Trial By Ice

Trial By Ice

Trial By Ice

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Jan. 16 1999 3:15 AM

Trial By Ice

The Washington Post jilts impeachment to lead with local weather--a massive ice storm that knocked out power throughout the capital area. But electricity still crackled through the Senate chambers; lead stories at the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times (and the off-lead of the WP) report that House Republicans told the Senate that Monica Lewinsky's testimony was more credible than President Clinton's, and turned up the pressure for calling witnesses.

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House prosecutors produced no breakthroughs Friday as they slowly pounded in their case. The NYT notes high-up that Rep. Bill McCollum, Friday's main speaker, was the first to break out sexually explicit terminology. McCollum also challenged the Senate to call Monica Lewinsky, Bettie Currie, Vernon Jordan, and even the President as witnesses. Tellingly, speculation is shifting from whether there will be witnesses to who they will be. Clinton is certainly on the wish-list of some House Republicans.

Diversion from the eight-hour slog, gladly noted by all the papers, was senator Tom Harkin's late-afternoon objection to the House's repeated references to the senators as "jurors." The Senate is not a mute jury, maintained Harkin--it can set rules and make motions too. Chief Justice William Rehnquist agreed and set the House scrambling for linguistic innovation. Harkin's point, say the papers, was highly symbolic: The Democrats stress that the Senate is not merely making an innocent or guilty verdict, but also passing judgment on the import of the crime.

The majors' editorial pages keep pounding the House. An NYT editorial perseveres in its "irrelevancy" campaign against Clinton's removal and shudders, "It is hard to imagine how the appearance of Ms. Lewinsky or Ms. Currie could galvanize the Senate to convict Clinton." A WP editorial moans that the "mind-numbing" House speeches "do more to inure the viewer to the president's offensive conduct than all the tortured arguments his various lawyers can muster." Both the NYT and the WP opine that the House has yet to prove that Clinton's conduct is sufficiently egregious to warrant his removal.

All papers front the latest on Brazil's economic roller-coaster: The Brazilian stock market leaped 33 percent Friday as the government decided to let its currency, the real, drop to market level (the real obliged, plummeting nine percent more). Wall Street rejoiced at Brazil's perceived courage--the real decision being an abrupt about-face by Brazil's central bank--and the Dow jumped 219 points.

The first casualties from the international monitoring mission in Kosovo get inside coverage all around. A British monitor was shot in the shoulder (and his Serbian translator wounded) Friday by unidentified gunmen who deliberately fired on the monitors' vehicle. Separately, Serbian forces reportedly killed 15 ethnic-Albanian rebels. Both incidents, the papers note, underscore the extreme volatility of the Kosovo situation.

Everybody flags a truly bizarre impeachment spin-off: the firing of the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. George Lundberg. Lundberg's high crime (or misdemeanor)? Publishing a paper based on a college student survey about whether "oral sex" constitutes "having sex." (59% voted no.) The timing of course is no coincidence--Dr. Lundberg, who adores media attention, had hoped to impact the impeachment debate. With the publicity about his demise, he really has a chance--that January 20, 1999 issue may become the most-read JAMA ever.