Good News, Bad News for Evildoers

Hugo Chavez, above, got a rejection notice from Venezuelan voters, but Vladimir Putin cleaned up in Russia.
Hugo Chavez, above, got a rejection notice from Venezuelan voters, but Vladimir Putin cleaned up in Russia. (By Fernando Llano -- Associated Press)
By Al Kamen
Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A mixed bag this week for the axis of not-quite-evil. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president and former KGB thug, scored big on his alleged free elections, which effectively could make him prime minister for life of that budding democracy.

Venezuelan President Hugo Ch¿vez, however, got a bit of a smackdown from the voters when he tried to do pretty much the same thing. So now he's in office only until 2012.

But Axis of Evil founding member Iran has had the best week of the evildoers so far. The Bush administration was forced to reverse its allegations that the country still has an ongoing nuclear weapons program and now says the rogue nation's secret nukes program ended back in 2003.

Normally this could be considered a great embarrassment to Washington, but we prefer to look to the future, not to harp on the past. Easier that way.

Take the High Road? Naaah.

Meanwhile, a yellow flag and 15-yard penalty for International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei for unsportsmanlike conduct -- taunting -- after the new intelligence assessment on Iran was released.

ElBaradei "received with great interest the new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate about Iran's nuclear program which concludes that there has been no ongoing nuclear weapons program in Iran since the fall of 2003," says yesterday's IAEA news release. "Great interest" indeed. Way too snarky.

But what really drew the flag was his unseemly I-told-you-so gloating: ElBaradei "notes in particular that the estimate tallies with the [IAEA's] consistent statements over the last few years that, although Iran still needs to clarify some important aspects of its past and present nuclear activities, the agency has no concrete evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program or undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran."

Next thing you know, he'll be angling for another Nobel Peace Prize and reminding us about his reports before the war that Saddam Hussein had no WMDs. That would have drawn another 15 for unnecessary roughness.

Whatever happened to etiquette? Propriety?

Well, There's Always Hunting

Meanwhile, the last couple of weeks could not have been easy for Vice President Cheney. Week before last, he gets his preliminary briefing from the intelligence folks, who tell him that the 2005 intelligence report on Iranian nukes is no longer operative.

Then last week, Axis of Evil wannabe Syria shows up in town as part of the Mideast peace conference hoopla. On Nov. 26, none other than former vice president Al Gore actually showed up at the White House and was in the Oval Office. (With Bush keeping an eye on him, we trust.) Next thing you know, Cheney's in the hospital, where doctors discovered an irregular heartbeat -- must be a causal relationship there somewhere -- and applied an electric shock to restore a normal rhythm.

So who can blame him if he took a pass on the White House black-tie Christmas party for members of Congress Monday night and headed off to Arkansas for a little hunting trip, our colleague Mary Ann Akers reports, then on to Texas yesterday for a fundraiser for GOP Rep. Ralph Hall. Cheney went duck hunting and did a fundraiser for the Arkansas GOP last month, charging guests $1,000 for a picture with him.

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