Eyes wide shut.Actor…
Eyes wide shut.

Actor Sean Penn, reporting from Iran this week for the San Francisco Chronicle, snared a scoop worthy of a Broder or Brownstein, interviewing Muslim cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who leads the opinion polls in the coming electons [sic].

This isn’t scoop-worthy any more than interviewing Saddam Hussein, the front-runner in the last Ba’athist elections in Iraq. Interviewing him lends him some sort of legitimacy, even though the President of Iran has virtually no power. Here’s an example of how Rafsanjani used the propaganda opportunity.

Rafsanjani replied that Iran is allowing eight candidates for president – certainly a greater number than American voters faced last November. “If the number of candidates is a proof of democracy, we are … better than the Americans in this regard,” newspapers quoted Rafsanjani as telling Penn.

Except that the number of candidates is no proof of democracy. Here’s proof:

Last Sunday, security men briefly confiscated Penn’s video camera as he observed a protest rally by about 300 women in Tehran.

There’s democracy, Iranian style, for ya’

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