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12/28/2009
A BRIEF TIRADE
CATEGORY: Politics

Brief is all I can muster at this point since I am laid up with a vicious bug of some sort. Nothing more fun than being sick at Christmas, he?

The target of my anger this morning is our president, Barack Obama, who I believe has made a wrong decision in not interrupting his golfing to make a personal statement about the events in Iran this past weekend.

No, he should not break off his vacation and come home. But with people being shot dead in the streets of Tehran, I think a statement of support and sympathy for the reformers from the elected leader of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy might be in order.

It can’t be that he still harbors hope for a breakthrough in talks with the Iranian regime. He gave it the old college try, sending private missives pleading for better relations to Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. Both letters were publicly spurned and ridiculed. He sent envoys to multi-lateral discussions on areas of mutual interest. He set up the P5+1 talks in Geneva last October where he was shown first hand how the regime operates; they initially accepted an enrichment deal and then walked back from it until totally rejecting it about a month ago.

Clearly, the president gets an “A” for effort in seeking to engage the Iranians in talks to avoid war over the stockpile of enriched uranium held by the mullahs. We’ll let historians argue whether he has made the situation worse or not, or war more likely. But where we are now with Iran is the same place we were January 20, 2009 and no amount of spin will change that fact.

So his silence on the bloodletting in the streets is all the more puzzling. There are no relations to damage if he comes out four-square in support of the reformers and their goals. I understand the practical reluctance in being too gushy since the regime will point to that as proof that the demonstrators are in cahoots with the Great Satan. But the question is how much cred does the regime still have with Mohammed on the street? Not much, I’d wager.

What those kids dodging bullets in the streets need more than anything is a strong signal that the world is watching - even with all the restrictions the regime has placed on international reporting. They are feeling pretty lonely at this point and a strong statement from President Obama would be a morale booster, that’s for sure.

I can’t believe that Obama is naive enough not have resigned himself to imposing some kind of tough, multi-lateral sanctions against the regime (he will never get tough sanctions through the Security Council). He knows that there is a clock ticking in Tel Aviv and that he has to make every effort to force the Iranians to accept the modest proposals offered in Geneva last October or the very worst may happen and Israel would strike. The resulting backlash could be very, very bad for our interests and perhaps even peace in the Middle East.

The idea that sanctions of any kind would alter the regme’s stance was never more than a long shot anyway. So why not come down on the side of the angels in this one and wholeheartedly condemn the regime for everything from their non-cooperation on nukes to slaughtering their own children in the streets? I don’t see an upside to keeping quiet about the violence. A statement from the NSC or State Department doesn’t carry half as much weight as a personal statement from the president. He should know this and act accordingly.

While he’s at it, he might want to say a word or two about the failed terrorist attack. I understand this statement will be coming “soon,” which is fine but why not earlier?

Mark Ambinder:

There is a reason why Obama hasn’t given a public statement. It’s strategy.

Here’s the theory: a two-bit mook is sent by Al Qaeda to do a dastardly deed. He winds up neutering himself. Literally.

Authorities respond appropriately; the president (as this president is wont to to) presides over the federal response. His senior aides speak for him, letting reporters know that he’s videoconferencing regularly, that he’s ordering a review of terrorist watch lists, that he’s discoursing with his secretary of Homeland Security.

But an in-person Obama statement isn’t needed; Indeed, a message expressing command, control, outrage and anger might elevate the importance of the deed, would generate panic (because Obama usually DOESN’T talk about the specifics of cases like this, and so him deciding to do so would cue the American people to respond in a way that exacerbates the situation).

Obama of course will say something at some point. Had the terrorist blown up the plane, it’s safe to assume that Obama would no longer be in Hawaii. In either case, the public will need presidential fortification at some point. But Obama is willing to risk the accusation that he is “soft” on terrorism or is hovering above it all, or is just not to be bothered (his “head’s in the sand,” or “golfing comes first”) in order to advance what he believes is the proper collective response to a failed act of terrorism.

Let the authorities do their work. Don’t presume; don’t panic the country; don’t chest-thump, prejudge, interfere, politicize (in an international sense), don’t give Al Qaeda (or whomever) a symbolic victory; resist the urge to open the old playbook and run a familiar play.

