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Reality Mugs the White House

Ben Smith sums up the cognitive dissonance sweeping the hope-n-change crowd:

The notion of an “Obama effect” sweeping the Middle East appeared to collide with the realities of the Islamic Republic of Iran Saturday, as the country’s confrontational, anti-American president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, celebrated a landslide victory in Friday’s election amid wide doubts about the honesty of the official vote count.

Iran’s election authority declared Ahmadinejad the victor with 63 percent of the vote Saturday and his victory received the imprimatur of the country’s supreme religious leader. But his main rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi, denounced the results as a “charade” and there were reports of dramatic protests.

Though his backing of Iran’s nuclear program differed little from Ahamdinejad’s, the tone of Mousavi’s campaign, and the impression of a broad stirring for change led by the country’s youth, organized online and by text messages, seemed to echo Obama’s own victory and to respond to the promises of engagement in Obama’s recent speech in Cairo.

Did these people imagine that because one of the mullah’s  handpicked candidates knew how to text that we were witnessing the second coming of Obama, Iranian-style? They assumed that in a country with four pre-selected candidates the mullahs would let just anyone win?  It seems so.

The problem with claiming credit for events in other countries is that when things go poorly people will interpret it as a personal rebuke. You can’t have it both ways. And the problem with pretending that theocratic thugs are conducting a “real” elections is that when they prove to be not so “real” you look foolish for having cheered from the sidelines. Perhaps a less egocentric foreign policy is in order.

But, alas, Robert Gibbs provides proof of White House cluelessness:

Like the rest of the world, we were impressed by the vigorous debate and enthusiasm that this election generated, particularly among young Iranians.  We continue to monitor the entire situation closely, including reports of irregularities.

Yeah, everything was going so swimmingly with the handpicked candidates all committed to destroying Israel and pursuing nuclear weapons and then, poof! Who knew the fake elections were, you know, fake? But I bet the White House is “concerned” – who are they going to “engage” now?

And moreover, what is the White House going to do now? Is the administration prepared to do more than monitor or (that old standby) be “disappointed”? After witnessing just how thuggish the Iranian theocrats can be, what will Obama do to make clear his stance on human rights, democracy, etc?  This, from Hillary Clinton, suggests Obama is so bent on engaging he’s really not prepared to make a fuss:

We are monitoring the situation as it unfolds in Iran. But we, like the rest of the world, are waiting and watching to see what the Iranian people decide. The United States has refrained from commenting on the election in Iran. We obviously hope that the outcome reflects the genuine will and desire of the Iranian people.

Well for starters, Obama might drop the “Islamic Republic of Iran” canard since this is obviously no functioning republic in any meaningful sense.


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