Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Obama's Press Conference on Iran

"We have plenty of seats up front."

Just having watched the Obama press conference, in which he spoke on Iran, energy and health care, I'd like to forgo the latter two (with one small exception) and concentrate on his words regarding the crisis in Iran because I think it was most telling. My impression is that the President has been changing his tune on Iran day by day as events unfold and in response to the domestic criticism on his measured responses.

Notice that the President read from a prepared text-as perhaps he should have- given that every word he says on Iran is being measured world wide. Suffice to say that he more forcefully criticized the Iranian Government than in past days. I think it's fair to say that what he said today he could have said a few days ago. That tells me he is reacting to the critics who have accused him of not saying enough.

As I said previously, Obama clearly wants to prevent the Iranian regime from making the US the issue by charging US/CIA interference in its domestic affairs. However, as he himself noted, they are doing that already, a charge he forcefully denied. If the Mullahs and Ahmadinejad can convince the Iranians that the protests are all inspired and orchestrated by the Americans, they will win. Having said that, I think it's a stretch to think that verbal condemnation of the Iranian governmental actions does not constitute interference-especially when entities like the French and German governments have been much more outspoken.

It is also becoming clear that when it comes to foreign affairs, Obama is not nearly the smooth, comfortable technocrat that he is on domestic issues. He is clearly feeling his way in the international arena.

It was also noteworthy that even though Fox News correspondent Major Garrett asked the toughest question (on Iran), other reporters from other outlets also asked some pointed questions and pressed for follow-up questions-often to Obama's annoyance. Fox's Britt Hume has now opined that the much-criticized "honeymoon" period with the press (which was threatening to turn into a successful marriage) may now be coming to an end. We'll see.

The exception I wanted to note was when a lady reporter queried him about black unemployment and what he would do to curb the rising unemployment rate. His answer was that the best he could do for the black (and Latino) unemployment situation was to press through his economic reforms, which would raise everyone's situation. Isn't that the same answer that Republican presidents have been giving for decades-and for which they have been criticized by Democrats?

President Obama, in my view, has been moving boldly on his domestic agenda (I just don't agree on it.) It seems to me, however, that when it comes to Iran, he is waking up every day to see which way the wind is blowing-over there-and over here.

Speaking of waking up, has anybody woken up Helen Thomas yet?

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