Right-Wing Media Attack Obama With “Dangerously Misleading” Egypt-Iran Comparison

Right-wing media have seized on the conflict in Egypt to attack President Obama by comparing him to former President Carter and the Iranian uprising in the late '70s. However, experts have noted that comparing the uprising in Egypt to the 1979 Iranian revolution is “dangerously misleading.”

Right-Wing Media Strain To Compare Obama To Carter's Handling Of Iranian Revolution

Morris: Obama Is “Guilty Of The Same Mistake That Led President Carter To Fail To Support The Shah.” In a January 29 post on his website, Fox News contributor Dick Morris wrote, “The Obama Administration, in failing to throw its weight against an Islamic takeover, is guilty of the same mistake that led President Carter to fail to support the Shah, opening the door for the Ayatollah Khomeini to take over Iran.” Morris concluded, “We must not let the two most populous and powerful nations in the region fall under the sway of Muslim extremism, the one through the weakness of Jimmy Carter and the other through the weakness of Barack Obama.” [DickMorris.com, 1/29/11]

NRO: “Apparently, Obama & Co. Have No Historical Understanding Of The Iranian Debacle.” In a February 2 blog post on National Review Online (NRO), contributor Victor Davis Hanson wrote:

There are all sorts of unattributed quotes being reported in the press from “Obama administration officials” and “White House staff members” to the effect that we can work with the Muslim Brotherhood since it has “renounced violence.”


Apparently Obama & Co. have no historical understanding of the Iranian debacle: The Carter administration's problem was not just its shabby and indecisive clinging to/pushing out/disowning an ailing Shah, but that it (a) at first thought the murderous Islamists were at least better than the corrupt Shah; (b) then that it could finesse radical Islamists; (c) and finally that pampered Europhile intellectuals could stand up to radical-Islamic killers and thugs. [National Review Online, 2/2/11]

Erickson: Obama's “Becoming Carter Faster Than Carter Became Carter.” In a February 2 Red State post, CNN contributor and conservative blogger Erick Erickson wrote:

We cannot blame Barack Obama for Egypt collapsing in on itself.

We can however blame Barack Obama for failing to mitigate and control the impact of the collapse.


Note that by saying the Muslim Brotherhood “must reject violence and recognize democratic goals”, the White House is presupposing that the Muslim Brotherhood accepts violence and does not recognize democratic goals.

Notwithstanding that, the White House is perfectly happy to give them a seat at the table.

It's 1979 all over again. I hope the Embassy has been fully evacuated. [Red State, 2/2/11]

Geller: “Obama's Dhimmi Carter Moment.” In a January 28 post on her blog Atlas Shrugs, right-wing blogger Pamela Geller wrote:

If Obama had seized the moment in the Iranian freedom uprising, we would not be in this position now. Iran is casting a dark cloud over the free world. They are conducting a covert war against the West in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran has aligned with Venezuela and Brazil, in an Islamic imperialistic advance into Latin America.

Whatever comes after Mubarak will be terrible. Make no mistake.

The disastrous handling of the Iranian hostage crisis by the worst President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, led to the rise of Islamic jihad across the world (that and the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan). If we still had an ally in Iran, what a wonderful and different world this would be. [Atlas Shrugs, 1/28/11]

Limbaugh: “Are We Looking At The Second Term Of Jimmy Carter Here?” On the January 31 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, Rush Limbaugh said, “We have said from the get-go that if you wanted the second term of Jimmy Carter, elect Barack Obama, and here we are, and what happened in the first term of Jimmy Carter? We lost Iran to a bunch of radical Islamist extremists. Are we looking at the second term of Jimmy Carter here, losing Egypt to a bunch of radicalized Islamist extremists?” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 1/31/11]

Hoft Calls Obama “Jimmy Carter II.” In a February 2 post on his blog Gateway Pundit, conservative blogger Jim Hoft posted an edited version of a recent Time magazine cover, changed to show Carter, rather than Reagan, pictured with Obama. In the post, Hoft called Obama “Jimmy Carter II.” From the Gateway Pundit post:

TIME edited GP

[Gateway Pundit, 2/2/11]

Fox Nation: “Obama's 1979.” Fox News' blog Fox Nation linked to the post by NRO's Hanson under the headline, “Op-Ed: Obama's 1979.” From Fox Nation:

FN Iran 1979 Obama

In Fact, Experts Have Called The Iran/Egypt Comparison “Dangerously Misleading”