To date, the Obama administration has failed to demonstrate they are as clever or nuanced as Ambinder makes them out to be here. And how would Obama saying a few words to the nation about this foiled attack panic the country? Or that a statement couldn’t easily avoid “chest thumping? Ambinder appears to be channeling his inner George Bush if he thinks there is no choice between giving al-Qaeda a “symbolic” victory and saying nothing. That’s a ludicrous position to take and it appears that Ambinder should have laid off the Christmas cheer before writing it.

The people want reassurance. Obama could have given that without resorting to histrionics or drama. He doesn’t have to interrupt his vacation to make a 3 minute statement assuring people that the skies will be made as safe as humanly possible, that this attack means al-Qaeda is still alive and kicking, and that our efforts in Afghanistan are worth it because of this.

On both Iran and the terror attack on flight 253, the country - and the world - needed to hear from the president. The fact that we didn’t, and probably won’t hear from him until later this week, is a disappointment.

By: Rick Moran at 12:29 pm
19 Responses to “A BRIEF TIRADE”
  1. 1
    SShiell Said:
    1:07 pm 

    On January 20, 2009 I was prepared for 4 years of disappointment. I hoped for better (there goes that hope thingee again). I hoped Obama would be the Centrist he wanted the world to believe during the campaign. But way down deep in my heart I knew better.

    1,119 days to go.

  2. 2
    lionheart Said:
    1:09 pm 

    Clearly, the president gets an “A” for effort in seeking to engage the Iranians in talks to avoid war over the stockpile of enriched uranium held by the mullahs.

    I’d give him a B-… he could have bowed before them, and given another speech on how awful and prideful we Americans are.

  3. 3
    funny man Said:
    1:23 pm 

    I just hope the Persian people can rid themselves of this regime. I think it went beyond the Mullahs now with street thugs and the ‘revolutionary guard’ mafia trying to hold onto their power. They are ruthless and I admire the courage of the people who are just fed up with their depressing political landscape. I agree, this could actually be a real opening in the Middle East with a populace that (in part) is much friendlier to the United States (and Europe) then the rest (where it is almost hopeless). Obama could have sent a stronger signal but this is one area where I believe liberals and conservatives agree ‘let’s hope this vicious theocracy goes down into the dustbin of history’!

  4. 4
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    2:25 pm 

    They are feeling pretty lonely at this point and a strong statement from President Obama would be a morale booster, that’s for sure.

    Or it might get them shot in the face that much faster. Be interesting to know what’s going on behind the scenes.

  5. 5
    Surabaya Stew Said:
    4:07 pm 

    Re: the Iranian regime; IMHO, Obama’s strategy is “let the idiots hang themselves with their own rope.” He knows damn well how anything he says will be used by the clerics against us, in an attempt to draw domestic attention away from their thuggery. This approach has been done before; Bush Sr. said hardly anything in the Fall of 1989, and I’d say things worked out in Eastern Europe pretty well. Perhaps Obama will be proven mistaken in choosing this strategy, but it may very well work out in the end.

    As for airline security, all there new “precautions” are all a joke anyway. Not only are actual attacks incredibly few in number, but we can be assured that any terrorist will next hide explosives in their body cavities to avoid the pat-downs. Meanwhile, we all suffer, waste time, pay higher prices, and get angry every-time we fly now. And for what? No wonder our President send out Janet N. to embarrass herself on the networks; he wants no part of this mess!

  6. 6
    michael reynolds Said:
    4:32 pm 

    To date, the Obama administration has failed to demonstrate they are as clever or nuanced as Ambinder makes them out to be here.

    No, you’re just not a guy to see subtlety in those you dislike. Or subtlety at all, really.

    We have made statements condemning the Iranian government. What we have carefully avoided doing is hurting the greens by throwing our loving arms around them.

    The greens don’t have an army, or a central leadership or a party. So if they’re going to win this thing they’re going to need Rafsanjani and/or the regular Iranian army to win for them. How us bigfooting the issue would help someone like Rafsanjani or the generals remains a mystery to me. Maybe you could explain.

    The point is to prevail, to get what we want, not to make people feel good by prancing around and drawing focus like the desperate reality-TV attention-whores we were through the previous administration.

