CNN's Bennett criticizes Obama for calling Khamenei Iran's "supreme leader"


CNN's Bill Bennett criticized President Obama for "referring to" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as Iran's supreme leader. However, the Bush State Department, and conservatives, including Bill Kristol and Sens. John McCain and Richard Lugar, have also "referred to" Khamenei as Iran's "supreme leader."

On the June 21 edition of CNN's State of the Union, referring to President Obama's reaction to events in Iran, CNN political contributor Bill Bennett stated: "We should be on the side of freedom, and not on the side of this -- the supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei], as our president keeps referring to." But Obama is not the only person who refers to Khamenei as the "supreme leader." In fact, the Bush State Department, and conservatives, including The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, and Republican Sens. John McCain and Richard Lugar [IN], have also "referred to" Khamenei as Iran's "supreme leader."

Conservatives who have referred to Khamenei as the "supreme leader" of Iran include:

  • Sen. John McCain: As the blog Think Progress noted, during a June 19 appearance on Fox News' Your World, McCain stated: "There may be those indications since the supreme leader said that they were not going to tolerate further demonstrations in the street."
  • Sen. Richard Lugar and Brent Scowcroft: During a March 5 hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Lugar asked: "But even if there is a public opinion in Iran, does it make any difference? In other words, if this is a theocracy, a regime of the supreme leader, and leaving aside whatever [Iran President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad's situation is, my basic question is should our negotiating posture be one of dealing with the supreme ruler? And if we do, is he inclined to want to negotiate or is his position one in which he sees security by not doing so?" Lugar also stated: "Well, my time is up, but it would be interesting to pursue really, as you say, how the supreme leader looks at the economic picture, the history. In other words, there might be some reasons why the supreme leader could come under some circumstances to a different view toward us."

    Also during the hearing, Brent Scowcroft, former National Security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, stated: "Well, I agree in general with what is being said. I don't think we know about the supreme leader. But it seems to me, first, he has no reason to feel kindly toward the United States. Second, he probably has as his minimum achievement preserving the regime in Iran."

  • Bill Kristol: In his September 5, 2007, Weekly Standard column, Kristol wrote: "After all, if Khameini (to whom the IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps] reports) has already established the principle of cross-border attacks against accelerators of violence, who are we to disagree with the wisdom of the Supreme Leader?"

Additionally, as part of its March 2008 "Background Notes" on Iran, the Bush State Department listed "Supreme Leader" as Iran's head of state.

From the June 21 edition of CNN's State of the Union with John King:

JOHN KING (host): Are we seeing here something we have seen before, in the sense that the statements are still not where you would like them to be? I believe -- and let me stop for a second. Do you believe the president should say, "If you are out in the streets, 'I stand with you. We stand with you' "?

BENNETT: Absolutely.

KING: Is that what you're looking for?

BENNETT: And if you look carefully at the statement, it's a nice invocation of King and other great people, but it's still a dial tone; it's still, we are watching. We're an observer. We're a witness. He should be a participant in this. He absolutely should be. And the fist should be the fist of the Statue of Liberty. That's what this country stands for.

And by the way, I would go even further and disagree with the quote you ran of Senator [Dianne] Feinstein [D-CA]. She's been reassured we're not doing anything. We should be doing something. We should be giving these people phone cards and duplication machines and access to Internet that they don't have, and cameras and cell phones that the government can't block. We should be on the side of freedom, and not on the side of this -- the supreme leader, as our president keeps referring to.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, International Conflicts
Bill Bennett
State Of The Union
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