It isn't exactly like dancing on Neda's grave, but it's close enough to
make decent people uncomfortable.
Neda is or rather was Neda Agha Soltan, 26, the beautiful young
student whose apparently random murder on the streets of Tehran by a
regime thug was captured on video and transmitted around the world.
Neda's become as much the symbol of the resistance in Iran as the young
man who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square in 1989 was of
the democracy movement in China.
At a news conference Tuesday, President Barack Obama condemned the
"threats, beatings and imprisonments of the last few days," but stopped
short of criticizing the stolen election that sent more than a million
protesters into the streets, or expressing support for those protesters.
The president's limited criticism of the Iranian regime took place a
week after the leaders of Canada, France and Germany issued stronger
ones. It was prompted, said Andrew Malcolm of the Los Angeles Times, by
Sen. John McCain's "angry Senate Neda speech Monday" which made it
politically difficult for Mr. Obama to continue to sit on the fence.
But in the question session which followed his prepared remarks, the
president indicated there is no amount of blood the regime can shed that
will dissuade him from negotiating with it.
This reached macabre proportions when Mr. Obama indicated his invitation
to Iranian diplomats to attend Fourth of July parties is still open.
There are arguments for negotiating with brutal regimes. But to
socialize with the butchers while they are killing their own people is
Most protesters in Iran think Mr. Obama's equivocation is a tacit
endorsement of the regime. "The people of Iran will not forgive Barack
Obama for siding with the evil regime," Kianoosh Sanjari, an exiled
student protest leader, said in an interview last week.
So White House aides compounded the obscenity when they told the
Washington Post the protesters were inspired by the president's speech
to Muslims from Cairo June 4.
"This is very obviously an attempt at damage control," said Web logger
Ed Morrissey. "Obama has gotten hammered for staying behind
the curve of Western leaders in the defense of liberty, freedom and
human rights...Now, suddenly, he wants to claim credit for getting there
first with his Cairo speech which had nothing to do with overthrowing
mullahs, and in fact had only a passing mention of democracy as an
official U.S. policy in the Middle East."
The president knows he's been a day late and a dollar short since the
Iranian crisis began, and is defensive about it. He grew testy when
Major Garrett of Fox News asked him what took him so long to condemn the
regime's violence against protesters. His remarks have been consistent,
Mr. Obama said.
"Even the most egregious toady in the White House press corps knew that
wasn't true," said Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard.
For President Obama to be following events rather than leading them is
part of a pattern, said JWR columnist Michael Barone, who recalled Mr. Obama
was "flummoxed" last year by the Russian invasion of Georgia. It took
candidate Obama three days to issue a statement criticizing the
"Obama likes to execute long-range strategies but suffers from cognitive
dissonance when new facts render them inappropriate," Mr. Barone said.
Another clue to the president's timid and tepid response to the turmoil
in Iran is the number 129. That's the number of times Mr. Obama voted
"present" in the Illinois state senate. This is not a guy who is
comfortable taking clear positions on controversial issues.
Another clue is in the structure of a typical Obama speech. In his
speech in Philadelphia last year on race relations; in his speech at
Notre Dame in May on abortion, and in his speech in Cairo to Muslims in
early June, Mr. Obama described clashing points of view, and set himself
up as a referee between them. This is a guy who sees himself more as
the analyst in the booth than as the man in the arena.
Comedian Greg Gutfield described Mr. Obama as "the bystander in chief."
That may be his inclination, but it is hard to vote "present" in the