By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 7, 2002; 9:01 AM
Before we get to politics, what were the New York Times and Washington Post
thinking yesterday and today in not giving front-page play to the
15-year-old kid who drove his plane into a Tampa building?
A teenager commandeers a Cessna and does his version of the WTC attack -
that's not big news? Huh? (The L.A. Times smartly opted for Page 1.)
TV anchors kept repeating: It's not terrorism. The Office of Homeland
Security has decreed that it's not terrorism. But of course it was - quite
deliberate and coldly carried out. Now we learn that young Charles Bishop
was an Osama fan.
We'll get back to this shortly. But first:
Tom Daschle has a big fat bullseye painted on his back (or perhaps a more
sensitive part of his anatomy).
Dick Cheney calls him an obstructionist. One group has run an attack ad in
South Dakota comparing him to Saddam Hussein. Wall Street Journal editorial
writers and other conservative commentators are denouncing him as a ruthless
partisan determined to single-handedly derail the Bush agenda.
(Hello? Didn't Trent Lott try to stick it to Bill Clinton in similar
fashion? That's the Senate majority leader's job when the rest of the
government is in opposition hands.)
Daschle's been fortunate so far. He has a low-key, mild-mannered personality
that makes it hard to demonize him as a fire-breather. He has a knack for
making his political hardball seem like slow-pitch softball. And he gets
along well with the Beltway press corps.
But there is talk that as the capital's top Democrat, Daschle could be
emerging (in media eyes at least) as a 2004 presidential candidate. That
means the really rough stuff still lies ahead.
(Of course, no senator since JFK has made it to the White House, and such
Washington insiders as Howard Baker, Tom Harkin, Paul Simon, Phil Gramm and
Bob Dole have been uninspiring candidates.)
Daschle gets a taste of what he may face in a Washington Monthly piece
called "Tom Daschle's Hillary Problem." The article, by Stephanie Mencimer,
zeroes in on a woman who had to check with a government ethics official
before they got married.
"The ethical questions woven into their marriage have gotten more complex as
both Daschles have grown in power and stature in Washington - he as a
senator and she as a high-powered lobbyist. . . .
"The landmines in Linda Daschle's professional portfolio will make Hillary
Clinton's pork futures and law-firm billings look like mousetraps. For
instance, among Linda Daschle's clients is American Airlines, which has had
six fatal crashes since 1994 (not even including the World Trade Center
flights). The airline has incurred thousands of dollars in federal fines for
a host of safety violations, and its employees have been caught in
embarrassing drug smuggling stings. Even as its planes have crashed,
American has lobbied for years to water down safety and security regulations
that might have helped foil the World Trade Center attacks. Yet thanks in
part to lobbying efforts by Daschle - and support from her husband -
American Airlines got a free pass in the recent airline bailout bill,
escaping most legal liability for the hijackings and getting $583 million in
cash grants - taxpayer money it will never have to repay.
"Mrs. Daschle insists that she has consulted with congressional ethics staff
and is in violation of no rules by lobbying on behalf of American and other
clients. She voluntarily recuses herself from any business with the Senate,
which she strictly does not lobby. And she can point to her record as a
former Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) deputy administrator when she
says that her clients hire her for her aviation expertise - a field in which
she was working long before she married the senator.
"But it's not congressional ethics investigators who are most likely to
frown on Daschle's lobbying vita. It's the American people, especially the
voters of South Dakota. . . . The best example of this conflict came in
1999, when Daschle departed from her traditional aviation portfolio and took
up the cause of drug company Schering-Plough, which was waging a fierce
battle with the FDA to extend the patent on the allergy drug Claritin beyond
its 2002 expiration. . . . Daschle may not have been lobbying the Senate,
but Schering-Plough was, contributing $100,000 in soft money to the
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee over the past three years. . . .
"But Schering-Plough isn't the only one of Linda Daschle's clients to
simultaneously seek good will from her husband: The air transport industry
gave more than $100,000 in campaign contributions to the senator's campaign
in the last election cycle. Northwest Airlines, which paid Linda Daschle's
firm $190,000 in 1999, was the second-largest donor to Tom Daschle's Senate
campaign in 1998. Charles Barclay, the head of the American Association of
Airport Executives, Linda's former employer and now a client, has personally
given $10,000 to the senator's political action committee, DASHPAC."
Hey, if you can't get help from your friends, who can you get help from?
Teen Sympathized With Bin Laden
Now back to the Tampa tragedy, which makes you wonder whether any yoyo can
hop in a private plane and fly over a military base at will.
"It was a lonely and despondent 15-year-old, feeling sympathy for accused
terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, who stole a private plane and slammed
it into a Tampa skyscraper, authorities said yesterday," the Los Angeles
"A brief handwritten note found in the pocket of student pilot Charles J.
