In his recent prime time press conference, President Obama declared that his delayed response to the AIG bonus scandal was because “I like to know what I talk about before I speak.” One wishes Obama would apply the same principle to his statements on Iran’s nuclear program, which have consistently defied reality and the views of the U.S. intelligence community (not always the same thing). Even this week — in the midst of defending his video overture to the Iranians — Obama again contradicted the findings of the IAEA and the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, suggesting that Iran actually has nuclear weapons right now:
When it comes to Iran, you know, we did a video sending a message to the Iranian people and the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran. And some people said, “Well, they did not immediately say they were eliminating nuclear weapons and stop funding terrorism.” Well, we didn’t expect that. We expect that we’re going to make steady progress on this front.
It may seem a bit trifling to criticize Obama while he tries to defend reaching out to the Iran, but it’s important to remember that words actually have meaning. Obama does not appear as ready to attack Iran as the Bush administration sometimes appeared — which explains much of the muted progressive reaction to his repeated distortions of U.S. intelligence — but neither did President Clinton seem ready to do much else but bomb and starve Iraq. Still, his policies, and his signature on a bill declaring regime change in Iraq official U.S. policy, contributed to the successful selling of a war with Iraq in 2003.
So far, Obama doesn’t seem to be calling for regime change, and his overtures to Iran are certainly welcome, if a bit showy. But those overtures have not yet been backed by a change in policy. For instance, in early March, Obama, following in the footsteps of the Clinton and Bush administrations, extended sanctions against Iran, declaring that, “The actions and policies of the Government of Iran are contrary to the interests of the United States in the region and pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”
And here I thought frugal Asians were to blame for America’s economic woes.