The "Conservative" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Executive Editor Bill Keller goes to Tehran to do some actual reporting and shows he hasn't forgotten the media trick of labeling foreign villains as "conservative."

Sunday's front page, dominated by the Iranian election, featured a surprise byline: Executive Editor Bill Keller wrote the "Memo from Tehran," "Wide Reverberations as Door Slams on Hope of Change."

Keller covered Moscow in the late 1980s and was bureau chief in Johannesburg in the early 1990s, but apparently has never filed from Tehran before. Luckily, he hasn't forgotten the common liberal media practice to use when discussing foreign policy: Identify the villain - in this case Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - and suggests without any context that he's a "conservative," no matter how badly he fits into the American political definition of a conservative.

It is impossible to know for sure how much the ostensible re-election ofMahmoud Ahmadinejadrepresents the preference of an essentially conservative Iranian public and how much, as opposition voters passionately believe, it is the imposed verdict of a fundamentally authoritarian regime.

But for those who dreamed of a gentlerIran, Saturday was a day of smoldering anger, crushed hopes and punctured illusions, from the streets of Tehran to the policy centers of Western capitals.

A more direct example could be found in Monday's leadby Robert Worth and Nazila Fathi, "Iran Is Reported To Detain Critics As Unrest Grows." In the second paragraph Ahmadinejad was called "a conservative who had become a polarizing figure at home and abroad."

Keller returned to the front page on Monday with a "news analysis" (co-authored with Michael Slackman) with a strangely supportive headline: "A Shrewd Leader Emerges With a Stronger Hand." Yes, he's talking about Ahmadinejad, the man who likely rigged his re-election.

The actual article is less laudatory, but didn't get into Ahmadinejad's instability until a single paragraph near the end, and left off his Holocaust denial and hope that Israel would be "wiped off the map."