Vidiocy

Vidiocy

Vidiocy

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Jan. 29 1999 8:23 AM

Vidiocy

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post lead with yesterday's Senate developments--approval of a trial schedule that could bring things to a close by February 12 and a contentious vote about witnesses resulting in the possibility that Monica Lewinsky may end up on the Senate floor. (That's just an expression.) USA Today, betting on impeachment fatigue, puts Lewinsky's testimony status inside and goes its own way with Russia's faltering role in the International Space Station. NASA has just learned that Russia won't be ready with the next piece of the station on time. And this comes on top of Russia's decision to keep its own aging station, Mir, in orbit, raising fears that Russia and its programmed contribution of up to $10 billion cannot be depended on.

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The coverage explains that each impeachment witness will be questioned for four hours by each side. Two senators, one from each party, will supervise. The witness plan authorizes videotaping of witnesses Lewinsky, Vernon Jordan, and Sidney Blumenthal, but requires majority votes of approval before their videotapes can be shown in the Senate and before the witnesses could be called to testify before the Senate in person. (Even so, the LAT says in its lead's subheader that yesterday's votes "could pave way for public broadcast" of witness tapes.) Also decided yesterday was that Republican managers cannot seek any additional evidence or testimony uncovered during these witness depositions without getting the approval of both Trent Lott and Thomas Daschle. The NYT and LAT call this provision giving Daschle a "veto" power over the subsequent course of the trial. The NYT goes much higher than the LAT or Post with word that the notion of a "split decision," where a finding of fact is voted on in addition to the ultimate issue of impeachment, is still a live option.

The NYT reports that the White House expressed concern that the schedule is actually open-ended, with spokesman Joe Lockhart, threatening that the defense team might well respond with delays of its own. The LAT lead reports that President Clinton visited Capitol Hill Thursday to attend a memorial service for Lawton Chiles, a onetime Florida senator and governor, with the paper noting that Chiles' daughter made a clear reference to the impeachment trial by stressing to the senators in attendance the importance of mercy. But it's the WP, in an inside story, which observes that Clinton in his brief remarks eulogizing Chiles seemed to take an oblique swipe at Russell Feingold, the lone Senate Democrat to vote against the White House in the past two days.

The NYT and LAT off-leads and inside stories elsewhere report that the governor of Missouri, Mel Carnahan, a proponent of capital punishment, commuted the death sentence of a convicted murder to life in prison without parole after the pope, during his recent visit to St. Louis appealed directly to him to "show mercy" in the case. The man was convicted of the 1988 shotgun killing of a married couple along with their disabled grandson.

Alan Greenspan's appearance Thursday before the Senate Budget committee gets the usual amount of ink. The NYT front emphasizes his warning not to count on projected government budget surpluses to fix Social Security, primarily because budget forecasts have proven to be so unreliable. The WP front seizes on Greenspan's declaration that the boom in Internet stock prices is "good for our system," in that it's channeling capital to promising new enterprises before they actually turn a profit. A Post inside piece notes instead that despite his doubts about the reliability of surplus projections, Greenspan supported Clinton's advocacy of using surpluses to draw down the national debt and to help fund Social Security. The Wall Street Journal piece on the Chairman's appearance stresses this Social Security stance.

According to inside stories in the WP, NYT, and WSJ, Marine General Anthony Zinni, commander of all U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, testified at a Senate hearing yesterday that he had reservations about the Clinton administration's proposal to arm opposition groups in Iraq because such a move could create a "rogue state" there that's even more destabilizing than Saddam Hussein's regime. None of the stories mention the prime recent example of Zinni's concern: the factions in Afghanistan at war with each other and associated with worldwide terrorism were incubated by a concerted U.S. mission in the 1980s to arm indigenous forces against the Soviet occupiers. The Journal account of Zinni's appearance reports that he also resisted calls to expand the U.S. air campaign against Iraq to include attacking airfields. Former Vietnam shoot-down Sen. John McCain bristled at this, saying Zinni's testimony was an "insult to my intelligence." Meanwhile, the NYT reports that Madeleine Albright has introduced a new term for what the administration would like to see happen in Iraq: a "regime change." The term has the advantage of avoiding mention of such gritty matters as arms shipments or coup plots, etc.--sort of like referring to death as a "health change."

The LAT reports on a minor variant of the Y2K problem: pre-paid headstones with precarved year-of-death prefixes reading 19--, owned by folks who are living longer than they expected to.

The WSJ "Washington Wire" reports that the Pentagon is mulling easing anti-drug