Everybody—the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and (in its world-wide news box) the Wall Street Journal—leads with Tony Blair’s speech before a special joint session of Congress. With President Bush by his side, Blair said the war with Iraq was fully justified, even if WMDs fail to turn up. As for the questionable bit of evidence regarding Iraq’s uranium-buying habits, Blair said he stands by British intelligence. The White House has already admitted that the intel the U.S. had wasn’t firm enough and should not have been included in the State of the Union address.
Frequently interrupted by standing ovations from members of both parties, Blair said, as quoted in the LAT and others, “If we are wrong, we will have destroyed a threat that, at its least, is responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering. That is something I am confident history will forgive.” But forgiveness won’t be necessary, according to Bush, who said at a news conference after the speech that he believes banned weapons will still be found.
Despite Blair’s exuberant show of support, the uranium intelligence story continues to bubble away on the stove. In a separatefronter, the WP reports that the State Department received the phony documents (alleging Iraq’s uranium buy) in October, three months before the State of the Union, and passed them along to the CIA “within days.” The U.S. then sat on the documents for four months before turning them over to U.N. weapons inspectors.
And then there’s what the NYT calls “the feud” between the White House and the CIA over who’s going to take the ultimate fall for the State of the Union gaffe. Alan Foley, a CIA WMD expert, says Robert Joseph, of the National Security Council, asked to include the details of the alleged buy in Bush’s speech. The perhaps soon-to-be-infamous Joseph wanted a specific reference—500 pounds of uranium bought in Niger—but, after consulting with Foley, settled on more general language and based it on British intelligence. The White House disputes Foley’s account, claiming that he never raised credibility concerns.
Meanwhile, a letter to the editor in the NYT questions the legitimacy of the Iraqi Governing Council. “One would be hard pressed to persuade the Iraqi people that a governing body handpicked by an occupying force is representative. Something tells me that true representatives of the Iraqi people would have spent their first day voting on how to restore power and security to the population rather than patting the backs of their occupiers by declaring the day that Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled a national holiday.”
ABC News correspondent Jeffrey Kofman makes WP’s gossipy media column, “The Reliable Source.” On Tuesday, Kofman filed a piece on World News Tonight about the slumping morale of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, one of whom called for Rumsfeld’s resignation on camera. A pissed-off White House struck back, leaking dirt on Kofman—he’s gay and Canadian—to Matt Drudge. Kofman, from Baghdad: “This morning I had a meeting with one of the commanding officers and we talked about my report and the response back home. He said he’d read about it on the Drudge Report and had just one question. ‘Is it true that you’re Canadian?’ I just smiled and said, ‘My life is an open book.’ “
In the wake of Wednesday’s crash in California in which an 86-year-old driver mowed down a crowd at a farmer’s market, the USAT, WP, and LAT front hard looks at old folks behind the wheel. The USAT has the latest stats: The number of drivers over 70 has increased 32 percent since 1991 and the number of fatal crashes involving this group has gone up 20 percent over the same period. Teens, the paper concludes, are still the greatest threat, but with the population rapidly aging, the elderly are moving into the passing lane.
The Emmy nominations were announced on Thursday and HBO again roughed up the networks, garnering 109 nods versus 77 for second-place NBC, according to the LAT. Six Feet Under was the most nominated show for the second straight year, with 16 nominations.
Finally, the NYT fronts George W.’s new e-mail address, in case you want to weigh in on any of the above. The new address dumps you smack into an e-bureaucracy, however—you’ve got to wade through nine Web pages, pick your topic from a list and then state your intentions, i.e., friend or foe? After your message is sent, you have to confirm that you really meant to send it. Jimmy Orr, first identified in the article as a White House spokesman and then, two paragraphs later, as Internet news director, calls the new system an “enhancement,” but he adds that the old address is still perfectly fine—except that your message may not be read or responded to.