The Washington Post and New York Times lead with John McCain's speech yesterday attacking the leadership of the Christian right. "We are the party of Ronald Reagan not Pat Robertson," McCain is quoted as saying. "We are the party of Abraham Lincoln not Bob Jones." USA Today's front is dominated by a big takeout on the GOP party war but the lead is the Treasury Department's new determination to target illegal corporate tax shelters, a story that the WP off-leads and the NYT fronts. The Los Angeles Times lead is that Immigration and Naturalization Service field agents initially objected to helping the LAPD fight gangs by detaining illegal immigrants, a practice the LAPD is prevented by city regulations from engaging in directly. McCain's speech is the paper's top national story. The speech is in the No. 2 spot in the Wall Street Journal's world-wide news box, topped only by Austrian right-winger Jörg Haider's resignation from the leadership of his party, a story that USAT also fronts, but that the others stuff.
The papers all report that McCain's speech, coming as it did in the heart of religiously conservative Virginia, was lions' den stuff, but only the Post notes that McCain was actually speaking in Pat Robertson's hometown. The immediate tactical point of the speech, the papers agree, was to keep George W. Bush mired in an association with the most unreconstructed of the religious right, while the strategic point was to attract moderates in crucial non-Southern Super Tuesday states. The LAT says the speech was an "enormous gamble," in that in many states Christian conservatives cast a third or more of the GOP primary votes. The paper quotes an unnamed senior Bush adviser's reaction: "This is more than just a throw of the dice. ... This is a little bit of a burning down of the Republican Party on the way out." (For more on the GOP's trench warfare, see this "Ballot Box" entry.)
Although McCain also condemned Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan in his remarks, none of the papers mention that in their headlines. A WSJ commentary wonders when the press will ask Bill Bradley and Al Gore to disavow Democratic extremists like Sharpton.
USAT's lead says that accountants and lawyers are aggressively marketing shady shelters to corporations, often taking much of their fee in the form of the corporation's resultant tax savings. So aggressively, the paper adds, that despite a booming economy, corporate tax receipts fell 2 percent last year. Compared to a rise of 6 percent in individual tax payments.
An inside story at the WP reports that an independent evaluation of the management performed at 20 federal agencies resulted in an average grade of B minus. The story mentions that the Coast Guard got the highest grade, an A, and that the Army Corps of Engineers (now being investigated for mismanagement) got a B. But where are the other scores? The reader doesn't learn about one department by name performing at or below the study's average level.
Deep inside the WP a headline reports that President Clinton--remember him?--"... Backs Net Sales Taxes." But this is an overstatement. What Clinton actually said is that states should be allowed to levy Internet taxes if they so choose.
Just so you don't think there's a shred of credibility left relating to Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? the WP reports today that Darva Conger is not, when you get down to it, a Gulf War veteran. Oh, sure, she was in the service during Desert Storm, but on the Utah and Illinois fronts.
USAT has a story riffing off Jennifer Lopez's "Look Ma, No Dress" dress and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue making the point that now, as always, sex sells. The paper makes the point today with a large interior pic of the ventrally challenged Lopez as well as another shot of her on the front. This after having run another picture of her on the front yesterday. Note: The top editor at USAT is a woman.