NEOCONS ATTACK ELBARADEI: Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has emerged as a leading figure in the Egyptian pro-democracy movement and a credible alternative to President Hosni Mubarak. ElBaradei’s newfound prominence has angered pro-Mubarak neoconservatives, such as Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who recently called him “a stooge of Iran.” Former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer and former UN Ambassador John Bolton have added their voices to the anti-ElBaradei neocon caucus.
It’s not surprising that the same people who were so wrong about Iraq’s nonexistent WMDs are once again trying to undermine ElBaradei, who opposed the invasion of Iraq, warning that there was “no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities in Iraq.” In return, the Bush administration tapped his phone and tried to prevent him from leading a third term at the IAEA. Nonetheless, ElBaradei was unanimously re-elected as IAEA chief and awarded the Nobel in 2005 for his arms control work.
Soon after, the neocons began attacking ElBaradei over Iran. Why? Because he has refused to endorse a US- or Israeli-led attack on Iran, much to the chagrin of war cheerleaders like Bolton. The former IAEA chief has criticized the Iranian government for evading weapons inspections, but he’s advocated a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff. In a 2007 profile, the New York Times called ElBaradei “an indispensable irritant to Iran and its foes.”
His clashes with Tehran and Washington will likely serve him well in Cairo as he navigates the murky landscape of the current Egyptian regime. He has been highly critical of Arab autocrats and the Western governments that prop them up. If ElBaradei continues to annoy neocons in Washington, it means he’s probably doing something right. ARI BERMAN
JUDICIAL ACTIVISM ON STEROIDS: With a bow to the Tea Party movement, a federal judge appointed by Ronald Reagan determined on January 31 that healthcare reform—at least as imagined by the Obama administration—is unconstitutional. In a seventy-eight-page opinion laced with references to the Boston Tea Party and the skewed takes on history and the Constitution favored by the Tea Partisans, Florida District Judge Roger Vinson accepted arguments advanced by conservative attorneys general against the Affordable Care Act, which was enacted last year.
Vinson’s objection was to the individual mandate, which will require Americans to obtain health insurance as a part of a broad plan to spread risk and reduce the costs. The mandate has drawn complaints from conservatives who don’t want the government getting in the way of insurance-industry profiteering, as well as from progressives who object to requiring Americans to buy insurance from the profiteers. But Vinson didn’t just reject the mandate; he took a wild leap and ruled, “Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional, and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void.”