From this morning’s GMA. Not quite as flirtatious as Wallace’s pattycake session with Ahmadinejad, but at least he sprung a few tough questions about Hezbollah and the Holocaust. Sawyer’s most probing moment was asking in the broadest terms about jihadis coming across the border into Iraq, a subject for which Assad was surely prepared and which he batted away with a pat answer about spillover.

Part two airs tomorrow morning. Maybe the big guns come out then.

I had to be draconian about cutting for fair use purposes so you should read the full transcript. Here’s one bit that got left out. Read this first, though, so that you’re in the right frame of mind to appreciate his answer:

Sawyer: So the influence of the neighboring countries can create a cease-fire?

Assad: Yes, this is something mainly that they don’t understand. It doesn’t matter how strong economically or what army you have, it’s a matter of credibility. We have credibility. We have good relations with the other factions. They should trust you to be able to play a role.

We have this good relations with all the parties, including the parties participating in this government and the other who oppose this political process. So that’s how we can help. As Syria. Maybe other countries as well.

Also left out, but worth quoting for its red-meat value:

Sawyer: And is there anyone operating on the world stage today that you admire? Any leader, any diplomat?

Assad: Maybe Bush, the father, because of his will to achieve the peace in the region. Of course, President Clinton, he has the same will, and he is admired in our region and respected.

That line about peace in the region passed without any rejoinder from Sawyer about Lebanon, of course, as did his statements about the virtues of democracy and the alleged similarity between Syria’s and America’s border problems, as you’re about to see. The killer, though, is his crack about what good democracy is if you’re dead; as both a summation of the fascist mindset and a threat to reformers in the region, you can scarcely do better.