    This is their fight, their revolution (we hope.) And we should follow the example of Bush the Wiser, not his son, Bush the Fucktard. Did Bush the Wiser throw his arms around the velvet revolutions in the Eastern Bloc? No, he did not. Did we get exactly what we wanted? Yes, we did. Did we dance on the Berlin Wall and moon Moscow? Now, we did not. Did we get a bunch of new NATO members? yes, we did.

    Results, not bombast. Objectives, not emotions.

    As for the (Man In The Suicide Underwear the less said by the POTUS the better. How in God’s name would it help to again draw focus from this embarrassment to Al Qaeda? They just sent a guy to burn his own nuts off. When your enemy’s embarrassing himself, let him.

    Do you need reassurance, Rick? Because I don’t. And I don’t know anyone who does. Anyone out there panicking? I mean, aside from Glenn Beck.

    Sorry, Rick, but Obama’s just plain smarter and more focused than you are.

    Get well.

  7. 7
    Joe Said:
    5:38 pm 

    Just watched Obama on CNN delivering a statement condemning the Iranian crackdown. Maybe we should let the newscycle of the day run it course before firing up the “I’m so outraged at Obama….(fill in the blanks) machine. sigh.

  8. 8
    JerryS Said:
    5:44 pm 

    Rick -

    You could not be more wrong. Anything Obama says regarding the Iranian situation will be used by the regime to push the meme that the “USA and it’s puppets” are creating the unrest.

    The longer the US officially stays out of the newspapers and newscasts in Iran, the better for the protestors and the agents of change (there’s that word again).

    As for Flight 253, I’m waiting for the Right Wing to start hyperventilating about putting this Nigerian on trial ON AMERICAN SOIL, and keeping him IN AN AMERICAN PRISON, and trying him IN A CIVILIAN COURT. When does the caterwauling start, claiming that by doing all these things, the USA is just creating a magnet for terrorism here in the USA and that the Obama administration is making the USA less safe.

    This post is beneath you, Rick. I know you have a pair of brass ones… act like it instead of like the pussies over at National Review or Powerline or Hot Air.

    I wondered in the post how much cred the regime had with the average Mohammed in the street. Even if they tried to make an issue of an Obama statement, I don’t think it would resonate. Besides, he wouldn’t have had to go off half cocked. A strong, rhetorical show of support for the goals and aspirations of the Iranian people wouldn’t have done any damage.

    ed.

  9. 9
    Jim Said:
    6:27 pm 

    Hi Rick

    I agree with you on this one. In this case silence does constitute acceptance. Worse, it creates acceptance by making other nations reluctant to speak out. It is lowering the bar of international standards by downgrading the definition of heinous.

    We should be vocal in our condemnation of the regime and consistent in our support for the reform movement. The regime will say the reformers are our tools, so what?

    The problem is that, as you note, we have gotten nothing from our one-year experiment in “engagement.” Worse, the serial apologizing is bearing fruit as the Iranians now have a stick to beat us with. “You have nothing to say about human rights, your own president said so” will be the refrain.
    Keeping silent on this issue reminds me of the “advice” I once read from an “expert” who said you should carry lots of money in your wallet in case you were robbed. That way you wouldn’t anger the bandit.

  10. 10
    michael reynolds Said:
    7:06 pm 

    Jim:

    I searched in vain for any part of your comment that was true.

    In this case silence does constitute acceptance.

    We haven’t been silent, we’ve kept a reasonable profile. So you’re objecting to the volume level. Do we need to turn the amps up to 11? Is that it? And then what? Khamenei surrenders?

    The problem is that, as you note, we have gotten nothing from our one-year experiment in “engagement.”

    What did you think we were trying to “get?” And what did we “get” by the previous 8 years of empty bellicosity? Can you give me a single, concrete example of anything Mr. Bush “got” from Iran? Anything? In fact, it was Iran that profited because we did them the immense favor of eliminating their chief strategic opponent.

    Seriously, do you think we expected Khamenei to fold his tent because we extended a hand? What we expected is that we would unite the world against Iran by no longer playing the easily-caricatured bogeyman. (Done.) What we expected was to weaken the hand of the Tehran government in exporting revolution. (Done.)

    I know right-wingers aren’t very bright on foreign policy (durrr . . . blow it up?) But the Iranian regime NEEDS us to be enemies. They PROFIT from American chest-thumping and threats. We DON’T need THEM to be enemies. So we profit from a weakening of hostilities and they lose.

