Danforth on the Case

The week's big news, and how's it's being spun.
Sept. 10 1999 3:30 AM

Danforth on the Case

{{Danforth#34468}} Former Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., will lead an independent inquiry into the assault on Waco. Attorney General Janet Reno appointed him in response to revelations that the FBI lied about the use of tear gas. Everyone agrees Danforth is principled and independent. Democrats say his appointment will rebuild support for Reno, who has done an "{{extraordinary job#2:http://www.nytimes.com/yr/mo/day/late/09waco.html}}." Republicans say Reno is still incompetent and {{should resign#2:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/daily/sept99/waco09.htm}}. (Slate's {{Jacob Weisberg #2274}} and {{David Plotz#34455}} assess Reno's performance.)

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{{990907_Timor#34329}} EastTimor is in chaos. Military-backed militias have killed hundreds and forced thousands to flee since the South Pacific territory voted last week for independence from Indonesia. Martial law has been declared, and Indonesia has rejected a U.N. offer of peacekeeping troops. The international community is debating whether continued inaction would be: 1) prudent because it is important to maintain good relations with Indonesia; 2) foolish, since Indonesia's inability to maintain peace makes intervention inevitable; or 3) {{hypocritical#2:http://www.latimes.com/HOME/NEWS/FRONT/leadstory.html}} in light of the United Nations' active role in Kosovo. (For more, see Slate's "{{International Papers#34431}}.")

BorisYeltsin is suspected of taking bribes. Swiss investigators say that a construction company may have paid him over $1 million in exchange for contracts to renovate the Kremlin. Yeltsin denied the charges. The White House hinted that it doesn't believe him. Foreign leaders expressed weary distaste and suspicion that Yeltsin is mixed up with the Bank of New York money-laundering scandal. Russians speculated about whether he will quit early and whether he will name Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as interim president or force an election.

Viacom is buying CBS{{Left Ad#34472}} . The $35 billion marriage would be the largest media merger ever and would join television's highest-rated network with the owner of Paramount and MTV. Investors' spin: It's a {{perfect fit#2:http://www.nytimes.com/yr/mo/day/editorial/09thu4.html}}, since the new company would control the creation, production, and distribution of TV shows and movies. Media-watchers' spin: Viacom's ascendancy reflects a {{new balance of power#2:http://www.nytimes.com/yr/mo/day/oped/09gabl.html}}--niche programming beats out shows aimed at wide audiences. Consumers' spin: Yaaawn. Let's just hope they don't cancel Touched by an Angel. (Slate's "Moneybox" {{examines #2883:Show=9/7/99&idMessage=3563}} the merger.)

Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed a peace deal. The deal modifies the previously signed but unfulfilled Wye agreement. The rosy spin: Peace at last! The skeptical spin: That's what they said when the last deal was signed. The cynical spin: Now that the peace process is back on track, terrorists are staging bomb attacks in Israel to make sure it's derailed again. Meanwhile, Israel's highest court shocked everyone by restricting the authority of Israeli security forces to use force against detainees. (Slate's "Frame Game" explains the {{new war#34377}} between peace and terrorism.)

Twelve Puerto Rican nationalists accepted President Clinton's clemency offer. The prisoners, members of a terrorist group linked to 100 bombings in the United States, agreed to renounce violence in exchange for their freedom. Hillary Clinton had announced last week that she no longer supported her husband's offer. Politicos disagree about which was clumsier: Bill's offer of clemency to cultivate Puerto Rican support for his wife's Senate campaign; or Hillary's rejection of that support in an attempt to cultivate her own identity.

BillBradley declared his candidacy for president. He emphasized his small-town upbringing and his distance from the current Washington scene. The pessimistic spin: He can't beat Vice President Gore, who is well-funded, well-connected, and leads in the polls. The optimistic spin: He trails Gore by only a few points in crucial states and will take off as Clinton fatigue grows.

HenryCisneros pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of lying about payments to his former mistress. He accepted the plea bargain just before being tried on 18 felony counts. The unanimous spin: Yet another independent counsel has wasted vast sums of money trying to prove a flawed case against a member of the Clinton administration.

{{990907_ClintonHome#34334}} The Clintons bought a Westchester, N.Y., home. Terry McAuliffe, the president's chief fund-raiser, used his own money to secure the loan for the $1.7 million house. Pundits {{debated #1656:Show=9/6/99&idMessage=3552}}whether the assistance was an apolitical gesture of friendship or an attempt at improper influence.

The Houston Comets won the Women's National Basketball Association championship. They have won the title in each of the league's three years. Everyone now agrees they're a "dynasty." The pessimistic view: This robs the WNBA of suspense and makes it boring, which a fledgling league can ill afford. The WNBA's view: Having a "dynasty" team helps the league market itself. The long view: Relax, dynasties haven't killed the men's game.

Jodi Kantor is a New York Times reporter and the author of The Obamas.

Matt Alsdorf is a Slate editorial assistant.

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