Car Wreck

Car Wreck

Car Wreck

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 15 1998 6:59 AM

Car Wreck

The LAT and NYT lead with the gathering GOP momentum for impeachment and the White House's response to it. USAT runs that story as its off-lead, going instead with President Clinton's visit to the Gaza Strip, which also gets the biggest print at the WP.

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The main thrust of the two Times leads is that the ranks of the Republican members of Congress declaring themselves to be firmly against impeachment is shrinking. This despite fresh NYT polling indicating that 64 percent of Americans do not want their representatives to vote for impeachment. The poll in today's WP offers a slightly different picture of the electorate: yes, six in 10 Americans are against impeachment, but if the House votes to impeach, 58 percent of them say Clinton should then resign. The LAT runs a front-pager about its new poll likewise showing that a clear majority of Americans oppose impeachment. The paper's lead editorial proclaims that "A Congress so out of step with the people it claims to represent ...is a greater danger to the Republic than all of Clinton's selfish lies."

Both Times find the wavering of Republican Rep. Christopher Shays particularly important, noting that Shays had long been an announced foe of impeachment. Both report that Shays will soon have a personal meeting with Clinton to discuss the matter. The LAT passes along a Beltway rumor according to which Congress' lone Socialist, Bernard Sanders, was also changing to a pro impeachment vote. The NYT says Rep. Mark Souder, another early opponent of impeachment, is still solid, but the LAT says he's reconsidering his position. The paper sums up the situation as trending against Clinton, with the White House appearing to be at a loss about what to do. The NYT says: "Republicans appeared to be moving steadily toward impeachment."

Everybody notes that the congressional hearts-and-minds battle seems to have shifted away from official White House channels: to People for the American Way radio spots, AFL-CIO-organized phone campaigns, and a Jesse Jackson-led prayer vigil.

The WP and USAT both report that Clinton's visit to the Gaza Strip--the first ever by an American president--gives a powerful boost to hopes of eventual Palestinian statehood. And both report that Clinton watched as Palestinian representatives raised hands to overwhelmingly revoke the anti-Israel parts of their charter. The WP version emphasizes the uptick for the Palestinians, while the USAT take dwells more on unanticipated obstacles to the peace process: like Israel's decision not to go through with a planned troop withdrawal this Friday, because of recent violent protests in Gaza.

The NYT front continues to peck at the Clinton/China connection with a piece claiming that federal investigators have come across new evidence about China's 1996 political contributions. These contributions, were not, as was originally thought, designed to influence the outcomes of particular races such as Clinton's, but, says the paper, were part of a broad campaign to acquire American high technology. Giving the money, investigators now think, was, in the spirit of the American corporate lobbying model, designed to enhance the contributors' political access so that they could more effectively argue for China-friendly trade and technology policies. The paper notes that one fund-raiser in this effort, Johnny Chung, now cooperating with federal officials, pleaded guilty yesterday and was sentenced to five years' probation. As if supporting the Times' contention, the sentencing judge expressed doubt about Democratic officials assertions of ignorance concerning fund-raising abuses and said he was surprised that Janet Reno had not appointed a special prosecutor to investigate further.

The WSJ reports in a front-page feature that the government has a dress code for auto crash test dummies. They are supposed to wear matching cotton shirts and shorts and black-leather oxford shoes. This is so engineers can clearly see how the limbs flail in a crash. Why the shoes? Because that's what people in crashes are usually wearing. However, socks are optional.