Paul Greenberg

Meanwhile, as days passed, the White House practiced its own form of silence. Things have changed since a president of the United States could be counted on to at least voice a protest when another people are cowed. Finally, finally, our president voiced some tepid concern, acknowledging that his silence was the kind that gives consent -- to tyranny. Or as he put it, "it would be wrong for me to be silent about what we've seen on television over the last few days." There was no would-be to it, it was wrong. When it comes to Iran, the president of Change and Hope became the president of stasis and resignation. Only slowly, grudgingly does he stir in defense of freedom in Iran even now.

There was a time, though it grows harder and harder to remember, when an American president was also known as The Leader of the Free World. If anyone uses that sobriquet these days, it's usually ironic.

The crushing of popular opinion in the mullahs' realm was so obvious this time that even Europeans, even the French, even the German chancellor protested. That would be Angela Merkel, who's starting to sound like Margaret Thatcher, aka The Iron Lady in her heyday. And the Germans may be Iran's biggest trading partner. The lady's got moxie.

Even the Spanish foreign minister voiced some mild concern about the election results in Iran. ("There is a need to clarify the situation and to express our concern that a sector of the population are having difficulties in expressing its opinion.") His statement was in the best/worst tradition of the late, unlamented Francisco Franco, who managed to thread his way between the Axis and Allies for years, always coming out on the currently winning side.

Happily, the opposition in this country is still at large and free to say what it thinks. Mitt Romney, demonstrating that the GOP is not entirely moribund, didn't have to wait days to comment on events in Iran. "The election is a fraud," he observed as soon the first dubious returns were being announced. "The results are inaccurate, and you are seeing a brutal repression of the people." How refreshing it can be to hear a politician dare say the obvious. Nor was it surprising to see John McCain echo those sentiments; he's never been known for kowtowing to dictators.

For that matter, there are still Democrats of conscience, too. Joe Lieberman, that reliable maverick, denounced the official vote count out of Teheran almost as soon as it was fabricated, demonstrating that the freedom-loving spirit of the late great Scoop Jackson is still alive somewhere in the Democratic Party -- even if you have to look hard to find it.

As for the White House's statements on the Iranian election, tardy and fearful as they were, nobody expects Barack Obama to cancel his next apology tour of the exotic East in response to a little election fraud or even a lot of it -- after all, he's from Chicago -- but he could have made it clear that America is still on the side of freedom in the world. Especially when ordinary people are showing extraordinary courage as they speak up for it in Teheran itself.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.