Over the weekend, both conservative columnist George Will and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan argued that conservative criticism of President Obama’s rhetorical restraint amidst the Iranian protests was unwarranted.
“The president is being roundly criticized for insufficient rhetorical support for what’s going on over there. It seems foolish criticism,” Will said.
“To insist the American president, in the first days of the rebellion, insert the American government into the drama was shortsighted and mischievous,” Noonan wrote. “The ayatollahs were only too eager to demonize the demonstrators as mindless lackeys of the Great Satan Cowboy Uncle Sam, or whatever they call us this week.”
Both Will and Noonan are right that Obama should not endorse former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi, but the president should certainly speak up for the principles of freedom, liberty, and free elections. He should point out that Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis, and Turks — almost all of Iran’s neighbors — have freely chosen governments, and that this is a right that the Iranian people should also enjoy. Indeed, he can cite the Iranian legacy of elections going back to the constitutional revolution early last century. Right now, the Iranians are suffocating under a media blackout. In Tehran during the 1999 student uprising, I remember the frustration in the streets at the lackluster international response, especially as Iranian state television began broadcasting forced confessions.