the Cold War and for having elevated its leadership in the world, analysts noted that voters paid little attention to these accomplishments and were upset with the unemployment caused by the foremost of these feats, German reunification. Instead, voters chose Schröder, a leftist turned pragmatist who campaigned on a "New Middle" platform of youth, change, modernization, and an irreconcilable mix of vague tax cuts, welfare reforms, and promises of benefits to workers. Liberal commentators welcomed Schröder as an ideological brother of Bill Clinton's and British Prime Minister Tony Blair's (neglecting to point out the converse comparison between Kohl and George Bush). Conservatives lamented the outcome for the same reason. (Also see " International Papers.") (9/28/98)


The Federal Reserve Bank of New York orchestrated a private bailout of Long-Term Capital Management, a hedge fund for rich investors. The fund, ostensibly run by the Best and Brightest financial minds, including Wall Street stars and Nobel Prize-winning economists, needed money to cover its bad bets around the world. The spins: 1) The smart guys aren't so smart after all. 2) Why should we bail out the smart guys when their bets turn out to be dumb? 3) Bailing them out is particularly hypocritical when we're telling other countries not to bail out their own failing companies. 4) We have to bail out these guys because, by borrowing a lot of money, they made their fund so big we can't afford to let it fail. 5) They're making us feel better about the bailout by spinning it as a "private" rescue, even though the Fed organized it. 6) The smart guys have outsmarted us again. (For more on Long-Term's shortsighted bets, see " Moneybox.") (9/28/98)


The Paula Jones lawsuit may be settled after all. Jones' and President Clinton's lawyers have exchanged new proposals under which she would withdraw the suit in exchange for money. Jones' team reportedly asked for $1 million; Clinton's team offered $500,000. The key factor is that Jones no longer demands an apology. Jones needs the money because she's in financial straits. Clinton's incentives are 1) to head off Jones' pending appeal to reinstate her case (which is based on Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's evidence that Clinton lied in his January deposition); 2) to eliminate the basis of Starr's investigation (i.e., that Clinton lied to stifle Jones' sexual harassment case); 3) to help seal Clinton's plea bargain with Congress in the Lewinsky case; and 4) to deflate the adultery/harassment issue so Clinton can get on with his presidency. The half-cynical spin: Jones' lawyers used Starr to extort money from Clinton even after their case was thrown out. The totally cynical spin: Clinton is buying his way out of justice now that the payoff has risen and the price has fallen. (9/25/98)


India and Pakistan offered to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. In exchange, both countries want the United States to lift sanctions against them. Their signatures would eliminate a major obstacle to the treaty's worldwide implementation next year. The sunny spin: Sanctions forced two rogue nuclear powers to accept the course of responsibility. The cynical spin: Two rogue nuclear powers conned the United States into restoring their access to dangerous technology in exchange for signing a toothless treaty. (9/25/98)