Posts Tagged ‘Ahmadinejad’

Campbell Brown Does the Best Journalism Ever!

Monday, July 13th, 2009

http://waffys.com/menu/liege/ [digg-reddit-me]Last week Campbell Brown provided a perfect example of the total abdication of the main responsibility of the press in a short piece in which she discussed the debate over whether or not the stimulus had worked or was working. The story was done in a perfectly formulated “he said, she said” manner in which she made no attempt to perform her basic job as a journalist: figuring out who is right and who is not.

It is hard to think of a more basic description of what the job of a journalist is than to say, “He or she should try their best to state the facts, and when there is controversy to try to get to the bottom of it.” Brown though is clearly happy to merely play clips of two different sides saying entirely opposing things, and then to smirk and hold herself above these individuals by taking no position whatsoever. It is on the shoals of this irresponsibility that our public policy debates will be run aground:

Someone here is right; someone is wrong; and there are various sets of facts out there backing up each side. Showing these clips like this – without delving into the actual policy questions accomplishes nothing.

Of course, someone might take the position that there was limited time on the air – and Brown didn’t have time to go into the details of the actual debate. And you’re right. Brown needed time for this great montage a few minutes later:

At the end of this segment, it’s easy to see how Obama is personally so popular and why his policies are less so. The policies are ignored on this serious news show while his coolness under the pressure of an annoying gnat are replayed once again.

Regardless of your position on the political spectrum, an actual discussion of policy in which facts were discussed rather than accusations traded would be to everyone’s benefit.

The Incoherence of Ajami

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Fouad Ajami wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal op-ed page on Obama’s response to Iran that John McCain (he of the “hip-shooting onanism”) called a “Must read.” You might remember Ajami for writing another op-ed just before the election in which he compared Obama to Eva Peron, Ayatollah Khomenei, and Gamal Nasser – third-world populists who had dictatorial tendencies (if they were not entirely dictators.) Ajami starts from the same starting points most right-wingers take when dealing with Obama – presuming him to be both naive and acting in bad faith. This in itself makes his piece unpersuasive.

But more importantly, in taking on the issue of Iran, Ajami seems to have no understanding of the power struggle actually occuring. Not that I’m an expert – but even I know that the people marching in the streets are chanting slogans from the 1979 revolution – which they still look to as a positive event. They believe they are fighting for the spirit of that Revolution, and they see Ahmadinejad as a perversion of the legacy of this revolution – as the religious order he follows did not participate in it and rejects many aspects of it. Ajami though blunders in the middle of all of this, and lends credence and support to Ahmadinejad by portraying him as “a son of the Ayatollah Khomenei’s revolutionary order.” The crowds Ajami supports reject this – seeing Ahmadinejad’s theft of the election as a repudiation of the 1979 revolution.

At the same time, Ajami profoundly misunderstands Obama’s rhetoric and method. Ajami claims that Obama “believed he could talk rogues and ideologues out of deeply held beliefs.” But what he misses is that Obama actually uses respect and civility as political weapons – in a classic community organizer technique.

And then there is Ajami’s total incoherence on looking at the differences between Obama’s and Bush’s approach to Iran:

[Obama] would entice the crowds, yet assure the autocrats that the “diplomacy of freedom” that unsettled them during the presidency of George W. Bush is dead and buried. Grant the rulers in Tehran and Damascus their due: They were quick to take the measure of the new steward of American power. He had come to “engage” them. Gone was the hope of transforming these regimes or making them pay for their transgressions. The theocracy was said to be waiting on an American opening, and this new president would put an end to three decades of estrangement between the United States and Iran.

But in truth Iran had never wanted an opening to the U.S. For the length of three decades, the custodians of the theocracy have had precisely the level of enmity toward the U.S. they have wanted – just enough to be an ideological glue for the regime but not enough to be a threat to their power.

Ajami doesn’t begin to deal with the coincidence that the fissures within the Iranian regime came suddenly into the open a few months after Obama stopped threatening to bomb Iran and Iran and reached out to them. Yet Ajami admits that the Iranian regime is held together by the “ideological glue” of  “enmity towards the U.S.” If a regime was held together by this, what better way to undermine it than to weaken that glue and break the cycle of escalating moral outrage. (Which again – is precisely the point of Obama’s method of reaching out.)

I don’t claim that Obama’s outreach caused this Iranian Green Revolution – but the removal of the U.S. as a potential invader of your country has a way of freeing up the internal dialogue. Without an external enemy to rally against, you focus on divisions within.

