Did Bush and Blair "Fix" Iraq Reports?
White House reporter Elisabeth Bumiller uses the White House meeting between Bush and British PM Tony Blair to follow up on the latest left-wing cause celebre, the "Downing  Street Memo ," in "Bush and Blair Deny 'Fixed' Iraq Reports."
"President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain presented a united front on Tuesday against a recently disclosed British government memorandum that said in July 2002 that American intelligence was being 'fixed' around the policy of removing Saddam Hussein in Iraq. 'There's nothing farther from the truth,' Mr. Bush said in his first public comments about the so-called Downing Street memo, which has created anger among the administration's critics who see it as evidence that the president was intent to go to war with Iraq earlier than the White House has said. 'Look, both of us didn't want to use our military,' Mr. Bush added. 'Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It's the last option.'
"Mr. Blair, standing at Mr. Bush's side in a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House, said, 'No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all.' The statements contradicted assertions in the memorandum, which was first disclosed by The Sunday Times of London on May 1 and which records the minutes of a meeting of Mr. Blair's senior policy advisers more than half a year before the war with Iraq began."
But as National Review Online editor James Robbins points  out, there's not necessarily any "contradiction": "Maybe [memo authors] Rycroft or Dearlove could elaborate; by 'fixed around' did they mean that intelligence was being falsified or that intelligence and information were being gathered to support the policy? There is nothing wrong with the latter - it is the purpose of the intelligence community to provide the information decision-makers need, and the marshal their resources accordingly."
Robbins suggests the evidence of coercion is thin: "But if Dearlove meant the former, he should be called upon to substantiate his charge. It can be weighed against the exhaustive investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on prewar intelligence assessments in Iraq. The committee examined this very question, whether the White House had pressured the intelligence community to reach predetermined conclusions supporting the case for war. The investigation found no evidence that 'administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities' or that 'the Vice President's visits to the Central Intelligence Agency were attempts to pressure analysts, were perceived as intended to pressure analysts by those who participated in the briefings on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, or did pressure analysts to change their assessments.' One would think that the Senate investigation would have somewhat more weight than the secondhand impressions of a foreign intelligence officer, but if Mr. Dearlove is able to elaborate, one hopes he will."
For the rest of Bumiller on Bush and Blair, click here: 
"Relatively Untrammeled Capitalism" in Britain?
Alan Cowell on Tuesday notes how the British government reacted to the electoral defeat in France and the Netherlands of the European constitution by suspending a vote on the charter in Britain.
Cowell apparently thinks Britain practices "relatively untrammeled capitalism," and contrasts that unfavorably with the "cozier, socially oriented approaches" of other European countries: "Mr. Blair has also cast Europe's division as one of profound dimensions between the so-called Anglo-Saxon economic model of relatively untrammeled capitalism that prevails in Britain and the cozier, socially oriented approaches of France and Germany."
Under Margaret Thatcher (and to a lesser extent Blair) Britain has made free market reforms. Yet the top marginal tax rate  is still 40%, while the country practices socialized medicine through its National Health Service. Meanwhile, the cozy" economies of France and Germany are leaving workers out in the cold with unemployment rates  of 10.2% and 11.8%, respectively. Britain comes in at a healthy 4.7%.
To read the full Cowell, click here: