Base Motives

Base Motives

Base Motives

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 16 2000 6:01 AM

Base Motives

The Los Angeles Times leads with last night's Democratic convention speeches by JFK's surviving brother and surviving child, both of which summoned listeners to extend the nation's prosperity to those as yet left behind. The story sees this poignancy as a hint of the Gore campaign's concerted attempt to enthuse the party's liberal base about the ticket despite its centrist cast. The New York Times leads with this effort, especially Joseph Lieberman's conciliatory appearance at a Congressional Black Caucus reception in Los Angeles at which he declared his unequivocal support for affirmative action, which immediately yielded the endorsement of Maxine Waters, one of the most influential blacks in Congress. (The LAT breaks this out into a separate front-pager.) The Wall Street Journal's top "Politics and Policy" story also chronicles this effort. The Washington Post and USA Today go with the Russians' latest attempt to rescue the crew of that submarine trapped some 300 feet down in the Barents Sea. USAT is the only major to put all of its convention coverage inside.

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The LAT lead says last night's convention fare was more overtly partisan than Monday's and included attacks on George W. Bush. The paper quotes an example: Jesse Jackson's assertion, referring to the South Carolina statehouse controversy, that Bush "chose the Confederate flag over the American flag." The story also notes that Bill Bradley, in his speech, showing "more verve than he had in his often moribund campaign," energetically attacked the idea that the Republicans were an inclusive party.

The NYT lead has some good stuff on the lobbying that preceded Lieberman's appearance before the black caucus, at one point depicting Labor Secretary Alexis Herman "nearly nose-to-nose" with Waters. The story also gives a sense that despite chalking up Waters, the battle to assuage liberals about the Gore ticket is not over, by quoting the reservations of San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and referring to an unnamed "movie star well known for championing liberal causes" who said he and his friends are very dissatisfied with Gore and are flirting with the idea of supporting Ralph Nader instead. The LAT's piece about Lieberman repeats the explanation that he gave to the caucus regarding California's Prop. 209, which basically banned affirmative action in all state-administered programs. He never endorsed it, he explained, but rather only described it as sounding like "a basic statement of human rights policy."

The LAT, NYT, and WP front stirring pictures of various North and South Korean relatives being reunited for the first time since the Korean War. USAT has a shot of Joseph Lieberman being reunited with Maxine Waters.

The WP paints a grim picture of the downed sub: the internal temperature dropping below 40 degrees, and the oxygen supply down to only a few days' worth. The Post, USAT, and NYT say that there is still plenty of tapping coming from the sub. The WP says that one attempt to lower a rescue capsule has failed and that another attempt is contemplated. USAT and the NYT say that two such attempts have failed. The Post says that Tass says a mini-sub has also been put on the case, but the paper goes on to note that official Russian sources have not thus far been very reliable. Apparently, even the day of the event had been fudged. It now appears to have been Saturday, not Sunday. An inside LAT canvass of U.S. sub experts points out that even if the Russians have the rescue equipment required, they don't have much experience using it or training on it, primarily because of the expense. A NYT op-ed makes the point that right now, the entire Russian military is operating on $5 billion a year (compared to $300 billion for the U.S. military).

In his NYT op-ed, Paul Krugman asks if the Clinton-Gore administration could be said to have created the current economic miracle. Of course not, he answers. But he then goes on to ask another question: "What would have happened if Bob Dole had won?" Krugman reviewed the Dole tax-cut-laden economic program and concludes that probably there'd still be a deficit, and that the economy wouldn't have grown as fast as it did, because deficits eat into investment income. Even if it's mistaken in its details, this column illustrates something rare and commendable in journalism--follow-up. Because the biggest part of "news" is "new," too little time is spent on seeing how things play out once they go off the front burner. But doing so is usually instructive.

In some late editions yesterday, the NYT rendered the last part of President Clinton's speech as "Whatever you think about me, keep putting people first." This line was spoken but not in the prepared copy made available to the paper and so it had to interpret. Not all auditors agreed on the first word of the sentence. Yet one White House aide told the paper that he was fairly certain it was "whatever." And the New York Daily News and the St. Louis-Post Dispatch agreed. But yesterday the White House released its transcript, which said instead "whenever." And so, today, the NYT runs a correction. Too bad--if the Times had been right, Clinton's speech would have included a single one-word, maximally oblique reference to the Lewinsky scandal. Depending, that is, on what the meaning of "whatever" is.