    More hostility = good for them. Less hostility = bad for them. Bad for them = good for us.

    Right now the Iranian regime has lost legitimacy throughout Shia Islam and can no longer play the Great Satan card. Which is the kind of pay-off Mr. Bush was incapable of achieving. And all we had to do was stop the loud-mouthed posturing so beloved by goal-blind, bluster-loving critics.

  11. 11
    TomD Said:
    9:03 pm 

    Iran’s leaders have a symbiotic relationship with the American right, they both prosper by having enemies to hate.

    Soviets, Liberals, Saddam, Obama… the only thing that keeps the big tent together is fear of a common enemy.

  12. 12
    Jim Said:
    11:47 pm 

    Dear M. Reynolds:

    Your style of argument is tiresome and oft-repeated. You deliberately mis-state other people’s positions and throw in gratutitous ad homs that prove your arguments are mere prejudice and not reasoned positions. Your basic goal is to write something that shows (to yourself) your own superiority. Good Luck. This will be my last response to you.

    1) As Rick has pointed out the American response to the brutality proffered by the Tehran regime has been belated and muted since the revolt erupted. This is definitely a silence that constitututes acceptance. We should have been forthright in our condemnation for the very beginning and we should have placed diplomatic pressure on the regime.

    2) President Obama (and his supporters) promised us that his administration would jump-start relations with Iran, defuse the atomic crisis and bring stability to the region. One year has passed, they (the mullahs) are closer to the Bomb, Iran has made no perceptible movement toward peaceful resolution and we are, as noted, exactly where we were 1/20/09. During the Bush Administration it was made perfectly clear that it was not in anyone’s interest for Tehran to have a Bomb. Convincing them to abandon their nuclear ambitions was a tenet of Bush policy. President Obama said he would achieve it, so far he has made no progress. It is quite possible we are going backwards.

    3) President Bush was quite successful in uniting the world against Iran during his term. He was not bellicose or threatening. In fact, most of what has been accomplished was accomplished in his eight years. Nothing has been added. Perhaps nothing has been lost, but of that I am not certain.

    BTW Iran still uses the Great Satan card, and they have lost no credibility that I can see. In fact, since the majority of Shias in the world live in Iran it is hard to see how they would lose credit in the Shia “world.”

    I agree with Rick’s position. Nothing you have said provides a valid counter-argument.

  13. 13
    michael reynolds Said:
    12:09 am 

    Jim:

    I did not distort your position. And just so you don’t repeat that, let me quote you in your entirety:

    1) As Rick has pointed out the American response to the brutality proffered by the Tehran regime has been belated and muted since the revolt erupted. This is definitely a silence that constitututes acceptance. We should have been forthright in our condemnation for the very beginning and we should have placed diplomatic pressure on the regime.

    You repeat, but you do not support. Nor do you rebut. Explain how we have been silent when we have in fact condemned? Explain how that constitutes acceptance?

    2) President Obama (and his supporters) promised us that his administration would jump-start relations with Iran, defuse the atomic crisis and bring stability to the region.

    Oh? Show me where Obama said that.

    One year has passed, they (the mullahs) are closer to the Bomb, Iran has made no perceptible movement toward peaceful resolution and we are, as noted, exactly where we were 1/20/09. During the Bush Administration it was made perfectly clear that it was not in anyone’s interest for Tehran to have a Bomb. Convincing them to abandon their nuclear ambitions was a tenet of Bush policy. President Obama said he would achieve it, so far he has made no progress. It is quite possible we are going backwards.

    North Korea became a nuclear power during Mr. Bush’s administration. And Iran advanced its program. Even as Mr. Bush eliminated Iran’s biggest strategic opponent (Iraq.) So explain how any of this is Obama’s failure? Explain how Mr. Obama’s approach has been less successful than Mr. Bush’s?

    This bears repetition:
    Convincing them to abandon their nuclear ambitions was a tenet of Bush policy.
    One of the tenets of my policy is that Angelina Jolie should climb in mmy bedroom window some night. MY policy is 100% as successful as Mr. Bush’s.

    BTW Iran still uses the Great Satan card, and they have lost no credibility that I can see. In fact, since the majority of Shias in the world live in Iran it is hard to see how they would lose credit in the Shia “world.”

    There is an open split within the ranks of the mullahs. Even within Iran itself Shia Islam has split.

