Democracy Hypocrisy: Why Campaign When You Can Imprison?

Despite President Bush’s sense of “validation,” the march towards freedom in Egypt is off to a rocky start:

The only man who has dared to challenge Hosni Mubarak for the presidency [Ayman Nour] was charged Tuesday with forging signatures to win approval for his party — an escalation in the government’s confrontation with the most prominent figure in Egypt’s fledgling reform movement.

Are the charges legit? You be the judge: “Fifty such papers were necessary. Nour received thousands, which have been in government hands for months.” And this isn’t the first time Mubarak’s government has harrassed Nour. In January, he “was called before Parliament and stripped of immunity [in Egypt, members of the parliament are generally immune from prosecution] on 30 minutes’ notice, with no chance to mount a defense.” Officials “dragged him down the street, then put him in a police van in the middle of Cairo’s busiest square, apparently as an example to the public.”

Surely, the White House must be outraged — or maybe not. Yesterday, the L.A. Times asked Secretary Rice specifically about the Nour situation. Describing her response as “uncritical” would be an understatement. Here’s a taste: “The president always said … that this process of democratization will happen, at a pace that is different in different societies. But in many ways, a sophisticated, great culture like Egypt, he has said, could lead in this regard, much as they’ve led in the search for peace by signing the peace treaty with Israel. So we’re watching, we’re encouraged and we’re encouraging the Egyptians to make these real reforms.”