The week's big news, and how's it's being spun.
Sept. 27 1998 3:30 AM

The top stories; Clintometer drops.

William Saletan William Saletan

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


Baltimore Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken Jr. ended his streak of 2,632 consecutive baseball games. He will still play but decided to end the streak by removing himself from the lineup for a day. His decision comes 501 games after he surpassed Lou Gehrig's streak of 2,130. The superficial spin: Ripken's streak isn't nearly as exciting as the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa race for the home run record. The deeper spin: Ripken's record is a far more difficult achievement and will last far longer. The deepest spin: Ripken's commitment to "show up for work every day" for 17 years conveys a greater moral lesson than hitting a lot of home runs in a year ever could. (9/22/98)


Former gold medal sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner died at 38. Her husband said she died mysteriously in her sleep. She was thought to be in good health, despite the fact that she passed out two years ago as the result of a momentarily irregular heartbeat. The idealistic spin: She set amazing records worthy of Roger Maris and Babe Ruth. The half-cynical unsubstantiated spin: She set those records with the aid of steroids or human growth hormone. The totally cynical unsubstantiated spin: The steroids killed her. (9/22/98)


Congress is also at war over investigations of politicians' sex lives. A new report of a 30-year-old affair involving Hyde, who now presides over the Lewinsky inquiry, follows revelations of past adulterous affairs by Reps. Dan Burton, R-Ind., and Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho. The Hyde story first appeared in Salon magazine and quickly spread. Hyde calls the episode a "youthful indiscretion." House Republican leaders, asserting "credible evidence that an organized campaign of slander and intimidation may exist," asked the FBI to investigate whether the White House has been dishing dirt on Republicans in order to obstruct the Lewinsky inquiry. House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said, "We have reason to believe that top aides that have access to the Oval Office have been orchestrating a conspiracy to intimidate members of Congress by using their past lives." Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., accused Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal of planting the story. Neither DeLay nor LaHood offered any evidence. ABC says two journalists anonymously claim a senior White House aide was peddling the Hyde story, but a Florida retiree, whom Salon identifies as its source, has been peddling the story on his own. Salon's defense of its report: "Ugly times call for ugly tactics." As with the D'Amato-Schumer, Iran-Afghanistan, and Blumenthal-Drudge contests (see below), editorialists disgusted by the respective tactics of Salon and the House GOP pondered which side is worse. (9/18/98)


The United States offered $2 million for information leading to the arrest of a key suspect in last month's bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kenya. Officials say Haroun Fazil, who allegedly reported to superterrorist Osama Bin Laden, directed the bombing. They have also arrested an American citizen in Texas, Wadih el Hage, who they say was Bin Laden's personal secretary in 1994. The spin from investigators: We're making progress. However, former President Jimmy Carter called for an investigation of the evidence of nerve gas manufacture on which the United States based its bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory allegedly linked to Bin Laden. Carter said that British and German leaders doubt the U.S. claims about the factory and that if the bombing was unjustified, "we should admit our error and make amends to those who have suffered loss or injury."(9/18/98)


Rep. Charles Schumer won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y. Schumer trounced former vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro by a margin of nearly 2-to-1. Analysts called it a career-ending defeat for Ferraro, who swore off any future runs for office, and a major boost for Schumer against D'Amato. Editorialists applauded the Democratic candidates for their mutually courteous primary campaigns and looked forward to a vicious Schumer-D'Amato blood bath. (9/16/98)


Iran and Afghanistan are on the verge of military conflict. Background: 1) Iran has been supplying military aid to opposition groups that are fighting Afghanistan's fundamentalist Taliban government. 2) Iran is angry because Taliban soldiers recently killed several Iranian diplomats. 3) Iran says the Taliban has committed atrocities against Shiite Muslims, who are a minority in Afghanistan but the overwhelming majority in Iran. Iran's leader has told the Iranian military to prepare for "forceful" action. A Taliban spokesman says that "if the soil of Afghanistan is attacked, we will target Iranian cities." Meanwhile, however, the Taliban is pleading for U.N. intervention. Translation: If there's a war, Iran will win. As with the Schumer-D'Amato race, cynics are having trouble deciding which combatant to oppose. (Who's who in Afghanistan? See Slate's "Explainer.") (9/16/98)


Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal has cited executive privilege as a basis for refusing to answer questions posed by gossip reporter Matt Drudge. The context is Blumenthal's $30 million defamation suit against Drudge. Blumenthal's lawyers raised the issue of executive privilege when Drudge's lawyers asked Blumenthal about his private comments to Hillary Clinton regarding the "vast right-wing conspiracy" and other matters. Blumenthal's attorneys fired back by telling the press that Drudge's lawyers had also asked Blumenthal whether he had read Karl Marx. Drudge's lawyer says such questions are relevant because Blumenthal is "claiming his reputation was ruined by the Drudge Report," which raises the question of "what kind of reputation did he have to begin with." As with the Schumer-D'Amato race and the Iran-Afghanistan military showdown, cynics are having trouble deciding which combatant to oppose. (9/16/98)