Commentary Magazine


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Bizarre, Indeed

Charles Krauthammer zeroes in on just how odd the president’s language and stance throughout the Iran uprising have been:

I find the president’s reaction bordering on the bizarre. It’s not just little and late, but he had a statement today in which he welcomed the Iranian leader’s gesture about redoing some of the vote, as you indicated.

And the president has said “I have seen in Iran’s initial reaction from the supreme leader.” He is using an honorific to apply to a man whose minions out there are breaking heads, shooting demonstrators, arresting students, shutting the press down, and basically trying to suppress a popular democratic revolution.

So he uses that honorific, and then says that this supreme leader — it indicates that he understand that the Iranian people have deep concerns about the election. Deep concerns? There is a revolution in the street.

And it is not about elections anymore. It started out about elections. It’s about the legitimacy of a regime, this theocratic dictatorship in Iran, which is now at stake. That’s the point.

What we have here is a regime whose legitimacy is challenged, and this revolution is going to end in one of two ways — suppressed, as was the Tiananmen revolution in China, or it will be a second Iranian revolution that will liberate Iran and change the region and the world.

His first point, that Obama quite gratuitously expresses respect for the “Supreme Leader,” provides evidence to support the analysis of Bob Kagan and others that Obama is not simply exercising some seasoned judgment in figuring out how to help the protesters, but actively working to maintain the legitimacy of the regime. At a time when Iranians are questioning the authority of the mullahs, Obama appears utterly tone deaf and obsequious.

And Krauthammer’s additional point — that Obama seems oblivious to the Iranian situation having fundamentally changed — is a telling one. There is something nearly desperate about the president’s frequent affirmations that, yes, he’ll negotiate with anyone left standing. Really, nothing has changed. Nothing at all. A Grand Bargain is still in the offing.

If this ends poorly — in a brutal crushing of the protesters — the lack of moral leadership will haunt the president. Why didn’t America do more? And if the regime is upended, Obama’s dreams of a deal with the mullahs will fade and there will be great upset and turmoil. Either way, Obama’s fondest hopes for a return to the status quo will be dashed — and with it the mythology that his aura can motivate, inspire, and change events on the ground.