What happened
President Bush on Tuesday praised Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as someone who “believes in democracy” in his clearest expression of support since Musharraf suspended his country’s constitution and shook up the Supreme Court nearly three weeks ago (The Washington Post, free registration).

What the commentators said
What the U.S. thinks shouldn’t matter, said Dan Simpson in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It’s up to Pakistanis to decide whether Musharraf is the man to lead them.

It won’t be easy for Pakistanis to make decisions, said Fasih Ahmed in Musharraf has launched a crackdown on independent media organizations. By forbidding news outlets from “ridiculing” the head of state, he’s pretty much assuring that he’ll get the same flattering coverage everywhere that he gets on state-owned Pakistani TV.

“It's not clear,” said Alvaro Vargas Llosa in The New Republic Online, “whether a democratic government will be much better than Musharraf has been at creating the kind of order and stability that comes from the people trusting and respecting the institutions that govern them. But it surely cannot be worse than this.”

Washington can help, said Michael Gerson in The Washington Post (free registration). Cutting aid to Pakistan’s military would give responsible army leaders a stake in restoring democracy.