The Los Angeles Times leads with today's high-drama presidential primaries in Arizona and, crucially, Michigan--a story fronted by every paper. Several articles report on a spate of anit-John McCain phone calls in Michigan featuring the recorded voice of evangelist Pat Robertson. (They were not officially coordinated with the campaign of George W. Bush.) Many papers describe McCain's man-the-barricades rhetoric: "I'm just like Luke Skywalker trying to get out of the Death Star. They're shooting at me from everywhere. Everybody's against me. [Michigan] Gov. [John] Engler, Gov. Bush, all the governors, all the senators. But we're going to kill 'em." Polls continue to show a dead heat in Michigan and a comfortable lead for McCain in his home state. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll of national voters gives Bush no bounce from South Carolina--his lead, 58 points to 31 points, is the same as before Saturday's primary.
The Washington Post's top non-local lead is China's threat to invade Taiwan if it does not seriously negotiate its reunification with the mainland. (This story is off-leaded by the New York Times and stuffed by the LAT and USAT.) China has already promised to invade if the island formally declares independence, but its vaguely worded threat to invade in the case of a prolonged diplomatic stalemate represents a new condition for peace. The Post says that China also "suggested" that continued U.S. arms sales to Taiwan would merit war. China's statement comes a month before Taiwan's presidential election, a fact the Post leaves until the 11th paragraph. The Post does not mention what may be the most immediate effect of China's saber rattling: increased congressional opposition to the Clinton administration's attempt to let China into the World Trade Organization.
The NYT leads with President Clinton's plan to require a national system of medical-error reporting, a story run inside by the Post and USAT. (The LAT runs an Associated Press story inside.) The American Medical Association protests that such requirements would encourage doctors to cover up their errors rather than analyze them with colleagues. The National Academy of Sciences recommended the plan. So, why are the feds allowed to create regulations for private hospitals? Because, the NYT explains, Medicare provides 40 percent of all hospital revenues. Question: Why does the White House demand that the papers source this story to undisclosed "administration officials"? It's not as if Press Secretary Joe Lockhart is rewarding a single paper with a scoop. Is Lockhart trying to fool each paper into thinking it has a scoop?
USAT leads with an unsourced exclusive: Education Secretary Richard Riley will urge schools to a) employ teachers year-round, in order to "add status" to the profession; and b) periodically review the curriculum to ensure that kids aren't being "traumatized" by higher standards. As described by USAT, the plan does not reveal why paying union-scale wages for summer "professional development" programs is a wise taxpayer investment--especially considering that most teachers already work summer jobs in the private sector. Nor does USAT justify making this hortatory address by a Cabinet member the lead story: The feds control a tiny fraction of national education spending, and the paper describes no enforcement mechanism for Riley's proposal. (To read Slate's "Ballot Box" on lousy education proposals by Gore and McCain, click here.)
The NYT and Post front last night's Democratic debate at Harlem's Apollo Theater, a raucous affair in which Bradley came out swinging and Gore hit back hard. ( USAT and the LAT reefer the story.) Jeers and boos from the mostly black audience interrupted the candidates several times, and Bradley repeatedly charged Gore with being a "conservative Democrat" on gun control and race. Gore was quick with one-liners: When Bradley asked why President Clinton hasn't signed an executive order banning racial profiling, Gore shot back, "Racial profiling practically began in New Jersey, Sen. Bradley." When Bradley suggested that an independent counsel may be needed to clear Gore of the taint of campaign-finance abuse, Gore said, "You must be the only Democrat in America who misses Ken Starr." (For readers who spent the last few years in a coma, the LAT helpfully adds, "Starr was the independent counsel who investigated President Clinton.") Gore also told Bradley that he's "sounding a little desperate." The NYT calls the debate "politics as spectacle." (To read Slate's Ballot Box on the "Showdown at the Apollo," click here.)
USAT reports that over 400 people complained about an editorial cartoon it ran depicting a cracked Alaska Airlines plane given clearance to fly.
The LAT runs an op-ed piece by William F. Buckley Jr. on Dubya's penchant for malapropisms. It's an entertaining column--a smattering of analysis liberally sprinkled with quotations from other publications. One problem: The LAT identifies Buckley as "a syndicated columnist." What it doesn't say is that this is in fact one of his syndicated columns. It is not original LAT content, nor does the LAT "Commentary" page routinely publish Buckley's column--as does the the Sacramento Bee, which ran today's LAT piece last Friday, at least in the online edition. (Strangely, Buckley's column does not appear on the LAT Web site.) Don't readers deserve to know that the Times' editors did not commission the piece but lifted it from the Universal Press Syndicate?
The LAT and USAT reefer Fox's decision to cancel it's game-show-cum-pimping-extravaganza Who Wants to Marry A Multi-Millionaire? after it discovered that its prize bachelor, Rick Rockwell, had been served with a restraining order for allegedly harassing a former fiancee. (To read more about this story, see Slate's "The Week/The Spin.")