Bishop, who died in the Saturday crash, strongly implied that the high
school freshman was inspired by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon," the Los Angeles Times reports.
" 'He made a statement expressing sympathy with Osama bin Laden and the
events of 9/11,' Tampa Police Chief Bennie R. Holder said at a news
conference. Despite the contents of the note, authorities said they were
treating the incident as the suicide of a desperate teen and not as an
attack against a U.S. target.
"'He had acted alone, without any help from anyone else,' Holder said. 'This
was a young man who had very few friends and he was very much a loner. From
this action, we can assume he was a very troubled young man.'"
Talk about going out on a limb.
"No one else was hurt when the single-engine Cessna, which may have been
traveling about 100 mph, punched a 10-foot-wide gap in the side of the
42-story Bank of America Plaza building only minutes after taking off from
nearby St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.
"Unwittingly, the boy may have revealed holes in the aerial safety net that
many Americans believe protects the country's cities. When asked whether
nothing could have been done to prevent Saturday's crash, a National
Transportation Safety Board official said, 'That's correct.'"
Here's the Tampa Tribune profile, which spares us the he-was-such-a-nice-kid
"Bishop was the boy who stood apart from the others at the school bus stop.
He was the quiet honor student who gazed out the window of the bus, watching
the world pass by.
"When he did talk, it was usually about cars, said Lindsey Knotts, an East
Lake senior who spoke of Bishop's desire to own a Honda Civic - a dream he
told her was beyond his financial reach. Bishop spoke of Mustangs and
Corvettes. But he spoke of little else.
"'We never knew he flew [planes] or anything,' Knotts said. When the bus
arrived at school, Bishop's solitary journey would continue, she said. 'He
would walk hunched over, a little dazed, looking in outer space.'"
Nepotism Lives On
Back to politics now: Much has changed in the four decades since Jack
Kennedy named his brother attorney general. Or maybe not, according to the
following articles. First, the Philadelphia Inquirer:
"The Street administration is said to be preparing to appoint Mayor Street's
wife, Naomi Post, to a cabinet-level city job as deputy managing director
for social services, City Hall sources said.
"In a brief interview, Street would neither confirm nor deny what is said to
be an imminent appointment, but he said: 'I am staying out of all that.'
"He said the decision would be made by his managing director, Estelle
Richman.'Estelle has a lot of decisions to make, and she will talk to me
about them when she's ready,' Street said.
"Richman previously held the job Post is expected to fill. Two sources
familiar with the situation - one who had spoken to administration officials
involved in the decision, the other a senior city official who had spoken to
a top aide to the mayor - said they were told the decision to appoint Post
had been made as early as Dec. 24.
"Asked if the hiring would raise nepotism questions or pose a legal
quandary, Street replied: 'I don't have a clue.' An aide then ended the
And the New York Post: "Mayor Bloomberg may have run afoul of city ethics
rules in his plan to hire his daughter and sister for city jobs. The city
Conflicts of Interest Board said its rules forbid any 'public servant' from
using his position to get 'financial gain or private or personal advantage
for a close relative.'
"Close relatives include a spouse, domestic partner, child, parent or
sibling. Mayor Giuliani had a cousin on the payroll, but the rule didn't
apply, officials said.
"The Post reported that Bloomberg would like to bring aboard his 22-year-old
daughter, Emma, and his sister, Marjorie Tiven, for as-yet-unspecified
"'As far as I know, there is no law against relatives working for the city,'
Hey, Cool Computers!
The New York Times also weighs in on Hizzoner: "As Mayor Michael R.
Bloomberg sat in his office-without-walls in City Hall last week and posed
for photos with his staff among the cubicles, New Yorkers and others got a
clear picture of what made Mr. Bloomberg his billions: really cool computer
"The Bloomberg, as both the system and the information that is funneled
through it are known, has been a familiar sight to people on Wall Street for
years. But its appearance at City Hall put the Bloomberg, with its sleek
monitors and acres of flat- screen space, on the public stage as an object
of desire. . . .
"The new mayor's financial information company, Bloomberg L.P., donated 35
Bloomberg terminals to the city for use by members of the mayor's staff,
creating a product placement that would make any marketing director
"But while Mr. Bloomberg and his company will receive no direct financial
advantage from the city's use of the terminals - and as a donation, the
terminals violate no conflict of interest rules - the incident reveals how
difficult it will be to separate Mr. Bloomberg from the company that bears
Yes, They're Still Missing
On the war front: Osama bin Laden . . . still missing.
And Mullah Omar . . . still missing.
