Published June 23, 2009
President Obama has been blamed for everything from messing up Iranian elections to using the wrong mustard on his cheeseburger. Once you start accusing the president of using the wrong condiments, it's difficult to take what would otherwise be considered real criticisms seriously. Former Bush flack Ari Fleischer went so far as to give Bush 43 credit for what's happening in Iran, which then had the Republicans in the position of giving Bush credit for the very thing they're blaming Obama, concurrently.
On Saturday Obama signaled to the Iranian government to "stop all violent and unjust actions." But that hasn't stemmed the criticisms from the hard right. Senator Lindsey Graham called him "timid and passive;" Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley called it "a slow and muted response;" Fred Thompson said Obama isn't doing nearly enough; and Bennett called Obama "bungling." But the president's measured tones are the correct course, and they're put in perspective by Fareed Zakaria, who points out," President Obama has made it extremely difficult for the Iranian regime to claim that they are battling an aggressive America bent on attacking Iran." And he reminds us that "a good historic analogy is President George H.W. Bush's cautious response to the cracks in the Soviet empire in 1989. Then, many neo-conservatives were livid with Bush for not loudly supporting those trying to topple the communist regimes in Eastern Europe. But Bush's concern was that the situation was fragile. Those regimes could easily crack down on the protestors and the Soviet Union could send in tanks. Handing the communists reasons to react forcefully would help no one, least of all the protesters. Bush's basic approach was correct and has been vindicated by history."
We are all seeing, well, maybe not a revolution, but a Twittolution in Iran. Rarely do good things come from trying to change the world at the point of a gun. More powerful, more organic, and less bloody are changes that are coming via computer terminals. When the state department asks Twitter not to shut down for one hour for scheduled maintenance because of the impact it's having, it's time to sit up and take notice.
Whether or not we see immediate changes in Iran above the surface, there is clearly a below-the-surface bubbling that must and will rise. And it will do so partly because of an American president who knows that confrontational words do not achieve the outcome that is best for the world; and it will do so partly because maybe there is a revolution taking place, 140 characters or less at a time.
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