The week's big news, and how's it's being spun.
Feb. 21 1999 3:30 AM


The New York Yankees acquired Roger Clemens. In exchange, they sent pitcher David Wells and two other players to the Toronto Blue Jays. Clemens leads all active pitchers in wins, shutouts, and strikeouts, and is the only five-time Cy Young winner (for best pitching) ever. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner likened Clemens to NBA deity Michael Jordan. The New York Times called Clemens "perhaps the greatest pitcher of his era" and described the trade as the Yankees' "most significant deal since the purchase of Babe Ruth." The sunny spin: With Clemens aboard, the Yankees will break the record they set last year for victories in a season (125). The cynical spin: This is what Wells gets for worshipping the Yankees, pitching a perfect game for them last year, and taking them to the championship? (2/19/99)

William Saletan William Saletan

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


The Wall Street Journal published 20-year-old rape allegations against Bill Clinton. The story has circulated for months, but this is the first time a major newspaper has named the alleged victim, Juanita Broaddrick, and has detailed her allegations. According to the Journal's Dorothy Rabinowitz, Broaddrick says Clinton tore her pantyhose during the 1978 encounter, "held her down forcibly and bit her lips," leaving them "swollen to double their size," and tried to apologize 13 years later, just before announcing his campaign for president. Rabinowitz says NBC has four witnesses who corroborate parts of the story. Broaddrick filed an affidavit in the Paula Jones case denying Clinton raped her, but she repudiated the affidavit last year. Rabinowitz says Clinton aide Bruce Lindsey gave Broaddrick's lawyer the model for the affidavit, though "Broaddrick and her lawyers emphasize that no one from the White House had harassed her or subjected her to other pressures aimed at keeping the story quiet." Rabinowitz says the White House and Clinton lawyer David Kendall refused to comment on the story. (2/19/99)

Calvin Klein canceled a controversial ad campaign showing boys in underwear. The ad, which was running in New York, shows two pre-adolescent boys, one of whom is wearing briefs with a visible bulge. Conservative Christian activists called the ads pornographic, psychologists called them attractive to pedophiles, and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said they were "in very bad taste." Critics noted Calvin Klein's history of skirting the pedophilic line, beginning with the "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins" ads that featured a half-naked, 15-year-old Brooke Shields. The spins, in order of ascending cynicism: 1) The ads are innocent. 2) The ads are sick. 3) The critics are sick for reading pedophilia into the ads. 4) The critics are generating publicity and helping the company sell underwear. 5) That was the company's plan all along. (2/19/99)

Scientists slowed the speed of light by a factor of 20 million. The experiment used ultracold atoms to obstruct the light, slowing it from 186,171 miles per second to 38 miles per hour. The New York Times dwelled not on the experiment's abstract implications but on practical, short-term benefits such as faster computers, brighter laser projectors, and sharper night-vision goggles. (2/19/99)


Turkey captured Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan. Ocalan's guerrillas have been fighting the Turks for independence since 1984. Kurds responded to his arrest with violent protests across Europe, seizing more than 20 diplomatic buildings. Two hundred protesters stormed Israel's consulate in Berlin; three were shot dead by guards. Thursday, Turkey unleashed planes, helicopters, and thousands of troops against Ocalan's forces in northern Iraq, reportedly "to strike a decisive blow" against the now-leaderless rebels. Various parties in the dispute blamed: 1) Ocalan, for causing thousands of deaths over the years; 2) Turkey, for suppressing the Kurds and barring Ocalan's lawyers from his upcoming trial; 3) Greece, for helping him evade capture; and 4) Israel, for allegedly facilitating his capture. 5) William Safire, for falsely (?) implicating the Israelis. (Click here to read the "Chatterbox" line on Safire.) (2/18/99)


Veteran political activist Paul Weyrich urged fellow conservatives to"drop out" of society. In a letter posted on his Web site following President Clinton's acquittal, Weyrich said: 1) "the United States is very close to becoming a state totally dominated by an alien ideology"; 2) Republican campaigns for the presidency in such an environment are futile; and 3) to "make sure that we and our children are not infected," conservatives "need some sort of quarantine." The conservative spin: He's a quitter. The moderate spin: He's gone nuts. The liberal spin: Hurray, the nuts are quitting! (Click here to read Chatterbox's take on Weyrich.) (2/18/99)


Hillary Clinton says she's seriously considering whether to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y. The arguments pro: 1) New Yorkers love her. 2) The state's Democratic establishment is enthusiastically behind her. 3) She can raise all the money she needs. 4) If she doesn't run, Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York City will win the seat. The arguments con: 1) The Republicans will brutalize her, particularly over Whitewater and her failed health care plan. 2) The New York press corps will brutalize her. 3) As a senator, she couldn't rake in book and lecture fees to pay off her legal bills. The argument pro or con: If she doesn't decide soon, other Democrats will wait too long to enter the race, and Giuliani will win. (2/17/99)

President Clinton pledged to send 4,000 U.S. soldiers to Kosovo as part of a NATO peacekeeping force. Some Republicans criticized the decision. Arguments pro: 1) We can save lives. 2) It's our duty as the world's only superpower. 3) If we don't go in, we'll lose our idealism. 4) If we don't go in now, we'll have to go in later, when it's worse. Arguments con: 1) We have no national interest there. 2) We have no clear goal. 3) We have no exit strategy. 4) We haven't had the requisite national discussion beforehand. 5) We have no consistent principles for deciding which wars to intervene in. 6) If you liked Vietnam, you'll love the Balkans. (For more background on the roots of the Kosovo crisis, see Slate's "Recycled.") ( 2/15/99)

American Airlines pilots went back to work. They had forced thousands of flight cancellations and stranded hundreds of thousands of passengers by staging a sickout over a labor dispute. After a judge ruled the sickout illegal, the pilots still didn't go back to work, and the judge fined the union's executives several thousand dollars and ordered the union to assume responsibility for $10 million in damages to passengers. That got the pilots back on the job. The pilots' spin: Somebody had to teach this arrogant airline that it can't always get its way. Cynics' spin: Somebody had to teach these arrogant pilots that they can't always get their way. (See"Explainer," for why pilots can't strike.) (2/15/99)

M arv Albert is back in the national broadcasting booth. NBC had fired him a year and a half ago after he pleaded guilty to biting a woman during sex. Since then, Albert has served out his probation and has anchored a nightly sports show at New York City's Madison Square Garden. Now Turner Sports is hiring him to broadcast pro basketball and other sports on TNT, starting April 2. TNT's spin: Albert is working through his problem, and we're giving him a second chance. Albert's spin: The fans in New York have welcomed me back, and if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Cynics' spin on forgiveness of sexual violence in sports: Celebrity 738-Justice 0. (2/15/99)


J eff Gordon won the Daytona 500, auto racing's most lucrative prize, for the second time in three years. He edged out his mentor and last year's winner, Dale Earnhardt, by 0.128 seconds. The race was notable for the last several laps, in which Earnhardt rode Gordon's bumper at 190 mph. Gordon thwarted him by slowing down so Earnhardt couldn't get enough distance to find an angle and shoot past him. Afterward, Gordon thanked Earnhardt for teaching him all his tricks. (2/15/99)