Barack Obama's statement today on Iran was good. His answers to questions that followed were not.
Most interesting was his exchange with Chuck Todd of NBC News. Todd asked why Obama has refused to discuss consequences for the behavior of the Iranian regime, given Obama's stated concern about human rights abuses.
Obama's answer was blunt and unsatisfying, saying that he won't talk about consequences because ""we don't know how this is going to play out."
That misses the point. The reason to talk about consequences is, at least in part, because it offers an opportunity to influence how this is going to play out. It may be the case that there are few potential consequences from the international community that could affect regime behavior. But if that's the case -- and given the regime's support for terror, its pursuit of a nuclear weapon, its theft of the election, and its violent suppression of the protests -- doesn't that make it more urgent for the international community to at least try to affect behavior and at least raise the possibility that there will come a time when the world refuses to recognize the current regime?
The protesters themselves seem to understand this and -- in interviews and in statements on their signs, etc. -- they have implored the United States to withhold recognition of the corrupt regime still attempting to hold onto power.
Obama said that it was more important for the Iranian regime to demonstrate its legitimacy to the Iranian people than to the international community and the United States. The regime cannot do this, of course, because the election was fraudulent, something Obama still refuses to acknowledge, preferring simply to observe that many Iranians think the election was illegitimate. Passive, again. So much for his promise to "remake the world once again," and to "help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East."
"When will Mr. Ahmadinejad be considered not legitimate in the eyes of his people?" asked Asar Nafisi, a viisiting Professor at Johns Hopkins and author of "Reading Lolita in Tehran," in an interview on CNN after the press conference.