Down in the Trentches

Down in the Trentches

Down in the Trentches

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 17 2002 4:54 AM

Down in the Trentches

The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today all lead with the Lott Death Watch: Republican senators are now planning to meet Jan. 6 to decide his future. The Post says Lott pushed for that date, since, as one GOP staffer put it, it gives him three weeks to "emphasize the favors he can do for [Republican senators] as leader." He might not last that long. One unnamed Republican adviser, who seemed to have spoken to both the NYT and WP, called Lott a "walking piñata." The New York Times off-leads Lott and instead leads with word that transit workers and management in New York City agreed on a tentative deal. So, no strike.

Lott had a long interview last night on Black Entertainment Television, and everybody picks on the senator's new-found enthusiasm for affirmative action. "I'm for that," said Lott. "Across the board?" asked his interviewer. "Absolutely," Lott replied. As everybody notes, Lott has consistently voted against affirmative action programs. During the interview, Lott also said, "There has been immoral leadership in my part of the country for a long time." He included himself in that group, though he added, "I believe that I have changed."

The Post's Web site nicely sums up the administration's position: "WHITE HOUSE BAILING ON LOTT." The paper adds that while Bush wants Lott fired, he doesn't want the White House's fingerprints on it. So, when spokesman Ari Fleischer was asked whether Lott should resign "yes or no," he responded: "I go right back to everything that I said last week about the topic and the president's focus on improving race relations throughout America."

Buried in the last third of the Post's Lott piece is an angle that the administration better hope doesn't gain traction: Despite efforts to appeal to minorities, Bush and others in his administration "have winked at the more racially angry politics of the South." The paper points out that Bush has spoken at Bob Jones University, which banned interracial dating. Meanwhile, Attorney General John Ashcroft, like Lott, has given an interview to the neo-confederate magazine Southern Partisan.

The Post fronts and others reefer President Bush's appointment of former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, a moderate Republican, to replace Henry Kissinger as chairman of the independent Sept. 11 commission. On the plus side, Kean, who is currently president of Drew University, is considered free of the potential conflicts of interest that sank Kissinger. But, then, he doesn't have any expertise in the areas that the investigation will cover, like intel. Still, a NYT editorial concludes that Kean "should prove an able steward of the commission."

The LAT fronts the results of a poll in which 72 percent of respondents said that in order for them to support a war, either U.N. inspectors need to uncover something or the administration itself "needs to provide more evidence." Thus the headline: "MOST UNCONVINCED ON IRAQ WAR." But that's misleading. Because while most might be "unconvinced," most also would support an invasion if Bush decided to go in tomorrow. Fifty-eight percent said so.

The WP goes above the fold with a piece saying that some of Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle's "friends and advisors" are urging him not to run for president. They seem to think that he'd have a tough time being simultaneously an effective candidate and party leader. Plus, they pointed out, other Dem candidates have a jump-start.

Everybody briefly notes inside that the White House backed off on its call for Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to hold early elections. Chavez is facing massive protests and a nationwide strike, but as the White House figured out, Venezuela's constitution doesn't allow for early elections before this August.

"According to some, the sky is blue ..." The LAT's Lott coverage had a nice bit of newspaper-speak. It mentions that he promised to reconsider his ties to the Council of Conservative Citizens, "a group attacked as segregationist." A group attacked assegregationist? Any semi-conscious person would conclude so. (Test yourself.)

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Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.