Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Obama press conference: 95% cured


Obama opened with a stronger condemnation of the violence in Iran (which the White House helpfully translated into Persian), although, he said, “the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran”. Although, since the election was stolen, the concept sovereignty is a little dicey at the moment. I’m not sure why election theft creates such confusion in language; Obama also said, “If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights and heed the will of its own people.” Of course if it heeded the will of its own people, the guys currently running it wouldn’t be the government anymore. Also, he thinks governments only get the respect of the international community if they respect rights and heed the will of their people – isn’t that just adorable?

He again suggested that it is “up to the Iranian people to decide who their leadership is going to be and the structure of their government” without suggesting how they might do so, given the, you know, stolen election. Not that he should be issuing marching orders, of course, but he’s the one who said that the Iranian people should decide their leadership, when there is no functioning mechanism for them to do so. He did say that “those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.” But very often they also wind up dead.

Still, as Obama keeps saying, the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice. I think that’s the liberal equivalent of the Laffer Curve.

“This tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries won’t work anymore in Iran.” Er, why not?

Asked by CBS’s Chip Reid if his stronger words about Iran were “influenced at all by John McCain and Lindsey Graham accusing you of being timid and weak,” he replied “What do you think?”

A PROBLEM: “I think that when a young woman [Neda Agha-Soltan] gets shot on the street when she gets out of her car, that’s a problem.”

There was a lot about health care, which I won’t get into, except to note that Obama refused to say that inclusion of a public option was non-negotiable.

About his own smoking: “I don’t do it in front of my family.” Insert Bill Clinton joke here. Also, he declared himself “95% cured.”

OPTIMISTIC, OR JUST STUPID? YOU BE THE JUDGE: About the economic depression: “What’s incredible to me is how resilient the American people have been and how they are still more optimistic than -- than the facts alone would justify.”

(UPDATE: The best question was one I only half-heard. After Obama said that he’d seen the Neda video and it was heart-breaking, Helen Thomas – who had not been called upon – interjected to ask why then he was suppressing the Guantanamo photos. Obama, in a rather condescending tone, and to the supportive laughter of the press corpse, told her that was “a different question,” and proceeded to ignore her.)

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