Today's Papers

All the Judy Details

Judith Miller’s morning of testimony leads the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal’s top box. Lawyers say she testified, as expected, that Scooter Libby was her source on Joseph Wilson’s connection to the CIA. The Washington Post fronts post-Katrina economic news: lower personal income and weakened consumer confidence. An efficient and well-coordinated response to forest fires may have prevented nearly 2000 homes from being destroyed, leads the Los Angeles Times.

Keep in mind that the papers don’t know exactly what Miller told the grand jury, and Libby’s lawyers don’t know if her account of two conversations with Libby differs from his own. So the NYT looks at events leading up to Miller’s testimony: a phone call with Libby saying it’s OK to talk and a deal with prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, notably that he would ask her about only Libby and that she would hand over portions of her notes. The NYT also talks to journos who worry that future prosecutors will be quicker to toss reporters in jail. The WP’s Howard Kurtz says some NYT insiders wonder why Miller didn’t just talk in the first place.

In the other papers’ stories, a couple things should stand out. First, Libby probably isn’t going to be nailed as the leak. According to the WP, sources say Miller’s testimony was that Libby initially said the White House was looking into Wilson’s connection to the CIA, then later that he’d learned Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA—but that Libby didn’t know her name or that she was a covert operative. It’s unclear whether her testimony added anything to what Fitzgerald already knew. Second, Miller’s lawyer Floyd Abrams explains to the LAT why she didn’t testify when Libby’s lawyer said it was OK more than a year ago. She wanted direct permission from Libby.

The WP’s Page One economic outlook is convincingly bleak, but does it deserve the Katrina headline? Despite dropping income, Americans’ spending increased, making it the third month in a row that personal savings were negative—the first time that’s happened since such numbers were collected. But how’s that need to spend linked to the storm? The Journal’s analysis is clearer, linking Katrina to faster inflation and reporting that the high price of gas is slowing necessary spending in other areas.

The WP also fronts news that Katrina caused $1 billion in damages to three historically black colleges that lack the resources to rebound as quickly as the region’s other schools. The three colleges are especially worried that other schools will try to recruit black faculty who have temporarily relocated. Inside, the WP details Mayor Ray Nagin’s plans to get the city back on its feet but also talks to New Orleanians who don’t plan to return. And the NYT finds cynical Louisianans who fear the state’s history of corrupt politics will divert needed relief money.

Despite yesterday’s pessimism about Iraq forces, the LAT finds U.S. generals who say American troops might be hurting more than helping, arguing that a draw-down should happen sooner rather than later. A heart-wrenching NYT front-pager follows a U.S. battalion assigned to collect wounded and dead comrades.

Off-lead in the NYT, the GAO says the Department of Education’s sketchy efforts to get positive media coverage—like paying columnist Armstrong Williams and hiring a PR agency—were an illegal use of public money for partisan purposes. Is this connected to other Bush administration media shenanigans? A DOE-produced TV bit used the same “reporter,” Karen Ryan, who appeared in spots praising the Medicare drug benefit. There’s more bad news for Bush when complaints about an allegedly underqualified State Department appointee get Page One airing in the LAT.

Below the fold, the WP says Republicans abandoned an agreement with Democrats to stop paying a Clinton-era independent council to investigate illegal payments to a mistress by then-housing secretary Henry Cisneros—to which he plead guilty six years ago. Republicans think the investigation might be finding new dirt from the Clinton years.

Happy Daze. A sharp Journalanalysis saysRepublicans are heading into defense and homeland security budget sessions with deficit reduction on the brain. But they can’t really say no to the troops or the storm victims, and they don’t have leader Tom DeLay right now. Can the majority party make it work? At least one House GOP insider isn’t optimistic: “If we offset $20 billion, we’ll go home happy.”