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Holding out on Us Again?

David Brooks keeps telling us the Obama administration is smarter than it appears. Obama’s assembled advisers are “brimming” with smart domestic-policy ideas, he attests; alas, we see only reheated New Deal leftovers. And on Iran, he tells us:

What’s important is that the Obama administration understands the scope of what is happening. And on the big issue, my understanding is that the administration has it exactly right.

The core lesson of these events is that the Iranian regime is fragile at the core. Like all autocratic regimes, it has become rigid, paranoid, insular, insecure, impulsive, clumsy and illegitimate. The people running the regime know it, which is why the Revolutionary Guard is seeking to consolidate power into a small, rigid, insulated circle. The Iranians on the streets know it. The world knows it.

First, the Obama administration’s stance is so patently absurd and morally appalling that even Hillary Clinton wants to distance herself from it. Let it never be said that she has no core values.

Second, once again, where is the evidence of the president’s blazing insight? Is there any evidence — none is given by Brooks — that the Obama administration grasps the “scope of what’s happening”? His nod toward the “Supreme Leader,” constant invocation of  “engagement” (as if to reassure us there is still a regime to engage with) and musing that it really doesn’t matter at this point how things turn out, all suggest just the opposite — that Obama and the prevailing members of his team have utterly missed the paradigm shift from election to rebellion and the potential for a national and regional reordering, should the mullahs’ regime collapse. (Even David Ignatius has lost patience, calling for the president to “express his solidarity with the Iranians who are so bravely taking to the streets each day,” pleading with him to let his “engagement” blather “sit” for now.)

If the president really is overflowing with new domestic innovations and really does intuit the potential for vast change underway in Iran, he’s doing an awfully good job of concealing both. Moreover, I don’t quite see the point of “laying low.”

There is of course another explanation: he’s a radical liberal on domestic policy and a Chas Freeman “realist” on foreign policy (e.g. hostile toward Israel, unconcerned with human rights, contemptuous of the idea of American exceptionalism). That isn’t the image he spun for the elite punditocracy during the campaign but it sure explains his actions since taking office.



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