...After the obligatory first question from the Associated Press, Obama treated the overflowing White House briefing room to a surprise. "I know Nico Pitney is here from the Huffington Post," he announced.
Obama knew this because White House aides had called Pitney the day before to invite him, and they had escorted him into the room. They told him the president was likely to call on him, with the understanding that he would ask a question about Iran that had been submitted online by an Iranian. "I know that there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet," Obama went on. "Do you have a question?"
Pitney recognized his prompt. "That's right," he said, standing in the aisle and wearing a temporary White House press pass. "I wanted to use this opportunity to ask you a question directly from an Iranian."
Pitney asked his arranged question. Reporters looked at one another in amazement at the stagecraft they were witnessing. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel grinned at the surprised TV correspondents in the first row.
The use of planted questioners is a no-no at presidential news conferences, because it sends a message to the world -- Iran included -- that the American press isn't as free as advertised. But yesterday wasn't so much a news conference as it was a taping of a new daytime drama, "The Obama Show." Missed yesterday's show? Don't worry: On Wednesday, ABC News will be broadcasting "Good Morning America" from the South Lawn (guest stars: the president and first lady), "World News Tonight" from the Blue Room, and a prime-time feature with Obama from the East Room.
"The Obama Show" was the hottest ticket in town yesterday. Forty-five minutes before the start, there were no fewer than 107 people crammed into the narrow aisles, in addition to those in the room's 42 seats. Japanese and Italian could be heard coming from the tangle of elbows, cameras and compressed bodies: "You've got to move! . . . Oh, God, don't step on my foot!" Some had come just for a glimpse of celebrity. And they wanted to know all about him. "As a former smoker, I understand the frustration and the fear that comes with quitting," McClatchy News's Margaret Talev empathized with the president before asking him how much he smokes.
Obama indulged the question from the studio audience. "I would say that I am 95 percent cured. But there are times where I mess up," he confessed. "Like folks who go to AA, you know, once you've gone down this path, then, you know, it's something you continually struggle with."
This is Barack Obama, and these are the Days of Our Lives....
...During the eight years of the Bush administration, liberal outlets such as the Huffington Post often accused the White House of planting questioners in news conferences to ask preplanned questions. But here was Obama fielding a preplanned question asked by a planted questioner -- from the Huffington Post....
Milbank is a reliably liberal member of the MSM herd, and definitely no friend of conservatives. If he's disgusted by the staged spectacle,....
As if to compensate for the prepackaged Huffington Post question, Obama went quickly to Fox News for a predictably hostile question from Major Garrett. "In your opening remarks, sir, you said about Iran that you were appalled and outraged," Garrett said. "What took you so long?
"I don't think that's accurate," Obama volleyed testily, calling his toughening statements on Iran "entirely consistent."
The host of "The Obama Show" dispatched with similar ease a challenge from CBS's Chip Reid, asking whether his hardening line on Iran was inspired by John McCain. "What do you think?" Obama replied with a big grin. That brought the house down. And the studio audience laughed again when ABC's Jake Tapper tried to get Obama to answer another reporter's question that he had dodged. "Are you the ombudsman for the White House press corps?" the president cracked.
The laughter had barely subsided when the host made another joke about Tapper's reference to Obama's "Spock-like language about the logic of the health-care plan."
"The reference to Spock, is that a crack on my ears?" the president asked.
Hostile question? Sounds to me like Major Garrett is the only one of the bunch who takes his job as a reporter seriously. And notice how 0 avoids any tough questions by mocking them and cracking jokes in lieu of a real answer.
If there's one thing he's mastered as a politician, it's the three Ds:
Saw a video yesterday of the ONE at a bill signing in the Rose Garden. He walked up to the table doing the "Chicken Strut" like he was back in the "Hood". The backwards ball cap crowd must have loved it.
I've often contended that the ball cap is on correct, the head is on backwards.
The choice presented by the democracy protests in Iran could hardly have been clearer.
On one side: a brutal theocratic regime that jails and tortures its critics at home and is a deadly sponsor of terrorism abroad; that loudly proclaims its enmity for the United States and has murdered many Americans to prove it; that barely conceals its drive to amass a nuclear arsenal; that lusts for the annihilation of Israel; and that for 30 years has pursued a far-flung Islamist jihad. On the other side: throngs of Iranians calling for an end to their governments abuses.
