DEMOCRACY IN EGYPT … Remember when President Bush held up Egypt as an example of freedom on the march in the Middle East?

In February, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had called for nation’s first multicandidate presidential elections, sparking a wave of optimism about political reform. Alas, in the September elections, opposition candidates faced unreasonable legal and technical hurdles, security forces intimidated voters and arrested some campaign workers, and today Mubarak’s most serious challenger, Ayman Nour, is in jail on dubious charges of forgery.

That the Bush administration has responded with little more than public statements expressing “serious concerns” isn’t such a surprise. But I’m tickled to wonder why Egypt dropped so quickly off the White House’s radar screen.

In a Washington Post editorial calling for the administration to stand up to Mr. Mubarak, the paper’s editors offer this thought:

Mr. Mubarak supposes that Egypt’s maintenance of a cold peace with Israel, and its sporadic efforts to help the Palestinian Authority, immunize him from any consequences for his persecution of Mr. Nour.

Has anyone seen any tidbits about discussions inside the administration that might bolster or disprove this idea?

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Christina Larson is a Washington Monthly contributing editor and an award-winning science and environment journalist who has reported from five continents.