Carothers: “Invoking Iran After The Shah Is Scary Indeed, But Dangerously Misleading.” In a February 3 New Republic post cross-posted on NPR's site, Thomas Carothers, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote that "[n]o analogy will see Egypt fully through the difficult times it faces ahead. Its path will be a complex amalgam of political transitions from many parts. But, as we search for ways to make sense of what has been unthinkable for so long in U.S. policy circles, we should avoid the simplistic scare scenarios that come from poorly chosen analogies." Carother further noted:

At times of unexpected but momentous political change in distant countries, we grasp onto political analogies to help get our bearings. Even if we know they are imperfect, we can't resist their tempting suggestiveness. But, if we cannot resist them, we can at least choose them thoughtfully. Invoking Iran after the Shah is scary indeed, but dangerously misleading. A different analogy that provides more useful grist for our unsettled analytic mill concerning Egypt is Indonesia and Suharto in the late 1990s.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt today is significantly different from the Islamist movement driven by Ayatollah Khomeini that ended up grabbing power in Tehran. It has renounced violence in both word and deed for decades and undergone a significant process of moderation. It lacks a charismatic leader such as Khomeini and has already confronted limits to its popular backing through its unofficial participation in parliamentary elections. The current protests in Egypt have focused on non-religious concerns and not featured Islamist slogans or objectives. The Muslim Brotherhood will certainly play an important role in post-Mubarak Egyptian politics, but Egypt is not ripe for a radical Islamist revolution. [The New Republic, 2/3/11]

Prothero: “Egypt 2011 Is Not Iran 1979,” And “Obama Is Not Carter.” In a post on CNN's Belief Blog, Boston University religion scholar Stephen Prothero wrote that (emphasis in original) “there are parallels between Iran back then and Egypt today. ... But Arab Egypt is not Persian Iran.” Prothero explained that “Obama is not Carter” because “President Jimmy Carter has been widely criticized for fiddling as Iran burned. He didn't see the revolution coming and when it came his (in)actions only fueled the anti-American fire,” but “Obama is a far more pragmatic politician than his predecessor. And as a student of history, he knows how Iran swallowed up Carter and is doubtless determined not to be swallowed up himself.” Prother continued:

Analogies doubtless help us to think. But they can also channel our thought in directions that confuse and cripple us. In this case, analogical thinking is forcing far too many among us to imagine that the only choices in Egypt today are the specter of the Iranian Revolution or the friendly ghost of the American Revolution.

But these are not the only choices. Far more likely than a Western-style democracy or an Islamic republic is something in between, a secular government in which both the military and Islamic parties play a role.


Democracy is always messy; elections did put Hamas Islamists in power in Gaza. Nonetheless, as Egyptians lurch from monarchy toward something new, we should remember what the Egyptian people are trying to get across to Mubarak: Egypt is its own country and Egyptians will determine its destiny. [CNN's Belief Blog, 2/2/11]

Cole Notes That Religious And Secular Forces In Egypt Do Not Resemble Iran's 1979 Society. In a February 2 post on his blog Informed Comment, Juan Cole, the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, called those making comparisons to the 1979 Iranian revolution “alarmists.” He argued that the social and religious forces in present-day Egypt do not match those in late-'70s Iran by examining four social groups present in both countries: business (the bazaar), white and blue collar workers, secular parties, and religious forces. He explained:

So to recapitulate. The white collar and labor activists are far more central to the organization of the Egyptian protests than had been their counterparts in the Iranian Revolution. The Egyptian “bazaar” is much less tied to the Muslim clergy than was the case in Iran, and far less likely to fund clerical politicians. Whereas Iran's bazaar merchants often suffered from Western competition, Egypt's bazaar depends centrally on Western tourism. Secular parties, if we count the NDP, have an organizational advantage over the religious ones, since they have been freer to meet and act under Mubarak. It is not clear that the law banning religious parties will be changed, in which case the Brotherhood would again be stuck with running its candidates under other rubrics. And, Sunni Muslims don't have a doctrine of owing implicit obedience to their clergy, and the clergy are not as important in Sunni religious life as the Shiite Ayatollahs are in Iran. The Muslim Brotherhood, a largely lay organization, has a lot of support, but it is not clear that they could gain more than about a third of seats even if they were able to run in free elections. [Informed Comment, 2/2/11]