Ajami seems to think that after 30 years of pressure, America needed just a little more time to squeeze the regime before it fell. Now, it’s hopeless. Except, that at the moment, as soon as Obama relaxed our posture, the regime was shaken to its core – with the leading candidate the people rallied behind imitating Obama in several ways and the people on the streets expressing hope that Obama’s election in America might lead to a rapprochement.

Iran’s Green “Revolution”

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

There have been several positive indicators in the Middle East and surrounding regions since Obama’s Cairo speech – from the survival of the pro-Western government in Lebanon to the growing opposition of ordinary Pakistanis to the Taliban. It seems in both places – as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan – that the best strategy taken so far has been George W. Bush’s unintentional one of letting Al Qaeda win – and then stepping in to clean up after the fact once people have become disillusioned. But so far, the issue that has gotten the most attention has been Iran’s election.

Still, I’m not quite sure what to make of Iran’s election tomorrow. International newspapers seem to be hyping Mir Hossein Mousavi as Iran’s answer to Barack Obama. He is – it seems – an individual who has come to personify “change” and engagement with the world at large standing against a radical, polarizing, religious right-winger. At the same time Mousavi has close relations with the establishment of Iran – which allowed him to run. But he, like Obama, is not comfortable being a populist. His main opponent, Ahmadinejad, is. As Cameron Abadi described Mousavi’s defects in the Foreign Policy:

He talks only in generalities about his plans, his emphasis on competence and “scientific management.” He’s made promises to loosen restriction on personal freedom, but his ire is more drawn by Ahmadinejad’s “dictatorial” flouting of the checks and balances of the Islamic Republic’s constitution. Mousavi promises change, but no one would mistake him for Barack Obama. where to buy generic finast online He might not even qualify as a Michael Dukakis.

But somehow this establishment technocrat continues to routinely elicit rock-star receptions across the country. In the run-up to the election, much of grayish Tehran has been draped in green, the official color of the Mousavi campaign. The police and khaki-clad national guards have been forced to watch every day as Tehran’s youth — Iran’s baby boom generation of the 1980s — assemble in giddy pandemonium, distributing green bracelets and banners of protest against Ahmadinejad’s presidency, proselytizing to undecided pedestrians and whenever in doubt shouting taunting cries of “Ahmadi, bye-bye!” At night, the chorus of chants and laughter and hastily written campaign songs mingle with the din of car horns…

can you buy amoxicillin at cvs “We’ve never seen this before,” she said with a tremble. “This is our revolution.” [my emphasis]

Other reports have focused on Ahmadinejad’s large and boisterous crowds – and the excitment propelling him. Some have likened Ahmadinejad’s place in Iranian politics to Sarah Palin’s.

One recurrent theme in the reports on the Iranian election is that economic rather than foreign policy issues will determine the result. The downturn in Iran’s economic fortunes has brought to the forefront festering social issues such as the “marriage crisis” in which many Iranian men are being “priced out” of the marriage market and the ambiguous role of women in Iranian society (as they are more educated – 60% of university students are women – yet much more likely to be umemployed – as only 15% of the workforce is female.)

It’s not clear which way this election will go – and even if Mousavi wins in a landslide, it will not change the power structure in Iran significantly – as the power is concentrated in Khamenei’s hands.

But a hopeful sign is not something to be dismissed – and the desire for change moderately expressed can bring about a better world than most revolutions.

[Image by Shahram Sharif licensed under Creative Commons.]

Hillary running to be president…of 9/11

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Ben Smith at the Politico also picked up on one of my observations from my post about last night’s debate:

Hillary… brought up 9/11, more or less unprompted, three times so far in the debate, a level not seen since Rudy Giuliani dropped out in January.

The three examples:

“For Pastor Wright to have given his first sermon after 9/11 and to have blamed the United States for the attack, which happened in my city of New York, would have been just intolerable for me.”

Later:

“If I’m not mistaken, that relationship with Mr. Ayers on this board continued after 9/11 and after his reported comments, which were deeply hurtful to people in New York and, I would hope, to every American, because they were published on 9/11, and he said that he was just sorry they hadn’t done more.”

And:

“I certainly would not meet with Ahmadinejad, because even again today, he made light of 9/11, and said that he’s not even sure it happened and that people actually died.”

She’s not at the “a noun, a verb, and 9/11” level yet – but then she just started playing this card last night…

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