With whom should America stand - the bloody tyranny or the people opposing it? For most Americans the question answers itself, which is why both houses of Congress voted all but unanimously last week to condemn the Iranian government and support the protesters embrace of human rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law. So why was President Obamas response initially so ambivalent? Why was he more interested in preserving dialogue with Irans dictatorial rulers than in providing moral support for their freedom-seeking subjects? Why did it take him until yesterday to declare that Americans are appalled and outraged by Irans crackdown and to strongly condemn the vicious attacks on peaceful dissenters?
A disconcerting answer to those questions appears in the new issue of Commentary, where Johns Hopkins University scholar Joshua Muravchik isolates the most striking feature of the young Obama administrations foreign policy: its indifference to the issues of human rights and democracy. In an essay titled The Abandonment of Democracy, Muravchik - the author, most recently, of The Next Founders: Voices of Democracy in the Middle East - observes that every president since Jimmy Carter has made the advancement of democracy and human rights one of his foreign-policy objectives. Now, he writes, this tradition has been ruptured by the Obama administration.
The rupture was telegraphed at a pre-inauguration meeting with the Washington Post, during which the incoming president argued that freedom from want and freedom from fear are more urgent than democracy, and that oftentimes an election can just backfire if corruption isnt fixed first. Muravchik points out that when Obama gave Al-Arabiya, an Arabic-language satellite channel, his first televised interview as president, he focused on US relations with the Middle East and Muslim world, yet never mentioned democracy or human rights.
In February, Obama traveled to Camp Lejeune, N.C., to announce his timetable for withdrawing US troops from Iraq. His strategic goal, he said, was an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant. But other than a glancing reference to the successful Iraqi election that had taken place a few weeks earlier, he again had nothing to say about democracy.
Muravchik isnt alone in noticing Obamas reticence. In its editorial on the Iraqi election, which it termed a political triumph, the Washington Post celebrated Iraqs progress toward becoming the moderate Arab democracy that the Bush administration long hoped for. Ironically, it noted, one major beneficiary of that election may be President Obama, who has been a skeptic both of progress in Iraq and the value of elections in unstable states. Bush would have cheered the Iraqi vote as further evidence of the countrys democratic advance. Obama merely acknowledged that the election made it easier to withdraw a substantial number of troops.
By April, former New York Times correspondent Joel Brinkley was explaining How democracy got to be a dirty word in the new administration. Since taking office, he wrote, neither President Obama nor Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has even uttered the word democracy in a manner related to democracy promotion. Of the 30 releases issued by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, not one . . . has discussed democracy promotion. Democracy, it seems, is banished from the Obama administrations public vocabulary.
Authoritarian regimes naturally welcome the new approach. According to AP, Egypts ambassador to the United States expressed satisfaction that ties are on the mend and that Washington has dropped conditions for better relations, including demands for human rights, democracy and religious and general freedoms. Just as Obama has downplayed democracy efforts in the Middle East, he has also done so with regard to China, Russia, and even Sudan.
Obama may see himself as the un-Bush, cool to democracy because his predecessor was so keen for it. But to millions of subjugated human beings, he is the leader of the free world - an avatar of the democratic freedoms they hunger for. On the streets of Iran recently, many protesters held signs reading Where Is My Vote? There are limits to what the American president can do for Irans beleaguered democrats. But is it too much to ask that he take their question seriously?
Here is the one immutable fact of Barack Obama's foreign policy agenda as it relates to Iran: It's over. The rule book he came in with is as irrelevant as a tourist guide to the Austro-Hungarian empire.
If the forces of reform and democracy win, Obama's plan to negotiate with the regime is moot, for the regime will be gone. And if the forces of reform are crushed into submission by the regime, Obama's plan is moot, because the regime will still be there.
If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei come out on top, even the most soulless realists will be repulsed by the blood on the regime's collective hands. Politics and decency will demand that the world condemn or shun the regime.
Before June 12, Obama's eagerness to negotiate with Ahmadinejad -- ridiculed by his conservative critics -- was hailed by the establishment and the left as proof of his high-minded faith in diplomacy, a healthy antidote to George W. Bush's allegedly close-minded approach.
But now, if the clerical junta prevails, anyone who shakes hands with Ahmadinejad will have a hard time washing the blood off his own hands.
