The week's big news, and how's it's being spun.
Feb. 28 1999 3:30 AM


NBC finally aired Juanita Broaddrick's accusation that Bill Clinton forced himself on her 21 years ago. The segment examined problems in her story: 1) She said "no" at first but later stopped resisting; 2) she didn't report the crime; 3) she can't remember when it happened; and 4) she filed an affidavit in the Paula Jones case denying she had been assaulted. Her explanations: 1) she was "panicky"; 2) she was "in denial"; 3) she thought "it was my fault"; and 4) "I didn't think anyone would believe me." Clinton's lawyer denies the allegation, but the White House refuses to say where Clinton was on the day in question. The spins: 1) Broaddrick has no motive to lie. 2) But she ruined her credibility by changing her story twice. 3) Her credibility can't be as bad as Clinton's. 4) What's scary is that the allegation is plausible. 5) Democrats are cowards for ignoring it. 6) Republicans are cowards for secretly using it as a basis for their impeachment votes. (For more on the Broaddrick spins, see Michael Kinsley's "Readme.") (2/26/99)

William Saletan William Saletan

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


John William King received the death penalty for chaining James Byrd Jr. to a pickup truck and dragging him to his death. King would be the first white executed in Texas for killing a black since the 1850s. The jury of 11 whites and one black rejected the defense's argument that poor conditions in the Texas prisons in which King had served time had caused his racism. Optimists and pessimists debated whether the case showed 1) the persistence of racial violence or 2) a growing resolve to prosecute it. Liberals debated whether the sentence was 1) bad because the death penalty is always wrong or 2) good because the death penalty has been applied in a racially discriminatory manner. (2/26/99)

Washington, D.C.'s top DJ, Doug Tracht (a k a "The Greaseman") was fired for joking about the Texas racial murder. Shock jock Tracht played a song by a black hip-hop artist and then joked, "No wonder people drag them behind trucks." Listeners and black radio stations protested and Tracht apologized, but his station fired him, saying it "cannot be associated with the trivialization of an unspeakable act of violence." The spins: 1) He's a good DJ who made a "slip of the tongue." 2) He's a racist who joked on the air in 1986 about Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, "Kill four more and we can take a whole week off." 3) The scandal is that only a comment this offensive can get a shock jock fired. (2/26/99)

Radical feminist scholar Mary Daly refused to let two male students enroll in her Boston College introductory course on feminist ethics. She says 1) she has offered to teach male students separately, but having them in a class with women would dampen debate among the women; and 2) one of the male students was a conservative who was just trying to score a political point. The college administration, citing gender equality law, told Daly to admit the male students or stop teaching. Daly is taking a leave of absence in the hope that the dispute will blow over. She accuses the college of "caving in to right-wing pressure and depriving me of my right to teach freely and depriving [female students] of the opportunity to study with me."(2/26/99)

Attorney General Janet Reno and Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr agreed to work together in Reno's investigation of Starr's investigation of President Clinton. To recap: Reno decided to launch an inquiry into Starr's conduct in the Monica Lewinsky case. Then a conservative legal group asked the three judges who had appointed Starr to intervene. The judges ordered Reno and Starr to file briefs on whether Reno had authority to launch the inquiry. The conservative spin: Reno is conspiring with Clinton to get Starr. The liberal spin: Starr is conspiring with the three judges and the conservative legal group to hide their conspiracy to get Clinton. The cynical spin: Let's get rid of the independent counsel law so we don't have to listen to any more of this garbage. (2/26/99)


The Kosovo peace talks made progress. The ethnic Albanian delegation, which is seeking independence from ethnically Serbian Yugoslavia, agreed to the peace deal in principle but asked for two weeks to convince its armed allies to abandon their rebellion against the Serbs in exchange for limited self-rule. The talks recessed until March 15. The scenarios, in order of ascending cynicism: 1) The ethnic Albanians will approve the deal, enabling NATO to threaten Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic with bombing unless he goes along. 2) The Serbs will use the recess to attack the ethnic Albanians. 3) Ethnic Albanian hard-liners will use the recess to attack the Serbs in the hope of persuading the ethnic Albanian population to back the war instead of the peace talks. 4) The Serbs will attack the ethnic Albanians in the hope of persuading them to back the war, which the Serbs would win, instead of the peace talks, which the Serbs would lose. 5) The ethnic Albanians will approve the deal, NATO will threaten Milosevic, Milosevic will ignore the threat, and NATO will once again do nothing. (2/24/99)


Twelve Republican governors threw their support behind Gov. George W. Bush, R-Texas, in the 2000 presidential race. Bush's supporters expect at least three more governors to add their support soon. Meanwhile, GOP Chairman Jim Nicholson announced that he would publicly castigate any Republican presidential candidate who "sowed division" in the party by attacking other candidates personally. Nicholson's allies translate this as a warning against further attacks on Bush. This comes amid news that Pat Buchanan is taking another leave from CNN's Crossfire to explore a third presidential bid. The pro-Bush spin: It's amazing how early Republicans are uniting behind tomorrow's leader. The anti-Bush spin: It's not surprising that the governors are backing one of their own. The Democratic spin: Republicans are in deep trouble and are desperately hoping Bush can save them. (2/24/99)

Election news: 1) Chicago Mayor Richard Daley won re-election with more than 70 percent of the vote. Several black politicians backed Daley despite assertions by his opponent, Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., a former Black Panther, that Daley had neglected poor people. The rosy spin: It's a victory for racial unity. The cynical spin: The Daley machine lives on. 2) Johnny Isakson, a former Republican state legislator, won the special election for Newt Gingrich's House seat. The media had a field day contrasting the "moderate" Isakson with the "combative" Gingrich, noting that Democrats "see Isakson as a pleasant change" and that Isakson thrashed second-place finisher Christina Jeffrey, the historian whom Gingrich had fired in 1995 over her comments on the Holocaust. (2/24/99)

Johnnie Cochran said he will assemble a dream team of lawyers to hold the New York police "accountable" for the death of an African street peddler. The victim, Amadou Diallo, died after plainclothes policemen fired 41 bullets at him in the vestibule of his apartment building, hitting him 19 times. The racial controversy has consumed New York. The officers have been placed on administrative duty while a grand jury examines the case. At the same rally at which Cochran spoke, the Rev. Al Sharpton said, "The U.S. itself is on trial before the world."(2/22/99)


Movie critic Gene Siskel died at 53. He had been recuperating from surgery to remove a brain tumor. Obituaries fondly recalled his on-air debates and "two thumbs up" salutes with fellow reviewer Roger Ebert on their eponymous syndicated TV show. Siskel was the skinny one. The pessimistic spin: There's only one thumb left. The optimistic spin: There's still one thumb left. (2/22/99)


The prime ministers of India and Pakistan signed agreements to reduce their tensions. They pledged to alert each other to nuclear weapons tests or accidents. They also promised to try to solve their border dispute over Kashmir. This comes nine months after both countries showed off their nuclear arsenals by detonating bombs underground. The spins: 1) They've agreed to give peace a chance. 2) What agreement? They've only agreed to keep talking. 3) Coming from India and Pakistan, that's nothing to sneeze at. 4) It's amazing that they've relaxed their enmity after showing each other their nuclear weapons. 5) They've relaxed their enmity precisely because they've shown each other their nuclear weapons. (For more on the meeting, see "International Papers.") (2/22/99)