"U.S. bombers pounded the mountains of eastern Afghanistan on Sunday,
apparently trying to wipe out lingering cells of the al-Qaeda terrorist
network," says USA Today. But there was no sign of Osama bin Laden in the
"Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., one of nine senators on a fact-finding trip to
Central Asia, said on 'Fox News Sunday' that military intelligence officials
in Uzbekistan told the senators that bin Laden might have fled to Pakistan."
Key word: might.
"And despite earlier reports that Taliban leader Mohammed Omar was
surrounded and faced imminent capture by Afghan forces in Baghran, Omar
apparently slipped away again. The Afghan foreign ministry said Sunday that
he might have ridden out of the area on a motorcycle.
"Meanwhile, U.S. forces focused on the rugged mountains around the city of
Khost near the Pakistan border, where there were reports that al-Qaeda
forces were regrouping. B-52 bombers were seen lingering above the snowy
peaks, awaiting target coordinates from special operations troops on the
Some news organizations seem to have a leg up on the bin Laden hunt, the
Washington Times discovers:
"While the mainstream press struggles with a waning supply of blockbuster
headlines, the supermarket tabloids are up to their oldest tricks and a few
new ones - despite anthrax attacks, logistical problems and falling
"Just this week, the Florida-based Globe featured a two-page, color
photograph of 'Bin Laden's corpse,' complete with shroud, saying that the
terrorist had 'met his end whimpering like a coward.'
"The tabloid was quite specific about the particulars, claiming bin Laden
died Dec. 15 during an American attack on Tora Bora, and though 'he cursed
the bombers, he was very afraid of dying' and demanded medical attention,
even if it came from Americans.
"His companions, the Globe said, 'told him to stop complaining and die like
"Still deft at connecting the dots between conspiratorial tales with reader
appeal, the tabloid also reported recently that 'Marines seize documents
that prove bin Laden killed [Princess] Diana,' among other things.
"The National Enquirer, meanwhile, was apparently privy to bin Laden
secrets. A story called 'Bin Laden's master plan revealed' claimed the
terrorist had nuclear 'suitcase bombs' and was to have plastic surgery that
would make him look 'Chinese.'"
The Flap at Harvard
Have you been following that racially charged dispute in which Harvard
professor Cornel West says he might leave because he was dissed by Harvard
prez (and ex-Treasury secretary Larry Summers? (Read our report on West's
first public comments on the flap.)
In Salon, Earl Ofari Hutchinson expresses little sympathy for the black
"Never mind that the African-American studies department at the university
in question is one of the oldest, best known and most generously funded in
the country. Never mind that both outraged professors are routinely touted
in the media (the department head has carte blanche to discourse in the New
Yorker and New York Times on black America's plight), wined and dined by
foundations, fawned over at universities, and courted by top politicians and
business leaders. Never mind that neither the university president or board
of regents has fired or laid off any of the program's staff or faculty
members, cut its funding, or even so much as restricted their use of the
copy machine. Never mind, in short, that there was absolutely no civil
rights issue at stake in the clash between Harvard University president
Lawrence Summers and showboating professor Cornel West, which even in
wartime managed to make national headlines over the recent holiday.
"Things came to a head New Year's Day . . . when Jesse Jackson entered the
fray. Black America's top race man sniffed a chance to grab a headline, and
tried to turn the in-house troubles of Harvard University into a race war.
He rushed to Cambridge, flanked himself with a handful of local activists,
and saber-rattled, threatening Summers with barely veiled hints of protests
and boycotts unless he ceased his scrutiny of West and Henry Louis Gates'
Afro-American studies department, and demanded as penance that the
university convene a national conference on racial justice and action. . . .
"It's worth noting that most ethnic studies departments were created via
protest, and however worthy their scholarship, ever since their
establishment in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many have protected their
turf from valid scrutiny and criticism by crying race when administrators
raise reasonable questions. . . .
"But even more important, this tempest in the ivory tower reflects the fact
that most American civil rights leaders appear to be running on empty as
they try to advance an agenda to protect the poor and minorities in a
post-Sept. 11 America presided over by a wildly popular President Bush.
Black leaders like Jackson seem lost in the face of a GOP president now
supported by many blacks (though few voted for him); a black community that
backs racial profiling of Arab and Muslim Americans even more strongly than
whites do; a stubborn recession that's costing blacks jobs; and Democratic a
llies who couldn't muster support for a fair economic stimulus plan. It's a
hell of a lot easier to harass Lawrence Summers than to identify the real
cutting-edge civil rights issues in a very changed America, and go to work
Sign of the Times?
Katie Couric, telling Newsweek why "Good Morning America" has been gaining
on the top-rated "Today" show:
"Maybe we stayed with the war a little too long."
© 2002 The Washington Post Company