Hayes misrepresented Obama comments to suggest excessive deference to Ahmadinejad

››› ››› ANDREW WALZER

In a June 18 blog post, Stephen Hayes claimed that President Obama "has gone to great lengths to avoid saying anything casting doubt on the legitimacy of the Ahmadinejad government" and said that during a CNBC interview, Obama repeatedly referred to the "Iranian government." In fact, Obama noted challenges to Ahmadinejad's legitimacy and did not refer to the "Iranian government" in that interview.

In a June 18 Weekly Standard blog post, Stephen Hayes claimed that President Obama "has gone to great lengths to avoid saying anything casting doubt on the legitimacy of the Ahmadinejad government and ... in his comments on CNBC earlier this week repeatedly referred to the thuggish regime as 'the Iranian government.' " In fact, during the June 16 interview with CNBC chief Washington correspondent John Harwood, Obama said, "[U]ltimately the question that the leadership in Iran has to answer is their own credibility in the eyes of the Iranian people." He continued: "[W]hen you've got 100,000 people who are out on the streets peacefully protesting, and they're having to be scattered through violence and gunshots, what that tells me is the Iranian people are not convinced of the legitimacy of the election." Moreover, at no point during the June 16 CNBC interview did Obama say "the Iranian government." Rather, Obama referred to "the leadership in Iran," "the regime," and the "Iranian regime" that "we were going to be dealing with" regardless of who won the election.

From the June 16 CNBC interview:

HARWOOD: Couple things, quickly, before we run out of time. You took your time reacting to the protests in Iran after the election. What are you watching for in the handling of those protests and in the investigation of the results to -- and how will that influence the dialogue that you seek to have with Iran?

OBAMA: Well, I think first of all, it's important to understand that although there is amazing ferment taking place in Iran, that the difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as has been advertised. Either way, we were going to be dealing with an Iranian regime that has historically been hostile to the United States, that has caused some problems in the neighborhood and is pursuing nuclear weapons. And so we've got long-term interests in having them not weaponize nuclear power and stop funding organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas. And that would be true whoever came out on top in this election. The second thing that I think's important to recognize is that the easiest way for reactionary forces inside Iran to crush reformers is to say it's the US that is encouraging those reformers. So what I've said is, 'Look, it's up to the Iranian people to make a decision. We are not meddling.' And, you know, ultimately the question that the leadership in Iran has to answer is their own credibility in the eyes of the Iranian people. And when you've got 100,000 people who are out on the streets peacefully protesting, and they're having to be scattered through violence and gunshots, what that tells me is the Iranian people are not convinced of the legitimacy of the election. And my hope is that the regime responds not with violence, but with a recognition that the universal principles of peaceful expression and democracy are ones that should be affirmed. Am I optimistic that that will happen? You know, I take a wait-and-see approach. Either way, it's important for the United States to engage in the tough diplomacy around those permanent security concerns that we have -- nuclear weapons, funding of terrorism. That's not going to go away, and I think it's important for us to make sure that we've reached out.

From Hayes' Weekly Standard blog post:

And later, in what could also be understood as rebuke of Obama -- who has gone to great lengths to avoid saying anything casting doubt on the legitimacy of the Ahmadinejad government and who, in his comments on CNBC earlier this week repeatedly referred to the thuggish regime as "the Iranian government" -- Makhmalbaf asked the international community not to recognize the government of Ahmadinejad as a legitimate government.

FP: Does Mousavi have a message that he'd like to deliver to the international community?

MM: [He asks] that the governments [of the world] pay attention to the people in the streets and do not recognize the government of Ahmadinejad as the representative of Iran -- [that they] do not recognize the government of Ahmadinejad as a legitimate government.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.