and the Washington Post lead with Al Gore's surprise break with the Clinton administration's send-Elián-back-to-Cuba position. The boy's situation is also the Los Angeles Times' top non-local story. And the Wall Street Journal puts it atop its front-page worldwide news box. The New York Times puts Gore on the top of the page but leads with the House's approval of a $12.7 billion emergency spending bill committing the U.S. to train and equip Colombia's security forces for anti-drug warfare. The vote is, explains the Times, the biggest commitment to a Latin American ally since the Central American civil wars of the 1980s.
Yesterday, Gore urged Congress to grant permanent resident status to the boy, his father, and numerous other of his Cuban relatives, a move he claimed would have the dual upshots of converting the case from an immigration matter to a Florida custody case and of enabling the boy's closest kin to speak candidly about their wishes. George W. Bush responded to Gore's stance with what the WP calls barbed praise and directions for what to do next: "... convince the attorney general and the president to accept the same position. ... We'll see what kind of influence he has in this administration." The LAT says the very same quotation is Bush being "quick to criticize" Gore.
The Post says the White House reacted to Gore with "a measure of disdain, but hardly surprise." The NYT says Gore's statements did indeed surprise some Clintonites, quoting one administration official's blurted response: "Oh, my God, it's unbelievable!" Gore is quoted in the WP putting the matter in distinctly non-Third Way language: "The real fault in this case lies with the oppressive regime of Fidel Castro. Elian should never have been forced to choose between freedom and his own father."
The WSJ and especially the LAT emphasize the procedural blow-by-blow involving the federal government, the boy's Miami relatives, and a lawyer representing his Cuban relatives. Indeed, the LAT doesn't mention Gore until the 11th paragraph.
Every paper except USAT mentions the political aspect of Gore's pronouncement: Florida has 25 electoral votes, and Gore's chances of capturing them are hindered considerably if his standing among the state's Cuban-Americans is marred. The LAT editorial on Gore implies he's pandering and concludes: "Shame on Gore." The NYT editorial says he "needlessly complicated the issue." The WP punningly says he chose this moment to "head south."
The NYT explains the U.S. interest in combating the Colombian drug trade: 90 percent of the cocaine and 65 percent of the heroin seized in the U.S. is from there. And the paper quotes Barry McCaffrey, the White House point man on drugs, saying, "This program will strengthen democratic government, the rule of law, economic stability and human rights in that beleaguered country." You know, the way it has in this country.
Both the LAT and NYT front the news that the Army's highest ranking woman officer, its first three-star general, has filed a sexual harassment charge against a fellow general over an incident that allegedly occurred in 1996. At the time, say the papers, she handled the episode informally, but went through official channels more recently after the man received what the NYT calls a prominent new assignment. Both papers properly credit the Washington Times, which broke the story yesterday.
An inside story at USAT reports the results of a federal survey on gun storage practices in nearly 7,000 households with children. The main results: 9 percent of homes where children live keep firearms unlocked and loaded, and another 4 percent have guns left unlocked with ammo nearby. That's an estimated 2.6 million children living near dangerously accessible firearms.
Following up on a WP effort yesterday, the NYT runs an AP story inside reporting that one of the highest rates of income tax delinquency in the federal government is found among ... members of Congress. The nonpayment rate in the House is 8.4 percent, while in the Senate it's 7.5 percent. (The overall national rate, the story informs, is 8.1 percent.) The story points out that a few years back, Congress made nonpayment of taxes by IRS workers a firing offense.
The WP and USAT pass along the Boston Herald's revelation that two appraisers who've appeared frequently on the Antique Road Show have been dropped from the program because a 1996 segment in which they purportedly determined that a sword found in an attic was a rare Confederate model was in fact faked. The sword, which is indeed genuine and valuable, was borrowed for the segment from one of the appraiser's clients, while the story viewers heard about its provenance was concocted.
The WP reports that during a stopover in Oman while covering President Clinton's recent trip, Susan Page of USAT described the leader of that country, Sultan Quaboos, in a pool report as "a short, plump guy in a dark robe, lined with gold fabric and a headdress." Shortly thereafter, says the Post, a "displeased and distressed" U.S. embassy official approached Page and "demanded" that she change her copy before filing. When Page declined, the official implored her to at least add that the sultan "is a very intelligent man who writes opera." She at least didn't.
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Illustration by Robert Neubecker.