Return of the Reagan Democrat

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 2 2003 7:43 AM

Return of the Reagan Democrat

The Los Angeles Times leads with the economy's sixth consecutive month of job losses, a story off-leaded by the New York Times and run inside by the Washington Post. The NYT leads with the Bush administration's realization that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas does not have enough control to round up militants as quickly as the U.S. would like. The story, sourced to "administration officials," describes the White House's relaxed demands on Abbas as part of its growing trust in the Palestinian leader. The Post leads with an anonymously sourced article stating that the Bush administration is "not actively pursuing" a U.N. resolution allowing more international participation in Iraq, despite its public statements to the contrary.

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The papers report that the U.S. lost 44,000 jobs in July and that job losses in May and June were larger than previously thought. All note that the official unemployment rate actually declined last month, but only because the number of people who gave up looking for work outpaced the number who were laid off. What these job losses mean is another story. The two Timeses paint a dark picture of an economic recovery failing to produce jobs. According to the LAT, "the economy's ability to produce growth without jobs raises the specter that technology is allowing companies" to grow without hiring. In the NYT, several experts warn that the economy's GDP growth this year should have produced jobs by now. To the Post, however, the poor job numbers are a completely expected result of a welcome development—a growth in worker productivity. As long as productivity outpaces GDP growth, the Post's experts say, hiring will lag, but in the long run productivity growth will produce higher standards of living and lower interest rates. The Post cites July's shortening of hours worked per week as evidence of higher productivity. The LAT cites this same figure as evidence that "there was almost nothing in the new employment report from which to draw encouragement."

The two Timeses reveal that classified material from a Congressional report claims links between the Saudi government and the 9/11 hijackers. According to these above-the-fold, anonymously sourced stories, two Saudi citizens receiving money from the Saudi government—Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassnan—associated extensively with two of the 9/11 hijackers in San Diego in 2000. Al-Bayoumi may have received money funneled through a Saudi military contractor in San Diego; and Bassnan, the LAT reports, received charitable support from the wife of the Saudis' U.S. ambassador. There is no evidence that either man gave money to the hijackers or knew about the terrorist plot. According to the LAT, the classified material also claims that the Saudi government gave hundreds of millions of dollars to charitable front organizations that may have helped the terrorists. On Friday several dozen senators, mostly Democrats, called on the Bush administration to declassify the material. (Might the senators be the anonymous sources?)

A Post story recounts the second midnight run of Texas Democrats from the state legislature in Austin to hotel rooms in New Mexico, in order to prevent Republicans from achieving a quorum for political redistricting. The first evacuation, in May, received national attention, but was covered as a story about how wild and woolly Texas politics can get. The Post, however, nicely captures why these colorful dashes for the border have national importance: Redistricting would shift at least five Texas congressional seats to the GOP, which would cement its House majority and boost Texas Congressman Tom DeLay's chances of becoming speaker.

The Post fronts a feature on Vancouver's new government-sponsored "safe injection sites" for addicts. The $1.1 million, three-year pilot program to combat HIV and overdosing will allow junkies to shoot up with clean needles and in the safety of a clinical setting, free of legal harassment. The U.S. government has condemned the practice. (The Seattle press has been covering this story for months—click here, here, or here.)

The Post fronts a feature on politicians and lobby groups pursuing a hot new demographic, "NASCAR dads," through campaign posters at race tracks. The primary beneficiaries? The National Rifle Association, which gets to bypass the gun-control-friendly media and take its message directly to the people, and Democratic presidential contender Bob Graham, who gets to tout his Southern, rural bona fides to an audience that most Democrats can't reach. The article's angle is fresh, but its demographic "discovery" is not; it defines "NASCAR dads" as "middle- to lower middle-class males who … used to vote heavily Democratic but now usually vote Republican." Um, can we say "Reagan Democrats"?

On the NYT's Op-Ed page, Dave Eggers pleads for the rescue of AmeriCorps. He notes that President Bush praised AmeriCorps in his 2002 State of the Union address and at one time proposed expanding it from 50,000 volunteers to 75,000. Now Bush is silent while Congress seems certain to cut the program by 50 percent this year, and eventually to kill it.

The Post Style section has finally discovered a foolproof way to make money on the Web without porn. To show off for his colleagues, a 40-year-old NASA satellite specialist named Dennis Buettner created a Web site for a fictitious "U.S. Beer Drinking Team". When thousands of Web surfers signed up for "free membership" on the team, Buettner sold them T-shirts at $19 a pop. He's now well on his way to quitting his day job. 

Michael Brus, a former Slate assistant editor, is a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City. He is on the clinical faculty of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

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