What’s up with sophisticates and Syria’s ghastly Assad family?

First, Vogue magazine hails the dictator’s wife’s fashion sense (here and here).

Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton implies that ruthless tyrant Bashar al-Assad may be a reformer (she has since rethought her remarks).  Would sophisticates in the West be less willing to attack Gaddafi if he didn’t wear those funny outfits? I’ve never understood the compulsion to buddy up to Syria’s murderous ruler. (This includes former speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 2007 visit to Damascus when she praised Assad as being “ready” to engage in peace talks with Israel.)

While I ponder why it is that al-Assad so captivates a certain kind of westerner, here is a realistic appraisal from Charles Krauthammer’s column today. It starts with the embarrassing he-may-be-a-reformer quote from our secretary of state:

Few things said by this administration in its two years can match this one for moral bankruptcy and strategic incomprehensibility. …

[I]t’s morally reprehensible. Here are people demonstrating against a dictatorship that repeatedly uses live fire on its own people, a regime that in 1982 killed 20,000 in Hama and then paved the dead over. Here are insanely courageous people demanding reform – and the U.S. secretary of state tells the world that the thug ordering the shooting of innocents already is a reformer, thus effectively endorsing the Baath party line – “We are all reformers,” Assad told parliament – and undermining the demonstrators’ cause.  …

[I]t’s strategically incomprehensible. Sometimes you cover for a repressive ally because you need it for U.S. national security. Hence our muted words about Bahrain. Hence our slow response on Egypt. But there are rare times when strategic interest and moral imperative coincide completely. Syria is one such – a monstrous police state whose regime consistently works to thwart U.S. interests in the region.

But-you know-the Assads are really well-dressed.