Today's Papers

A United United Nations

Everybody leads with the U.N. Security Council’s 15-0 vote in support of a disarmament resolution on Iraq. “The show of international unity sent a strong message to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that he is without allies if he continues to defy the United Nations,” the Los Angeles Times reports, while George Bush says in the New York Times that Hussein’s response must be “prompt and unconditional, or he will face the severest consequences.”

The resolution provides only for “serious consequences” (as opposed to “severest”) should Iraq be found in “material breach,” and those consequences are subject to interpretation. Indeed, the vagueness of the term probably allowed for the unanimous vote. The Bush administration believes the U.N. has now endorsed military action, the Washington Post reports, while the late converts to the plan—Russia, France, China, and Syria—obviously still have something else in mind. “The resolution deflects the direct threat of war,” the Russian ambassador told the council, according to the Post. “As a result of intensive negotiations, the resolution that has just been adopted does not contain any provision about automatic use of force.”

The U.S. ambassador, John Negroponte, said that while “noncompliance is no longer an option,” the U.S. would go back to the council for discussions if Iraq fails to comply with the resolution, the NYT reports.

Iraq has seven days to accept the resolution and until Dec. 8 to provide a list of its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs and secret ballistic missile developments. A NYT news analysis warns that compliance will be difficult for Saddam Hussein. “To declare himself in effect a liar and a fabricator, a number of experts say, will be a significant trial for Mr. Hussein. He is an absolute dictator, and his self-image and ruling mystique depend on never humbling himself before a rival or another power.” A former U.S. senator (unnamed in the piece) calls the resolution a “mousetrap,” designed to, in the NYT’s words, “provoke Mr. Hussein into a self-destructive act of defiance.”

The Post reports that Iraq’s U.N. ambassador said his government would study the resolution, but that he is “very pessimistic.” “This resolution is crafted in such a way to prevent inspectors to return to Iraq,” he said, without further explanation.

A separate NYT fronter credits Colin Powell, first with persuading Bush to work with the U.N. and then for an “arduous three months” spent convincing skeptical Security Council members to get on board with Bush. “Last Saturday evening he was on the phone discussing permutations of the words ‘material breach’ with the French foreign minister 20 minutes before walking his daughter down the aisle for her wedding,” the Times reports.

Everybody fronts Rep. Nancy Pelosi and her apparently successful bid to become the new House minority leader in the wake of Dick Gephardt’s announced departure. The official vote is not until Thursday, but Pelosi says “the race is over,” the LAT reports. Her office presented a list of 111 House Dems who will support her, and more are doing so privately, she says. The LAT says the choice of Pelosi will “bring immediate payoffs and a good deal of risk.” She’s described as persuasive and professional but also as a “solid liberal,” seen by some more moderate Democrats as a liability. A Brookings Institution analyst has this interpretation in the WP: “It’s true Pelosi represents a liberal San Francisco district. But she’s also a political professional from a political family who in her first run for the leadership attracted the support of a lot of moderates and Blue Dog Democrats. She will be joined in leadership by Steny Hoyer, who is an extremely able moderate. And it seems to me the two become a very nice team.” Pelosi will be the first woman to lead either party in either the House or the Senate.

The Post and the NYT front the sour sentiments of Harvey Pitt, who appeared at a securities industry shindig in Boca Raton on Friday. The recently resigned SEC chief complained about partisanship and took no responsibility for his downfall. “Because Pitt believes he conducted himself properly and made decisions at the SEC based on merits,” the WP writes, “he harbors a feeling of disbelief, a type of morning-after hangover punctuated by questions about how perceptions and portrayals of his actions could become a reality that rendered him ineffective as SEC chairman and without the confidence of the White House, according to his friends.”

Finally, the Justice Department this week took aim at people who evade taxes and those who instruct others to do the same, the NYT reports. The big catch was Max Tanner, a former IRS lawyer, who sold 1.8 million shares of stock (at over $9 per share) in something called Maid Aide, which turned out to be a one-woman cleaning service in Las Vegas. Tanner funneled the money to the Cayman Islands to avoid taxes. A year ago, he said that he even though he used to work for the IRS, he did not know he had to pay taxes. That defense was rejected by a jury. Yesterday, he told a judge he had an emotional disorder and could not be held responsible.

Editor’s note: Yesterday’s TP inaccurately credited the LAT with having been the first to report investigators’ conclusion that John Lee Malvo was the one who shot an FBI analyst in Virginia. In fact, the NYT had the scoop a few weeks ago.