What is dismaying is how reluctant the administration is to accept this. As even some of Obama's most stalwart defenders are admitting, the president was caught flat-footed by the events in Iran. There's no shame in that; everyone was surprised.
His most ardent defenders might claim that he's been adept at "calibrating" his response all along, but it's obvious that he's been playing catch-up. His initial instinct, according to Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post, was to cling "to the pre-election paramount goal of keeping alive the chances for a nuclear deal with any government in Tehran." To that end, Obama said there was little difference between Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Ahmadinejad, and he refrained from "meddling." Within a week, he gave a full-throated denunciation of the regime's clampdown and a statement of support for the protesters. But he only did so after the Europeans and our own Congress.
Why is it so hard for Obama to get a handle on the Iranian challenge? Hoagland and others are surely partly right that the president is determined to negotiate with Iran. But Obama has made it clear that he sees the elimination of Iran's nuclear problem not as a stand-alone priority but as one part of his Middle East two-step. His inseparable goal is to also push Israel into a peace settlement with the Palestinians. As an unnamed Iran expert in contact with White House officials told Foreign Policy's Laura Rozen, "Obama is dedicated to diplomacy in a manner that is almost ideological. ... He wants to do some stuff in the Middle East over the next eight years. He may not be able to achieve half of them unless he gets this huge piece of the puzzle [Iran] right."
That "stuff" seems to be some grand Middle East transformation, whereby Obama promises to negotiate away Iran's nuclear program in return for Israeli movement on an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. In effect, Obama would be using the threat of a nuclear-armed Ahmadinejad as a Medusa's head to petrify Israelis into concessions.
Whether such a strategy would have worked is open to huge quantities of skepticism. Now, after what's happened in Iran in recent days, such a plan is simply impossible.
For years, conservatives or, if you prefer, neoconservatives, have said that the Iranian regime can't be negotiated with. Some emphasized that anti-Americanism is at the core of the regime's identity. Some noted that Obama-style "open-handed" overtures to Iran were rebuffed. (Obama may have acknowledged U.S. support for the 1953 overthrow of the Mohammed Mossadegh regime in the hope that such frankness would win him goodwill from the regime. But no such goodwill followed Madeleine Albright's apology in 2000.)
Others pointed to the messianic and conspiratorial zeal that animates Iran's clerical junta. Many invoked Iran's steadfast animus toward our ally Israel as well as its endorsement and sponsorship of "scholarly" Holocaust-denial and the more tangible support for Hezbollah and others bent on murdering Jews. Iran's efforts to derail democracy and stability in Iraq by, among other things, supporting attacks on American troops is also part of the talk-is-folly brief.
None of that was sufficient evidence for Obama, in part because anything associated with Bush's freedom agenda was deemed absurd and ideologically rigid.
Well, Bush is gone. Obama has extended his hand. And the regime is supplying fresh evidence of the absurdity of his approach. All that's left for Obama now is to abandon his own ideological rigidity and start over.
Posted by: Fred ||
06/24/2009 00:00 ||
Top|| File under: Govt of Iran
Obama does not believe in regime change ie. nothing will change in Iran.If anything they will get braver as they see weakness in Barry!
Well, if the lion can get slapped down by Dorothy Gale of Kansas, then what happens to those under the lion's food chain? Exuding weakness and naivete led tin-horns Chavez and Ortega to show up with the balls to upbraid Obambi during the Latin summit a while back.
Posted by: jack salami ||
06/24/2009 9:09 Comments ||
Obama says, "Those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history." (From his prime time speech)
If he does not 'stand up' against Iran's theocratic dictatorship (that means act, IMO), isn't he on the wrong side of history - according to himself?
Before June 12, Obamas eagerness to negotiate with Ahmadinejad ridiculed by his conservative critics was hailed by the establishment and the Left as proof of his high-minded faith in diplomacy, a healthy antidote to George W. Bushs allegedly close-minded approach. But now, if the clerical junta prevails, anyone who shakes Ahmadinejads hands will have a hard time washing the blood off his own.
For some reason, Obama cannot fully accept this. In his press conference Tuesday, the president finally condemned the outrages in Iran in terms he should have used a week ago. But he also kept alive the idea that the current Iranian regime could be a fruitful negotiation partner, despite what has already happened in that country. Its not too late, Obama explained, for the regime to negotiate with the international community. He wouldnt even cancel plans to invite Iranian officials to Fourth of July barbecues at American embassies.
