Commentary Magazine


Re: To Speak Out or Not to Speak Out

Over the weekend it was Sen. Joe Lieberman, today it is Sen. John McCain, on the events in Iran:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Monday called the recent reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a “sham” and criticized President Barack Obama’s administration for not voicing strong opposition to the election’s result.

“The reaction of the Iranian people shows their discontent with this regime,” McCain said during an interview on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.”

“It’s really a sham that they’ve pulled off and I hope that we will act,” he said.

[. . .]

McCain chided the administration for not coming out more forcefully against Ahmadinejad’s reelection, voicing disappointment in administration officials who have been quoted in some news reports indicating that “they’re not going to change their policy of dialogue.”“I think they should be condemned, and it’s obvious that this was a rigged election and depriving the people of their democratic rights,” the Arizona senator said. “We are for human rights all over the world.”

And from Eric Cantor’s office, this statement:

“We stand with the people of Iran in their struggle to participate in a democratic election and who deserve the right to freely assemble and voice their opposition to its questionable outcome.

“The Administration’s silence in the face of Iran’s brutal suppression of democratic rights represents a step backwards for homegrown democracy in the Middle East.  President Obama must take a strong public position in the face of violence and human rights abuses.  We have a moral responsibility to lead the world in opposition to Iran’s extreme response to peaceful protests.

“In addition, Iran’s clerical regime has made clear that its nuclear program will move forward.  The United States cannot trust the aspirations of a nation that is a state-sponsor of terrorism, and the Administration must work with Congress to do everything in its power to deny Iran nuclear weapons.”

The president who appeared today to give another platitudinous speech on healthcare has been mute on Iran. But how long can the administration simply have “doubts” or continue to study the matter? If Congressmen and Senators come forward individually or collectively to issue words of condemnation, won’t the administration look rather hapless for having failed at least rhetorically to establish its position? One is reminded of the Russian invasion of Georgia, when candidate Obama took days to figure out his position after calling for “calm” from both sides. But now he’s president — and it’s time to lead.