The Washington Post leads with President Clinton's decision to hold his nose and sign a $268 billion spending bill for the Pentagon, a story fronted by the New York Times and put atop the Wall Street Journal's "Worldwide" box. Clinton compromised with the GOP because it was unclear whether congressional Democrats could have sustained a veto and because the president wants to focus on other budget issues, like the Republicans' push for a 1.4 percent across-the-board spending cut. (For a budget primer, click here.) USA Today leads with Pat Buchanan's decision to officially leave the GOP for the Reform Party--a story reefered by the Los Angeles Times and fronted by the Post and NYT, where it's the top non-local lead. The LAT leads with the opening of a Gaza-to-West-Bank travel corridor through Israel, a story fronted by the Post, USAT, and the NYT (but not the Journal). Most travel was eastbound, from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank (where there are more jobs and where it is easier to sneak into Israel). "The young men aboard [a bus leaving Gaza], with duffel bags and packed falafel lunches, sang Egyptian pop songs, clapped, and celebrated," writes the LAT's correspondent, who notes the condescension many West Bank Palestinians have for their poorer, more socially conservative Gazan compatriots.
Buchanan, a former speechwriter for Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan, urged his supporters to "save our republic before she disappears into the godless New World Order that the elites are constructing in a betrayal of everything for which our Founding Fathers lived, fought and died." The Post and LAT note that George W. Bush criticized Buchanan for the first time after the announcement. Pat Choate, a former Reform Party vice presidential nominee and a Buchanan supporter, said he hopes to schedule a "series of debates" between Buchanan and likely rival Donald Trump. Choate tells the LAT that Ross Perot has decided not to run, but the Post still speculates that Perot might jump in. A smart opinion piece in the Journal argues that Buchanan is not an American populist so much as a pre-war, European-style Christian Socialist like Karl Lueger, Vienna's turn-of-the-century mayor. Lueger was a tribune of the lower middle class and an anti-Marxist--but also an anti-capitalist, an anti-liberal, and a mild anti-Semite. (For Ballot Box's take on Buchanan's decision, click here; to learn how the Reform Party picks its nominee, click here.)
A new USAT-CNN-Gallup poll shows Al Gore trailing Bush by nine points, 52 to 43--a big improvement over Gore's 16-point deficit earlier this month. Gore also leads Bradley 57 to 32, compared with 51 to 32 two weeks ago (although Bradley still leads in New Hampshire and New York). Buchanan lags at 5 percent. A Newsweek poll--cited in a separate Post story on Bush's first campaign commercials--also puts the vice president just 9 points in back of Bush, 49 to 40.
Every paper fronts the death of golfing champion Payne Stewart in a bizarre corporate jet crash. En route from Florida to Texas, the Learjet apparently lost cabin pressure, at which point radio contact ceased. Air Force F-16s tracking the plane could only watch as it flew on autopilot for over 1,000 miles, ran out of fuel, and plunged into a South Dakota swamp. The LAT says a loss of pressure at 39,000 feet would drop cabin temperature to below zero (Fahrenheit or Celsius?--the paper doesn't say) and give the pilots 10 seconds to affix oxygen masks before losing consciousness from hypoxia. (The Post says one to two minutes until loss of consciousness--at 30,000 feet--and the NYT says the loss of cabin pressure could have been gradual and therefore virtually unnoticeable.) The Journal says the crash may "throw a spotlight on the widening popularity of corporate jets," but the same article notes that private plane crashes have actually decreased over the last five years.
All the papers front the death of Sen. John Chafee, R-R.I., at 77 from heart failure. Chafee was a centrist deal-maker, a champion of health care and the environment ostracized by an increasingly conservative GOP and an increasingly partisan Senate.
The Post runs a first-rate analysis of yesterday's 20 percent drop in IBM's share price. Alan Sloan, Newsweek's Wall Street correspondent, notes that yesterday's plunge came after Big Blue announced that its mainframe computer sales would be soft for the next six months. Sloan argues that stock analysts could have predicted this sales drop-off with a few phone calls to mainframe buyers. Yet a database search of 22 IBM stock analysts shows that only one had downgraded IBM stock prior to the announcement. After the announcement and stock plunge, four of them downgraded. "This is what rural types call locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen," he observes. (For Moneybox's take on the IBM sell-off, click here.)
A front-page LAT piece on the alleged Bank of New York money-laundering scandal argues that much of the suspicious Russian money is owned by legitimate Russian businessmen who simply do not trust Russian banks or wish to avoid paying excessive taxes to a corrupt government. "Safe investments in Russia are as rare as flamingos in Siberia," the authors write. "Most [Russian] people think that the only smart thing to do with their money is to ... try to get it out of the country."
The NYT examines the gentrification of Freehold, N.J. Once a tight-knit but downtrodden blue-collar community, the hometown of Bruce Springsteen has become a wealthy, yuppified commercial district, with lots of jobs, high taxes, and a fleet of SUVs.
The Post runs a correction that will make every high-school biology teacher cluck with disapproval: "An item on yesterday's Science page incorrectly stated that mitochondrial DNA is found in the nucleus of cells. It is in every cell's cytoplasm."