President Obama has taken criticism from Republicans and from some others for what they say has been his weak and timid statements and his tone on the protests taking place in Iran after the recent election, which has returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the role of puppet under the control of the puppet masters formally know as the mullahs. President Obama finally made a very strong statement yesterday at a press conference, but some feel that it was too long in coming.
But I think the president's critics are being unfair on this one. I do wish the president had said a little more at the beginning of the protests about the right of all people to protest and assemble and to have free and fair elections without singling our Iran specifically; after all, the signs of the Iranian protesters that were in English were not directed at the people in the streets with them, but they were sending a message to the United States for support. The president could have done a little more in the beginning to affirm in a tactful way our support for their gatherings. I also think it was a mistake for the president to say that even if the other candidate for president, Mir Hossein Mousavi had won, nothing would have changed. That may in fact be true since Mousavi was in the government under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, but the problem is that such a comment sends a message to the Iranian protesters that their election ultimately doesn't matter because if their candidate had won, it would still be business as usual. But the issue of the moment was not whether Mousavi would have brought change, but the fact that the people want change and they were being denied the right to make a difference in their nation. The president should have addressed the aspirations of the people, not the reality of the policies of their candidate.
I also do not buy the argument that the president needs to watch what he says so that the mullahs cannot charge the U.S. with fomenting the protests. They were were doing that long before President Obama said anything. It is, and has been for some years, standard practice for the Iranian government to blame the United States for everything. The president could have remained completely silent on the what was happening and the mullahs would still have cast aspersions on the U.S.
So, while I wish the president would have said a little more early on in a careful and diplomatic way to let the Iranian people know that our government supports their cause, I think the criticism that the president has been too timid is unfair. Anyone who has paid any attention to President Obama's style thus far knows that he moves in a careful and deliberative way. He wants to consider the different angles before he speaks. That doesn't mean that he is always right. People who move carefully and people who tend to act swiftly both get things right and wrong. But the president's mode of operation is in his DNA. Asking President Obama to speak before he has gone through a deliberative consideration process would have been like asking President Reagan to be less swift, decisive, and to the point. What I am suggesting is that what we are witnessing here is a matter of style not substance. The President will govern within that style. Everyone needs to understand that.
It has been noted that the statements of the governments of our European allies have been stronger than ours, but those governments have a different relationship with Iran from that of the United States. This is one of those times when strong statements from the Europeans, who have diplomatic ties with Iran, could be more productive than such a statement from the U.S. government.
The fact of the matter is I do not think it will make a difference whether the president's words are swift or deliberate, or diplomatic or harsh. The outcome would not have been different one way or another. I am more interested in what is happening on the streets of Iran and behind the scenes. There are things happening that we do not know about and that will not be reported in the press. That is much more significant than what is being bandied back and forth at a presidential news conference.
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Cross-Posted at RedBlueChristian