Labor Pains

Labor Pains

Labor Pains

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 3 1999 6:57 AM

Labor Pains

The WTO continues to dominate, leading at USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. The New York Times off-leads the story, going instead with the official start Thursday of Northern Ireland's new home-rule, power-sharing government, a story nobody else fronts. The new Cabinet met in Belfast yesterday for the first time and the Times quotes one attendee as enthused about the personal relationships he saw there between former Protestant and Catholics foes. The only discordant note was sounded by the two hard-line Protestant Cabinet members, who boycotted the meeting and held a press conference ominously urging people not to "get carried away about new dawns and new days having arrived in Northern Ireland."

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The WP lead details much local ferment about the way the Seattle police handled the anti-WTO demonstrators and the NYT inside has an excellent up-close on some of the self-proclaimed anarchists thought to have been responsible for much of the violence and destruction on Seattle's streets. But the general thrust of the WTO reporting is that with the discord outside the trade meeting pretty much subsiding, there was a chance to focus finally on the discord inside. The LAT refers to the meeting as a potential "fiasco." The most divisive policy point is centered on President Clinton's suggestion earlier in the week that countries failing to meet basic labor standards might be subject to WTO sanctions. The coverage reports that this was rejected by business leaders, and many delegates from the European Union and developing countries, who view such standards as thinly veiled protectionism. The NYT quotes a trade minister from Pakistan as threatening to "explode the meeting" if the proposal goes forward. To further confuse things, the LAT and NYT quote Clinton administration players as saying that the official U.S. WTO negotiation position does not include the sanction idea.

The WP reports that just prior to leaving Seattle, President Clinton signed a bill banning extreme conditions of child labor, citing as he did so the examples of Brazil, Pakistan, and Guatemala. But the paper doesn't explain how any bill Clinton could sign could affect conditions overseas. The LAT does: What Clinton signed was a U.N.-sanctioned international treaty. This too, the paper adds, was a cause of upset, with developing nation delegates pointing out that the U.S. has been generally laggard in endorsing other international labor codes.

Everybody fronts last night's GOP presidential candidates' debate (not the right word, since, as the papers point out, there was no candidate-to-candidate questioning), the first one to include George W. Bush. The coverage views the evening as focusing most of its energy on testing Bush, especially on taxes and foreign policy. Verdict: No major gaffes. But both the WP and NYT seem most charmed by John McCain--they get a kick out of reporting on his answer to the question, "Would you reappoint Alan Greenspan?" If the Fed chairman were to die, McCain said, "I would do like they did in the movie Weekend at Bernie's. I would prop him up and put a pair of dark glasses on him."

A difference of style is on display for readers of the NYT and WP stories about Bill Bradley's responses to Al Gore's recent characterizations of the Bradley platform. The Times story is slugged, "BRADLEY REBUTS GORE ON HEALTH CARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY," while the Post opts for "GORE LIES REPEATEDLY, BRADLEY SAYS."

The Wall Street Journal flags high in its front-page business news box word that the Justice Department has hired a Wall Street investment banker as a financial adviser in the Microsoft case. Despite DOJ protestations otherwise, the paper sees this as a signal that the government might be contemplating a sweeping restructuring of Microsoft. At the very least, the paper suggests, the company is viewing the move as opening round saber-rattling going into the settlement talks.

Rabbi Michael Lerner, briefly a Friend of Hillary early in the first Clinton administration, is featured on the LAT op-ed page making the stretchiest pitch yet for the WTO protesters. They are, explains Lerner, fighting the "same battle that Jews will celebrate by lighting candles for eight days, starting tonight." Another ex-Clintonite, Dick Morris, explains to the WP's "Reliable Source" that "Hillary's Senate campaign is Bill Clinton's 'I'm sorry' gift. This is his marital comeback strategy. If she runs for Senate, she'll need him to raise money. If she runs, she'll lose. If she loses, she'll need him. But if she wins, she'll divorce him."