Panel on Obama and Iran

Panel on Obama and Iran

By Special Report With Bret Baier - June 22, 2009


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The last thing that I want to do is to have the United States be a foil for those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States.

That's what they do. That's what we're already seeing. We shouldn't be playing into that.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: I don't consider it meddling when you stand on the side of the principles that made our nation the greatest nation in history.


BRET BAIER, HOST: An interview with President Obama before the weekend's events, and then you see the reaction from Senator John McCain.

But White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today said after seeing the images over the weekend, President Obama has been moved by what he saw on television, particularly so, said Gibbs, of the images of women in Iran who have stood up for their right to demonstrate, to speak out and to be heard.

What about all of this? Let's bring in our panel: Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, and Kirsten Powers, columnist of The New York Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer - Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think the president has made a few missteps, but the worst was when he said there was no difference essentially in policy between the current president and the challenger Mousavi.

First of all, there are people dying on the streets of Tehran in the name of exactly the opposite proposition. But secondly, that might have been true a month ago, but revolutions outrun their causes. They outrun their leaders. They change their leaders.

Mousavi was an orthodox member of the establishment for 20 years, but he has been radicalized. And now the statements we hear from his spokesman in London are very radical, challenging the legitimacy of the regime. The government itself is calling him an instigator and preparing the grounds to arrest him and to execute him. He has become radicalized.

The question is: Has he become Yeltsin? What this revolution needs a Yeltsin, a man who is of the establishment, respected, and who stands up on a tank, mobilizes the opposition, and brings the regime down.

What has happened is that Mousavi has become a Gorbachev. He is a reformer. But he is now hovering on the edge. It will be Mousavi or another, but without a Yeltsin - a man who galvanizes the opposition, who brings a million people out on the street and calls for a general strike - the revolution, I think, will fail.

BAIER: Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the way that I heard what Obama said was essentially we don't know how different they are. And I think what he was specifically referring to, actually, is maybe their views towards the United States.

Now, Mousavi may be a little more pro-American than Ahmadinejad, certainly. But how hard is it to be more pro-American than Ahmadinejad?

And I think that something we have to remember is this is not about America. This is about what is going on in Iran, and the fact of the matter is the people are rising up against a completely oppressive regime that is completely inept as well, does a very bad job of the running the government.

And I think that he wanted to do is not appear to be endorsing one side, which would have hurt Mousavi certainly if he appeared to be a puppet of the Americans, and to sort of reiterate that this is a home-grown uprising, that it has nothing to do with the United States.

BAIER: Do you think there is a regret in the White House that he didn't come out more forcefully in the beginning?

POWERS: I haven't heard that and I have seen many people come out, including Henry Kissinger, saying that he handled this very well, and that, in fact, it would be bad for the United States to get involved in this.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It is not a question of getting involved. We're not going to send troops there or anything like that.

The question was whether we would support the democratic voices and condemn the regime - a tyrannical regime - as Kirsten said, no question about that.

Obama has gotten better, I'll have to say, over the weekend. He got better. His statements are a little stronger, but really not strong enough yet.

And it was clear from the beginning what he was trying to do. I think it was probably clear to Mousavi and the demonstrators and the democratic forces in Iran, too. He tried to protect whatever relationship he has with Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah Khamenei because he thinks somehow he is going to get some grand bargain that they will back away from nuclear weapons.

They're not going to do that. They're the people who are not going to do it.

Mousavi might be. Mousavi is different on nuclear weapons too. He has said we will have nuclear power, but whether we have nuclear weapons or not, that's negotiable. That's the opposite of what the other regime has said.

He, also, is representing - I'm not sure how pro-American he is, but all of a sudden he represents the forces in Iran that are pro-American.

And then when you see, you know Obama has used - the most pathetic thing is to say, gee, well, we were involved in 1953 - 1953! This is an extremely young society. You think those demonstrators are thinking, well, we hope the U.S. stays out because they were involved in 1953? That's total nonsense.

POWERS: I think there is a history there.

BARNES: 1953?

POWERS: They do remember the United States meddling.

BARNES: No, they don't.

POWERS: I think the reason Obama didn't get involved I don't think is because of what you just said. I think it is because he truly believed that meddling in it would make them be able to come out and justify the repression.

BAIER: They were going to come out and charge that we were meddling even if we weren't meddling to begin with.

Charles, let me ask you about this image of this young woman, Neda, who now the image of her being shot and killed watching one of these demonstrations is now all over Internet.

It is a powerful image. And her family allegedly was denied a public funeral by Iranian authorities.

You have Senator McCain take to the floor of the Senate, saying "Neda died with her eyes open. Shame on us who lived with closed eyes."

It is a powerful image in this revolution. Is it enough to break the cleric's grasp on Iran?

KRAUTHAMMER: The opposition, the students, the demonstrators, have images and justice and the goodwill of the world behind them. However, the government has the guns and the thugs who are shooting.

I think that the government's suppression is extremely clever and effective. It is not yet the mass bloodshed in the streets like the Chinese had at Tiananmen. It's the shooting from the rooftops, which is real terror, because it means that only the most reckless and courageous will be out on the streets, so you don't have a mass demonstration.

It means the raids at night, where students are pulled out of dormitories, beaten, attacked, and disappear. And it means a very clever suppression of Internet and other traffic. So the opposition, right now, is, I think, on the defensive. Iconic images or not, it needs a general strike and a huge million people in the streets of Tehran.

BAIER: Very quickly, Kirsten, do we hear a different tone from the president at his news conference tomorrow in the Rose Garden?

POWERS: Well, I think we already started to hear a different tone. And I think he feels that he has to at least acknowledge that we do not condone this kind of behavior. But I think at the end of the day he still does not want to be seen as somebody who is propping up this revolt.

BARNES: But there is no way he can prop up demonstrators. All they want is expressions of support.

These democratic revolutions - wait a minute - these democratic revolutions, whether it is in Poland or the Philippines or South Korea or Indonesia or South Africa, they have always wanted international support. And it has always been important.

POWERS: But is there any doubt where Obama stands in this? Does anybody doubt that?

BARNES: Yes, there is great doubt. Of course there is doubt.

POWERS: Do you think the people of Iran don't know he stands behind them? Do you think he's on the side of Ahmadinejad?


John McCain on the Back Story of "Thirteen Soldiers"
Carl M. Cannon · November 15, 2014
A President Who Is Hearing Things
Richard Benedetto · November 12, 2014
Obama Is No Clinton
Larry Elder · November 13, 2014
Bret Stephens' Call for Robust U.S. Foreign Policy
Peter Berkowitz · November 16, 2014

Special Report With Bret Baier

Author Archive

Follow Real Clear Politics

Latest On Twitter