Everybody leads with news that the House of Representatives passed a resolution yesterday slamming the administration's plan to send over 20,000 new troops to Iraq. Although the resolution, which passed by a vote of 246-182, is nonbinding, it's symbolically significant in that it is exceedingly rare for a Congress to officially criticize a wartime President's battlefield policies, as the New York Times reports. The Senate is scheduled to meet today to consider whether to debate the House resolution.
The resolution was only two sentences long, the Los Angeles Times notes, but it symbolizes the new order in Washington, and, by extension, the resistance that President Bush will face during the next two years. "Today, in a loud voice, the Congress of the United States has said to the president, 'Mr. President, we need a new direction in Iraq,' " said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. But, with the $93 billion requested for additional war funding soon due for a vote, it remains to be seen whether the Democratic resistance will begin and end with symbolism.
Only 17 House Republicans voted for the resolution—a significantly lower number of defectors than was originally predicted. The Washington Post is the only paper to discuss this extensively, suggesting that significant White House pressure, combined with the announcement Thursday by Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., of his plans to slow troop deployment, caused Republicans to close ranks. Still, 17 defectors is a significant number in a House that, as of eight months ago, saw all but three Republican members vote their support for the war effort, as the Wall Street Journal notes. It's becoming clear that the rubber stamp that approved the war is running low on ink. That's not to say that many Republicans aren't still seeing red over Democratic tactics. "It's a capitulation to Jihadist Joe," said an aggrieved Rep. Phil Gingrey, D-Ga.
The New York Times off-leads and the Post and the LAT front the news that an Italian court has indicted 26 American military and intelligence officials for kidnapping a Muslim cleric and spiriting him off to Egypt (a technique known as extraordinary rendition), where he was imprisoned and allegedly tortured for three years before his eventual release. Although Italy is considering asking the United States for extradition, it's very unlikely that any Americans will ever face trial, especially seeing that the court only knows several of the suspects by their aliases. No word on whether any of the aliases is "Jihadist Joe."
The LAT fronts a dispatch from Paris, where a French magistrate's report claims that Rwanda's current president, Paul Kagame, was responsible for ordering the presidential assassination that sparked the 1993 Tutsi genocide. Portions of the report also allege that Clinton administration officials intervened to protect Kagame from investigation. Kagame, unsurprisingly, denies the allegations, calling the magistrate an "impostor."
The NYT fronts a disappointing piece on the Quds Force, the mysterious overseas branch of Iran's army that's suspected of funneling explosives to Iraqi insurgents. (The LAT had this exact same story on Thursday.) Although experts agree that the Quds Force functions as "the long arm of the Islamic revolution abroad," nobody knows much about the extent of its reach, or even if it exists as a discrete entity. "It could be that anyone with an intelligence role in the Revolutionary Guard is just called Quds," mused one Iran scholar. Well, that's more than we knew about Jihadist Joe before we shocked and awed him into submission!
On the home front, the NYT fronts news that a small but vocal contingent of conservative Arizona Republicans, strongly opposed to Sen. John McCain's presidential ambitions, are loosely working to make sure he loses the Arizona primary. Their plans apparently consist of conducting loaded straw polls and giving interviews to New York Times reporters, but it's the spirit that counts. As for the Democratic media darlings, the WSJ notes that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is headed to Hollywood on Tuesday to parley with potential campaign donors.
In other Obama news, the Post goes above the fold with a credulous feature on how politically affiliated friend groups on the student social-networking Web site Facebook.com are the new new thing in youth political mobilization. One guy started a group called "One Million Strong For Barack" which currently claims upwards of 275,000 members; another girl parlayed her "Students For Barack Obama" group into a multi-college ground organizing force. As somebody who knows exactly how little effort it takes to join one of these groups, TP is much less impressed by these numbers than is the article's author.
Approximately 20 states are considering making cervical cancer vaccinations mandatory for pre-teen girls, much to the horror of many special interest groups, the NYT reports. Some feel that the drug companies pushing the HPV vaccine are motivated by profit margins rather than public health concerns (one critic said that HPV stands for "Help Pay for Vioxx losses."). Meanwhile, some conservative activists worry that the vaccine would promote sexual promiscuity. Just like the polio vaccine leads to jaywalking.
The WSJ fronts an interesting feature on the brash negotiation strategy that Apple Chairman Steve Jobs used with cellular service providers during the development of the iPhone. It's a good look at how brand strength can transfer from one industry to another, and it reveals a lot about how Apple does business: with a velvet glove on an iron fist.
It is I, Captain Vegetable: The NYT goes inside with a loopy profile of the energetic Magnus Scheving, an Icelandic television star who plays a super hero called Sportacus in a children's TV show called LazyTown. On the show, Sportacus "repels junk food by the deft use of tennis rackets, passes off apples and carrots as energy-enhancing 'sports candy' and never walks into a room when he can just as easily do a double flip through the window." Jihadist Joe may have finally met his match.