That amounts to tacit approval of the bloodshed and fraud that weve already seen and acceptance of the ultimate triumph of the regime. And it wont work.
According to many analysts, Obamas still clinging to his hope of talking Iran out of its nuclear program. Thats why he initially said there was little difference between Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Ahmadinejad, and why his recent denunciations only followed similar rhetoric from the Europeans and our own Congress. He just doesnt want to let go of the diplomacy option.
As the Iranian government's murderous repression of the Iranian people continues, critics right and left agitate over the deafening silence of an American president who, as a candidate, derided the Bush administration's ambitious democracy promotion as too timid. They speculate as to why Barack Obama won't speak out: Why won't he condemn the mullahs? Is he daft enough to believe he can charm the regime into abandoning its nuclear ambitions? Does the self-described realist so prize stability that he thinks it's worth abandoning the cause of freedom -- and the best chance in 30 years of dislodging an implacable American enemy?
In truth, it's worse than that. Even as the mullahs are terrorizing the Iranian people, the Obama administration is negotiating with an Iranian-backed terrorist organization and abandoning the American proscription against exchanging terrorist prisoners for hostages kidnapped by terrorists. Worse still, Obama has already released a terrorist responsible for the brutal murders of five American soldiers in exchange for the remains of two deceased British hostages.
I hope you don't mind two Kass articles in one week. I think this offers an interesting perspective. Excerpt here:
...For the past several days, Obama has been thwacked by Republican critics, Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, for being too timid and weak on Iran. Other critics have pummeled him with images of the late President Ronald Reagan standing up to the Soviet repression of a democratic Poland, as the evil empire began to crack under Reagan's resolve.
But Iran isn't Poland. The themes involving freedom and self-determination may be similar, but the dynamics aren't the same.
After an extremely cautious first several days, Obama ratcheted up the rhetoric just a bit at his Tuesday news conference, saying he's appalled and outraged. But not enough to do anything about it publicly.
"I've made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran and is not interfering with Iran's affairs," Obama said carefully....
Obama's tougher talk is welcome. His "I've been consistent" bullshit is not. He's a vacillating empty suit and a facile liar. Nobody asked him to send troops. All anybody expected is that the "Leader of the Free World" show some f*cking spine and support a people struggling to overthrow a corrupt theocratic thugocracy. A simple "we stand with the people of Iran and support them in seeking a free and fair society" would've been acceptable, especially compared to the mealy-mouthed stumbling and ice cream/golf outings this tool gave us. Jebus. We're only 5 months in....gird your loins!
Posted by: Frank G ||
06/24/2009 8:41 Comments ||
Liz Cheney: President Obama said that were going to offer unconditional talks if you unclench your fist and in response theyre shooting young women in the streets in Tehran.
At this point, only the short-term future of Iran's clerical regime remains in doubt. The current protests could be repressed, but the unelected institutions of priestly rule have been fatally undermined. Though each aspect of the Islamic Republic has its own dynamic, this is not a regime that can last many more years.
When it comes to repression, Iran has a spectrum of security instruments that can be used synergistically. The national police can take care of routine crowd control; riot-police units can beat some demonstrators in order to discourage others; the much more brutal, underclass Basij militiamen enjoy striking and shooting affluent Iranians; and the technical arm of the regime can block cellular service to disrupt demonstrations, as well as stall Internet services. If the protests were to seriously escalate, the Revolutionary Guard troops with their armored vehicles might also be called in, though at some risk to the regime, given that reformist presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai was their longtime commander. The alternative -- calling in the regular army -- would be much more risky since the loyalty of the generals is unknown. So far the regime has required neither.
What has undermined the very structure of the Islamic Republic is the fracturing of its ruling elite. It was the unity established by Ayatollah Khomeini that allowed the regime to dominate the Iranian people for almost 30 years. Now that unity has been shattered: The very people who created the institutions of priestly rule are destroying their authority. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's leading rival for the presidency, Mir Hossein Mousavi, was prime minister from 1981-89 when the Islamic Republic acquired its administrative structure, including its unelected head, the supreme leader. Though the supreme leader must be obeyed in all things, Mr. Mousavi now flatly rejects the orders of Ali Khamenei to accept Ahmadinejad's re-election. In this, Mr. Mousavi is joined by another presidential candidate, former parliament speaker and pillar of the establishment Mehdi Karroubi, and a yet more senior founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Rafsanjani. President from 1989-97, Mr. Rafsanjani is also chairman of the Assembly of Experts, whose 86 members choose the supreme leader and can ostensibly remove him.
