Jeffrey Lord thinks historical memory and national differences are irrelevant. Of course, he does. Philip Klein thinks that what is needed is a lot more cheap talk that will get people killed because some Iranian activist says it sounds like a good idea. The activist was unhappy with Obama’s statement, which sounded to him like, “This is none of our business.” That’s not really what Obama said, but as it happens it is none of our business. Indeed, if there were the slightest chance of Obama being able to do something directly in support of the protesters that might involve risking American lives and interests, at least half of the people belittling him as the anti-Reagan and worse would be shouting about how it is none of our business, and they would be right. Everyone seems very willing to be very bold and zealous for the protesters’ cause so long as it doesn’t cost them anything, and they are even more enthusiastic if it serves as a handy cudgel with which to beat their political opponents here at home.
While we’re at it, let’s remember Reagan had leverage against the Soviets and the Polish government in 1981 because of all that dastardly detente, arms negotiations and the existence of trade relations with Poland. Thanks to thirty years of bankrupt Iran policy, we have very little leverage with the Iranian government, and this is a situation that the President’s critics would like to perpetuate indefinitely. If Obama’s choices are limited to remaining largely silent or saying something reckless, it is the result of thirty years of truly isolationist policy that the President’s critics have supported. Vilification, sanctions and hostility for decades have not made the regime more flexible, open or relaxed, but instead it has become even more inflexible, closed and repressive. Now we’re supposed to listen to the people who backed every failed policy towards Iran?
Update: Klein responds:
And this is about more than “cheap talk,” it’s about the American president using his microphone [bold mine-DL] to stand up for democracy and human rights.
How could I have missed it? This is about the President’s cheap talk, not just any cheap talk. If the President were to follow this advice and “stand up for democracy and human rights,” what would it accomplish? It might make his critics happy, and maybe it would make him feel better. At best, it would provide some momentary consolation to the protesters, while doing nothing else for them, and at worst it would inspire them to take a more confrontational line against the government in the vain hope of foreign assistance. In that case, Obama will have taken a stand, and the protesters will have been beaten down even more severely.