The Oracle of Pennsylvania Avenue

The Oracle of Pennsylvania Avenue

The Oracle of Pennsylvania Avenue

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 19 1999 5:33 AM

The Oracle of Pennsylvania Avenue

The Washington Post leads with the headline "Clinton Says He Might Send Ground Troops," which is pegged to yesterday's presidential press conference. The New York Times covers the same press conference with "Clinton Resists Renewed Calls For Ground Troops." Clinton's exact words were that "we have not and will not take any options off the table." USA Today and the Wall Street Journal lead with news that Greenspan may raise interest rates. The Los Angeles Times' top story is a Senate vote requiring that guns be sold with child-safety locks.

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The WP and NYT apparently differ in their interpretation of Clinton's remarks because of off-the-record comments from White House aides. The WP's sources say Clinton meant to reverse his initial promise not to send ground troops. The NYT's sources say Clinton did not mean to signal a policy change. The WSJ takes the middle road, claiming that Clinton's comments "soften his [original] line."

In other Kosovo news, the NYT reports that Serbia's army is hardening its border positions in preparation for a possible NATO ground attack. Speaking at the United Nations, Kofi Annan used veiled language to 1) criticize the United States for conducting an attack without Security Council approval and 2) criticize Russia and China for their insufficient response to ethnic violence in Kosovo. (Russia and China both have veto power over Security Council decisions.) NATO officials also say Serbia is forcing civilians to dig up mass graves in Kosovo and rebury the bodies in single graves. This is an attempt to hide evidence of state-sanctioned massacres. And two Serbian soldiers held by the United States were returned to Serbia yesterday.

The top domestic financial news is a typically oracular statement from the Fed. The Fed's governing board decided not to raise interest rates right now, but expressed worry about "the potential for a buildup of inflationary imbalances." This is universally interpreted as a suggestion that the Fed will raise rates in the future. (Raising interest rates slows economic growth, thereby reducing inflation.) Wall Street apparently expected the news, and markets fell only a little.

The Senate passed a juvenile crime bill that requires all handguns to be sold with either child-safety locks or a secure storage container. It passed 78 to 20, even though the same bill failed just last July. The NRA did not oppose the measure. The House has yet to consider gun legislation this year, though Speaker Hastert said yesterday that he supports certain gun control measures, reversing his previous position. These political flip-flops are of course attributed to the Littleton massacre by all papers.

The NYT's Janet Maslin weighs in on the much-maligned new Star Wars film, which opens today. Her verdict? "It's up to snuff." She compares George Lucas to Lewis Carroll.

Also in the news is a hopelessly macabre legal story from Florida. Two months ago, a mother shot her 42-year-old daughter upon being informed that her daughter wished to send her to a nursing home. The bullet severed her spinal cord, and right now the daughter can only wink her eyes, and wiggle her nose and tongue, but is of sound mind. Yesterday, a federal judge accepted the daughter's petition to kill herself by shutting off life support machines. Now prosecutors plan to charge the mother with murder, rather than attempted murder. Experts are divided on whether the charge will stick, since it's unclear whether the mother or daughter is legally responsible for the death.