Shortly after President Bush's State of the Union address, the Washington Post placed a reasonable condition on the White House's vision of peace through liberty: challenge and help overturn the baseless incarceration of Egyptian democratic opposition leader Ayman Nour. Less than a week after sizeable liberal demonstrations in Cairo, and immediately following a diplomatic rebuke by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak relented to demands and unveiled a process leading to the first legitimate executive referendum since he assumed power in 1981.
An Egyptian opposition leader and presidential hopeful whose imprisonment angered Washington and called into question Egypt's pledges of democratic reform led a parade Saturday through downtown Cairo, trailed by thousands after being freed on bail. ...Speaking to his supporters later, Nour reiterated his innocence — and his jailhouse announcement that he would run for president this year against 24-year incumbent Hosni Mubarak.
"I announce that I will run in the presidential elections for you," Nour said, standing on a podium in a charitable organization he'd founded down the street from where he was freed. "We are paying the price of our search for freedom," he said to cheers. "They tried for days to destroy a national project, the Tomorrow Party. But they failed."
Suspicion of Mubarak's motives are warranted, though the likely methods of subterfuge — releasing Nour temporarily or as expressly for the purpose of drawing the Tomorrow Party out to be crushed and scattered in rigged elections — would for success require an ambivalence to despot chicanery no longer a part of American politics, or at least not for the next four years, at a time when twelve months is too long for Egyptian democrats to hold their tongues. Hosni must know that what he's given singly will be demanded by the gross. One has to at least consider wooing an old operator from his throne: Just think, Mr. Mubarak, that if you cleave to power your likeness will be wiped from the lineal scroll, and if you should relinquish it, a statue will be dedicated to — if nothing more — your final penance.
Whatever the case, the Washington Post's standard has been met — and the editors ought to express their pleasant surprise.