During the campaign, Ahmadinejad accused Mr. Rafsanjani and his children of corruption on live television. So if Ahmadinejad's re-election is to be "definitive" and even "divine," as Supreme Leader Khamenei has declared, Mr. Rafsanjani would have to resign from all his posts and his children would have to leave Iran. Instead, he is reportedly trying to recruit a majority of the Assembly of Experts to remove Khamenei, or at least force him to order new elections. The other key undemocratic institution of the Islamic Republic, founded in part by Messrs. Mousavi and Rafsanjani, is the 12-member Council of Guardians that can veto any laws passed by the elected parliament and any candidate for the parliament or the presidency. In recent years, the Council has persistently sided with extremists and Ahmadinejad, using its veto powers aggressively. Supreme Leader Khamenei logically chose the Council to deal with the election dispute.
Last week, the Council of Guardians announced that it might recount 10% of the ballots and summoned Messrs. Mousavi, Karroubi and Rezai. All three rejected the recount offer, and only Mr. Rezai showed up before the Council. Messrs. Mousavi and Karroubi simply refused to appear, explicitly denying the Council's authority as well as that of the supreme leader. This is highly significant. Were it not for the office of the supreme leader and the Council, Iran would be a normal democratic republic. In theory, if Ahmadinejad, Khamenei and the extremists of the Council of Guardians were all replaced by consensus figures, the Islamic Republic could continue as before. But in practice, that is impossible. Huge numbers of Iranians haven't been demonstrating at risk of beatings and worse for the uncharismatic and only marginally moderate Mr. Mousavi. His courage under pressure has certainly raised his popularity, but he is still no more than the accidental symbol of an emerging political revolution.
What's clear is that after years of humiliating social repression and gross economic mismanagement, the more educated and the more productive citizens of Iran have mostly turned their backs on the regime. Even if personally religious, they now reject the entire post-1979 structure of politicized Shiite Islam with its powerful ayatollahs, officious priests, strutting Revolutionary Guards and low-life Basij militiamen. Many Iranians once inclined to respect clerics now view them as generally corrupt -- including the Ahmadinejad supporters who applauded his attacks on Mr. Rafsanjani. Had Mr. Mousavi won the election, modest steps to liberalize the system -- he would have allowed women to go out with uncovered heads, for example -- would only have triggered demands for more change, eventually bringing down the entire system of clerical rule. In the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev's very cautious reforms designed to perpetuate the Communist regime ended up destroying it in less than five years. In Iran, the system is much newer, and the process would likely have been faster.
Some important clerics have long suggested that men of religion should strive to regain popular respect by voluntarily giving up political power. That may provide a way out eventually. But for now, Supreme Leader Khamenei is in the impossible position of having to support a president whose authority is not accepted by much of the governing structure itself. Even the extremist Parliament Speaker Ali Larjani has declared that the vote count was biased. Therefore, even if he remains in office, Ahmadinejad cannot really function as president. For one thing, the parliament is unlikely to confirm his ministerial appointments, and he cannot govern without them. If Khamenei is not removed by the Assembly of Experts and Ahmadinejad is not removed by Khamenei, the government will continue to be paralyzed.
The great news is that, below the eroding machinery of priestly rule, the essential democratic institutions in Iran are up and running and need only new elections for the presidency and the parliament.
Somehow, when we look back on this period in Iran, I hope we don't end up regretting our approach much like we ended up regretting and criticizing Bush 41's approach to leaving Saddam alone in 92 after we destroyed his Army in Kuwait. The Shia misunderstood our intentions and look what happened to them. I see the same thing happening in Iran - very similar to Tianamen.
Posted by: Jack is Back! ||
06/24/2009 9:47 Comments ||
A multi-volume chronology and reference guide set detailing three years of the Mexican Drug War between 2010 and 2012.
Rantburg.com and borderlandbeat.com correspondent and author Chris Covert presents his first non-fiction work detailing
the drug and gang related violence in Mexico.
Chris gives us Mexican press dispatches of drug and gang war violence
over three years, presented in a multi volume set intended to chronicle the death, violence and mayhem which has
dominated Mexico for six years.