The President climbed aboard his rhetorical high horse to survey the Iranian situation for the benefit of the press today. After a superficial acknowledgment of Iranian sovereignty, he basically spoke as if assuming that which remains to be proven: that the past week's demonstrations in Tehran were a legitimate demonstration against a stolen election. His statements may still seem tame by neocon standards, but identifying the protesters with "those who stand up for justice" pretty much rules out the possibility that they might just be a disaffected faction that happens to be concentrated in a large city. Other utterances were more vague. When he spoke of a "remarkable opening within Iranian society," did he mean the election or the demonstrations? It's easy for him to deplore the "brutality and threats" faced by the demonstrators, but how different, perhaps from the body count, would an American response have been to a similar demonstration following a similarly disputed vote? It would have been amusing had someone asked Obama whether he would have supported Tehran-style demonstrations in this country in 2000 or 2004, when large numbers of people contended that presidential elections had been stolen.
I'm being hard on the President because I insist on an objective perspective on Iran. It seems to me that there is evidence, despite the Guardian Council's disclaimers, of some kind of vote-rigging. But there is no evidence that I am aware of to prove that Mir Hossein Mousavi was the actual winner of the election. Mobs are not evidence for anything but their own biases. Mobs in the streets of Washington in 2000 would no more have proven that George W. Bush had stolen the presidential election than actual mobs in the streets of New York in 2003 proved that the country opposed the invasion of Iraq. But the paradigm of "people power" has led many Americans to believe that mobs in the streets of reputedly repressive countries represent the true will of all the people -- except if they say such things as "Death to America" or "Death to Israel." We'd do well to remember our Founders' reservations about mob rule before cheering on mobs unconditionally in other places. But the President's nod to the Neda cult suggests that we can expect no better from him, and worse from the opposition.