    I agree with Rick’s position. Nothing you have said provides a valid counter-argument.

    Not so much. Rick’s position and yours pretty much came apart like wet crepe paper.

  14. 14
    Dave Rickey Said:
    12:59 am 

    *Who* wants reassurance? What form would that take?

    I have never understood something about “Movement Conservatives”: Why are you all so full of fear? I lived in DC on 9-11, saw the Pentagon when it was still burning, took the train to New York and slipped the outer cordons to walk through the debris fields while the Trade Towers were still piles of smoking rubble. A little later, I saw the Anthrax Letters, and the DC Sniper. And although the latter pair of events made me cautious, and the former pair made me angry, none of it made me fearful. People all over the country flipping out and snagging their kids out of school was an understandable reflex (i was on the phone to my relatives as well), but the sense that bearded ragheads were going to be bombing the local Walmart or Corn Festival any minute now? WTF was that about?

    Note I didn’t say you were cowardly, only that you were fearful. Acting in spite of your fears is often brave, but acting ineffectively or counter-productively in response to irrational and misplaced fear is just foolishness, neurosis.

    Why should the President take time to go on national TV and re-assure you nervous nellies that you have nothing to worry about? Would you think better of him, or dissect his words and wait for, *look* for, events to prove him wrong? Why should this incompetent self-gelding schmuck rate a personal address from POTUS? Wouldn’t that just make this event *more* than what it is, a failed attack? It would make it an outright Event.

    By the same token, the President having something to say publicly and directly about Iran’s protests is not going to help those protesters. It will probably actually hurt them, by reinforcing Iranian state propaganda that they are merely malcontents stirred up by the Great Satan.

    Bravado is not bravery. Foolish certainty is not resolve. Get over yourselves. The question is not “Do you remember how you felt?” It’s “How long before you stopped feeling, and started *thinking* again?”

    –Dave

  15. 15
    michael reynolds Said:
    10:40 am 

    Dave:

    Bravo.

    I would just add that an enormous number of these most nervous nellies live in cities and states Osama bin Laden hasn’t even heard of. New Yorkers seem pretty calm, although they’ve been the main targets. Washingtonians seem equally relaxed. But Alabamans and South Dakotans run around with their hair on fire.

    Of course NYC and DC are both Democrat strongholds.

  16. 16
    Person of Choler Said:
    10:45 am 

    What good would a speech by Obama do for the Iranians? We won’t be doing anything concrete to help them anyway. Raising false hopes for assistance would be the most he could accomplish.

  17. 17
    David (the Neph) Said:
    12:40 pm 

    Annnnnnnnnnnnd there it is:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/30/world/middleeast/30iran.html

    I think any nincompoop with half a brain could’ve seen that the Iranian leadership would try to pin this thing on the West, just as they did over the summer. Knowing that this would be coming, I don’t think that Obama’s delay (wow, a whole day!) should be surprising in the least, much denounced. Why give them any ammo at all? I understand that you question whether the Iranian rhetoric resonates with “the average Mohammed in the streets” - a fair question to ask, but not to answer. We just don’t know, just as we don’t know what the effect of that rhetoric is all over the world where, frankly, it’s aimed, and where it has more potential to incite or injure. Sure, it seems dumb to us, but maybe it doesn’t seem so dumb to some fellows in Yemen, or Pakistan, or China…. Fact of the matter is, there’s no need to be blustery and billowing at this point. Let them do their thing - looks like they’re doing pretty damn good so far. (and no, they don’t seem “lonely” - have you seen the videos of them flipping police cars and brandishing billy clubs? They would laugh at you if you told them that they needed us.)

  18. 18
    JerryS Said:
    2:32 pm 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ2urTPUGf0&feature=player_embedded#

  19. 19
    mike shepherd Said:
    8:58 pm 

    Funny, you debate Obama’s response to the Amsterdam terrorist. Yet, after four commercial aircraft were hijacked and flown into the WTC, we heard no public outcry about the total failure of military response under Rove-Cheney-Bush - to scramble and deter their
    mission. My, the hypocrisy is frightening here. Feel free to reply directly to me. I’d welcome your feedback if you have the capacity to fathom my point.

    “No public outcry…? Guess the planet you were living on after 9/11 didn’t tune in earth news very well.

    ed.

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