Surprise, surprise. Despite the overwhelming negative reaction to the President’s statements regarding the Iranian election demonstrations, Washington Post writer Glenn Kessler could not find more than one foreign policy expert that was vaguely critical. In fact, the sole expert they did find to criticize the President added a caveat – a caveat of praise.
In the section titled ‘Approach generally praised’, Kessler writes:
The president's approach has generally been praised by foreign-policy experts, with one exception.
He then cites the lone dissenting voice (emphasis mine):
Daniel W. Drezner, professor of international politics at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, said that "off-key note" was "probably right about a week ago, but the situation has changed when you had tens of thousands of people in streets" in support of Mousavi.
Drezner said that otherwise, "Obama has played it about right." He said yesterday's statement was "rather artful" in citing the government's obligations to its people.
The article also includes a touch of Bush bashing for good measure – from Drezner of course:
Drezner said, "The more ambitious and, for lack of a better word, Bush-like his language is, the more it will upset the Russians and Chinese."
Perhaps Kessler was not privy to a New York Times report in which members of his own administration – Vice President Joseph Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – implore the President to take a more supportive stance regarding the protestors.
Perhaps Kessler could have spoken with Suzanne Maloney whilst researching his piece, had he wanted to offer multiple sides of the argument. Maloney is a Brookings Institution Iran analyst and former State Department official, who in a Wall Street Journal article said of Obama’s measured response:
The Europeans have been out very vociferously defending the rights of Iranians and protesting the irregularities. To me, that makes better sense.
The WaPo piece also categorized any negative comments regarding the President’s glaring lack of leadership as coming strictly from the GOP, in a section entitled ‘Intense GOP criticism’. Criticism though, has been ample on both sides of the aisle, as demonstrated by the recent resolution passed by the House of Representatives and Senate. As Congressman Mike Pence stated in a speech (June 16th, 2009) announcing his intentions to introduce the resolution:
While I appreciate President Obama's comments yesterday at the White House that he was, ‘troubled by the violence,' and his belief that the voices of the Iranian people should, be ‘heard and respected,' it seems by my lights that this administration has yet to express the unqualified support of the American people for those who are courageously taking to the streets for free elections and for democracy in Iran.
We cannot stand idly by…
Pence chose to not stand idly by, whereas the leader of the free world took the opposite approach.
And while Pence is indeed a Republican, the resolution was co-authored by Democrat Howard Berman. Further, the House of Representatives passed that resolution by a margin of 405 – 1. The Senate followed suit, approving the measure unanimously. In other words, clear bipartisan support.
Additionally, it would appear that Obama himself has acknowledged the weakness in his original reaction to Iran, by finally issuing a more forceful stance on Saturday. For those feeling as if they’ve experienced déjà vu, the President does have a history of responding weak-kneed to international crises, and then taking a much stronger stance once everyone has pointed to a serious lack of spine.
But if the Washington Post is struggling to find an alternative voice of criticism for the President’s response, they once again need look no further than his own words. During a policy speech on August 28th, 2006, Barack Obama urged Kenyans to oppose corruption, stating:
"In the end, if the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists - to protect them and to promote their common welfare - all else is lost.”
That is a far cry from the voice that Iranians –also fighting corruption by sacrificing their lives – heard when Obama said:
It's not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling – the U.S. president meddling in Iranian elections.
It’s not meddling Mr. President, it’s called leadership.
Remember, the world is watching…
Photo Credit: Reuters