The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead with the AFL-CIO's call (coming from the union's winter honcho meeting) for deportation amnesty for an estimated 6 million illegal immigrants and repeal of the law that currently imposes sanctions on the businesses employing them, a policy turnabout. USA Today leads with Al Gore's reassurances to the AFL-CIO bigshots that if Congress doesn't approve WTO membership for China under the terms currently advocated by Bill Clinton, then, as president, Gore would fight for a deal requiring more compliance from China on labor and environmental standards. The New York Times goes with the latest in a story the paper has hounded since last August, the Bank of New York Russian money laundering scandal. Today's installment: A former bank vice president and her husband pleaded guilty in a New York federal court to numerous banking crimes and explained how, for a fee of nearly $2 million paid by Russian bankers and mobsters, they made $7 billion disappear from Russia illegally and reappear first in BONY accounts and then in offshore ones. It is still unclear whether or to what extent other BONY officials knew of the couple's schemes. The WP off-leads the story.
Both amnesty leads explain high up what's behind this unusual alliance of business and labor: In a tight labor market, business gets access to a large fresh pool of potential employees while unions get a shot at boosting their memberships by recruiting from this pool. The WP has more detail about the proposal, informing that the time frame for granting amnesty is not specified, but that whenever it's over, new illegal immigrants caught by the INS would be deported. However, under the plan, they could get amnesty too if they informed on an employer hiring illegal immigrants and/or running a sweatshop.
President Clinton held his first 2000 press conference yesterday, but only two of the fronts pay any heed. The WP runs a picture of him with a reefer caption mentioning his commentary on the Republican presidential race and his announcement of stepped-up funding for a program that helps low-income people in the snowbelt pay for home heating oil. The LAT front runs a story on Clinton that mentions these but which first focuses on the president's endorsement of a proposal to grant all death row inmates a chance to exonerate themselves via DNA testing. But Clinton, a death penalty supporter, said that he didn't think there was any call for a moratorium on executions in the federal system.
The NYT front has a new national poll purporting to show that George W. Bush's negatives are rising, while it's McCain's and Gore's positives that are up. The WSJ runs a new South Carolina poll claiming that while Bush runs well ahead among Republicans, when Democrats and independents are included, his lead over McCain shrinks to less than the margin of error.
The Wall Street Journal tops its front-page news box with the endorsement of John McCain by former competitor Gary Bauer, and the WP fronts it. The Post says the move is motivated by Bauer's outrage over the negative tactics of religious-right Bush supporters Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson. The story ends with what the Post calls "Bush's now-famous penchant for garbled sentences and non sequiturs," quoting him telling a South Carolina crowd, "If you're sick and tired of the politics of cynicism and polls and principles, come and join this campaign." (Reminds Today's Papers of a fractured English sign in a French hotel: "Please check your values at the front desk.")
The LAT fronts the details of the British court-ordered report on Augusto Pinochet--released by two Spanish papers and a Chilean one--that concludes that the ex-dictator is unfit to stand trial because of stroke-induced lapses in memory, comprehension, and the ability to express himself. The report is seen as making it less likely that Pinochet will be prosecuted anywhere and, the LAT says, is a new humiliation to a man once known for his "iron-pumping physique and mental toughness."
The WP lead editorial asks some tough questions regarding Bill Clinton's recent favorable comments about Vladimir Putin. Why, the paper wonders, would Clinton not take the occasion to mention the Radio Liberty reporter still missing one month after falling into Russian hands? And why would Clinton call the razing of Chechnya a legitimate exercise marred by some excesses?
The NYT front and an op-ed (the latter by the Rules' co-authors) both take a pass at Fox's Who Wants To Marry a Multimillionaire?, which scored the kind of huge ratings that guarantee sequels and imitators. The news story quotes NOW President Patricia Ireland's reaction: "It took something like this to make the Miss America pageant look good to me." The Times notes the reaction of the show's founder to such feminist critiques: Hey, we're gonna do one where it's the rich woman who gets to pick. Neither story raises the following questions: 1) How is this show, with its explicit cash and property prizes for the woman, not prostitution? And how is Fox not guilty of pimping? 2) How could the prenuptial agreements signed by all the female contestants possibly hold up in court? After all, they were signed with respect to a man the women didn't even know and under duress, no?
A WP story noting Bill Clinton's tremendous aptitude as a political commentator quotes CNN pundit Bill Schneider's reaction: "The more he talks about politics, and the more he sounds like I do, the more people will say he is very smart ..."