The week's big news, and how's it's being spun.
March 7 1999 3:30 AM

Joe DiMaggio died of complications from lung cancer surgery. News accounts recited his résumé--the Hall of Fame, nine World Series championships, 11 All-Star games, and three American League Most Valuable Player awards--but focused on his record 56 game hitting steak in 1941, which still stands today. While sports analysts compared his greatness on the field to that of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, commentators traced his celebrity to his courteous, humble, all-American, son-of-immigrants personality. The spins: 1) DiMaggio represented the grace and dignity of the good old days. 2) Ruth and Ty Cobb represented the pugnacity and decadence of the good old days, and DiMaggio was the exception. (3/8/99)


Gov. George W. Bush, R-Texas, announced he is forming a presidential campaign exploratory committee. Though he won't officially declare his candidacy until June, he paraded notable supporters such as former GOP Chairman Haley Barbour and House GOP Chairman J.C. Watts Jr., before the press. His aides also listed scores of governors and members of Congress who are backing him. Everyone agrees his strategy is to create an air of inevitability and suffocate his competitors. The spins against him: 1) He's inexperienced in public office. 2) He's inexperienced in national politics. 3) He has no base. 4) He lacks organization in early states. 5) He's had it too easy and is due for a fall. 6) His expectations are too high. 7) Elizabeth Dole's entry into the race will kill his momentum. 8) His supporters don't know what he stands for. 9) He doesn't know what he stands for. (3/8/99)

William Saletan William Saletan

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

Film director Stanley Kubrick died. Obituaries recalled his movies' eight Academy Awards, focusing on Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, also mentioning Lolita and The Shining. Commentators debated the significance of the bleak fantasies in which he portrayed human recklessness, madness, brutality, murder, and nuclear holocaust. The half-cynical spin: He hated people and portrayed them as savages. The completely cynical spin: He hated people and portrayed them as savages because they deserved it. (3/8/99)

ABC aired Monica Lewinsky's interview with Barbara Walters. The biggest news that wasn't leaked prior to the broadcast: Between trysts with Clinton, Lewinsky had another affair leading to an abortion. Seventy million people watched the interview. Since Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr had forbidden Lewinsky to talk about him in the interview, she bashed him separately in her book, which is outside his jurisdiction. Pro-Monica spins: 1) She's a victim. 2) She's a fool for love. 3) She's smarter than we thought. 4) She's still loyal to Clinton. Anti-Monica spins: 1) She's vain. 2) She's amoral. 3) She's a savvy, pernicious temptress. 4) She's shameless. 5) She makes Clinton look moral by comparison. 6) She reflects our decadence. 7) She reflects our empty sentimentality. 8) She reflects our tasteless commercialism. (Click here to read the "Frame Game" analysis of the interview, and here for the "Culturebox" take.) (3/5/99)


A court-martial jury acquitted U.S. Marine Capt. Richard Ashby of involuntary homicide and manslaughter in the Italian ski lift accident. Ashby's jet severed the lift's cables, killing 20 European skiers. He still faces trial on a charge that he obstructed justice by ditching the plane's videotape of the accident. Evidence in the first trial indicated that the plane was flying too fast and too low but that incomplete U.S. military maps, poor training, inadequate communications, and a possibly faulty altimeter may also have contributed to the accident. Italians are outraged. The naive Italian spin: There is no justice in America. The sophisticated Italian spin: To get justice in America we'll have to file a lawsuit. (3/5/99)


Former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun died. Obituaries fulfilled his prediction that he would always be associated with his majority opinion in Roe vs. Wade. The conservative spin on his career: He snookered President Nixon and undermined justice by evolving from a law-and-order moderate into a flaming liberal. Blackmun's spin: He remained a moderate but seemed increasingly liberal by comparison as right-wingers took over the court. The liberal spin: He served justice by evolving from a law-and-order moderate into a flaming liberal. (3/5/99)

Rwandan Hutu rebels abducted and murdered eight tourists, including two Americans, in Uganda. The other six victims were Britons and New Zealanders. The selection of American and British targets was evidently deliberate. Ugandan troops, with help from U.S. and British agents, are tracking down the culprits and vow to bring them in dead or alive. The spins: 1) Did the U.S. and British governments adequately warn the tourists of danger? 2) Did the Ugandan government adequately warn the U.S. and British governments? 3) If the lives of two Americans are so important, why haven't we paid more attention to the 500,000 Africans similarly massacred in the Rwandan civil war? (3/3/99)