Kate’s Corner: Iran’s explosive situation

By Kate Doak.

Iran’s recent political upheaval took a rather dramatic turn over Tuesday with the assasination of a Nuclear scientist from Tehran University. According to Iran’s semi-official news agency Press TV, Professor Massoud Ali Mohammadi was killed after a bomb hidden on his motorcycle was remotely detonated.

The explosion took place near the professor’s home in Qeytariyeh neighbourhood, in northern Tehran” Press TV stated. Further broadcasts have claimed that Mohammadi was “assassinated in a terrorist act by counter-revolutionary elements,” identifying him as “a committed revolutionary lecturer”.

Regardless of who actually killed the victim however, Mohammadi’s murder represents an escalation within Iran’s already brittle political environment. While Iranian authorities are portraying this as a terrorist act, it’s hard to find any valid reason as to why the Protestors would want to target Mohammadi in particular. Up until now the Protest movement within Iran has also been extremely fragmented, with no identifiable leaders coming forth. As a result, most of the protests have been extremely disorganised. If the Protesters were somehow involved in this attack, then it raises questions as to who organised it and just how stable the Iranian regime really is.

On the other hand, given Mohammadi’s background as a Nuclear Physcist, the Iranian Government would benefit both domestically and abroad from such an attack. In the wake of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Iran has claimed that Mohammadi’s assassination is evidence of Western interference in their domestic affairs. While stalling negotiations, such claims will also allow Iranian authorities the opportunity to maintain their crackdown over their citizens and the independent media.

By refusing to openly support the Opposition movement within Iran during the early Post-election protests,  President Obama may have prevented the United States from becoming the scapegoat of the Iranian authorities over this incident. If so, expect the Democrats to capitalise on Obama’s silence during earlier protests over the coming days.

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I Accept Allahpundit’s Apology in Advance

Over at Hot Air, some righty troll has posted the news that I was 100% correct in my assessment of Robert Gibbs’ comments on Iran yesterday.  Your plate of crow awaits, Mr. Pundit.

I Didn’t Think Green Avatars Were a Left/Right Phenomenon

It was a nice kum ba yah moment while it lasted.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs made a remark at today’s briefing that has even the normally reasonable right-wingers in an insane froth.  The key passage is Gibbs’ last line of this clip:

Q But does the administration recognize Ahmadinejad as the legitimate President in Iran?

MR. GIBBS: He’s the elected leader.

Now, Gibbs may or may not deserve some ire for his execution, but he was obviously trying to parse the difference between formally recognizing Ahmadinejad as President, and acknowledging the fact that he has been awarded the election.  “He was awarded the election” might have been a better word choice, but as the last in a series of follow-ups, there wasn’t opportunity for much clarification.

What it is not is this: (from Hot Air)

Instead, so desperate are these tools to get Iran to the bargaining table and show Americans some sort of dividend from Hopenchange diplomacy that Gibbs actually acknowledges Ahmadinejad as the “elected leader” — the same lie the regime’s been telling the world and the same lie Iranians have been dying in the streets to challenge. As a de facto — and entirely gratuitous — endorsement of their corruption, it’s the lowest moment of The One’s presidency so far.

However, while I find this overreaching attempt to score political points on the backs of Iran’s protesters distasteful and disappointing, I’m absolutely shocked by this presumption of bad faith:

And the only thing that’ll take the sting out of it is watching all the dumb liberals who painted their Twitter avatars green two months ago in solidarity with Mousavi’s supporters hemming and hawing now over how our lord and savior really had no choice but to kiss ass here.

This is a sickening violation of an unspoken armistice that rose up between the left and the right during the Iranian unrest.

When this whole thing started, when conservatives on Twitter took the lead in supporting protesters of the Iranian election, there was a suspicion voiced among some liberals that this was pure opportunism, that the concern was feigned as an excuse to criticize President Obama.  Indeed, this was true of some GOP politicians, but in the Twitter community, the Iranian election developed into a moment of surprising unity.

At times, liberals would, privately, evince feelings of superiority at their late-arriving conservative counterparts’ seemingly new-found concern for Iranian citizens, but I wouldn’t entertain that.  A sincere change of heart is to be welcomed, not scorned.  You would have to think pretty poorly of your fellow man to think he wasn’t moved to the core by events such as the killing of Neda.

Alas, the right seems unable to extend that same benefit of the doubt.  Now, we either agree with Allahpundit, or we’re trendspotting dilletantes who could give 2 shits about the Iranian people.  This, from the same guy who cheered when John McCain cracked wise about bombing those same Iranian people:

It’s obvious that this is less an example of Maverick’s vaunted “straight talk” than him just being playful on the spur of the moment. Even if so, joking about bombing Iran certainly won’t hurt his standing with the base, to whom he needs to feed a lot more red meat if he wants the nomination. He’s already starting to do that; the trick is to not alienate the centrists and leftists who admire him in the process.

Here’s that ruddy, meaty crowd-pleaser now:

The accomplishments of the Twitter community (right, left, up, down, and center) during the Iranian unrest were remarkable.  Here’s hoping that the desire to score cheap political points doesn’t overshadow them completely.

As for Gibbs, you could argue that he deserves some measured criticism here, but I don’t think this statement alone warrants it.

Public Option the True Test of President Obama’s Game

gnipgnop

This has seemed like a bad week for healthcare reform.  Congressional Blue Dogs are doing their damnedest to kill the public option, and the White House seeming to backtrack on their support of it.  While expressing strong support for it, Gibbs has consistently refused to draw a line in the sand on the public option, and this week, inched back a little.

If this were any other politician, I’d be throwing my hands up in disgust, because this is how these backslides start.  The obvious interpretation is that the White House is innoculating itself from the public option’s defeat.

In Barack Obama’s case, though, this isn’t so obvious.  I’ve spoken before about his unique political MO, likening it to the “rope-a-dope.”  In this case, I hope, he’s being more of a chess player.  Since I’m more of a Gnip-Gnop player, I haven’t got it all figured out yet.

It is important to note that my confidence in the President, to this point, is based on past performance, not magical thinking.  He’s a progressive in triangulator’s clothing.  I’ve been sure he was blowing it before, only to be proven wrong.

This time may be different, however.  He was right to determine that momentum was key to passing strong reform.  Already, this week, one poll is being used deceptively to claim support for a public option is slipping.  The spineless sellout Blue Dogs think they’re in the driver’s seat.  Opponents of the public option continue to pound the public with lies.  Now, it seems like the White House is sounding the retreat.

If Barack Obama is the chess player I think he is, he’s got a plan to rescue the public option from the Blue Dogs.  If I’m right, it will involve Rahm Emanuel and some blunt conversations about mid-term elections.

I don’t think that Barack Obama is a bad enough politician to take the disastrous hit of no public option when he’s got airtight majorities in both houses of Congress.  On the other hand, he likes for it to look like the other guy’s idea.

Either way, I hope the President knows that defying his base, and 76% of Americans, is not an option.  Time to use that powder.

Washington Post Publisher’s Apology Doesn’t Wash

Update: This is a piece I wrote for Mediaite that got pushed out by other news.  The WaPo ombudsman is as unimpressed as I am by Weymouth’s explanation.

The hot, steaming mess that is the Washington Post Salon-gate scandal just keeps getting hotter and more messified.  Katharine Weymouth, the publisher who was to host the chummy, “non-confrontational” soirees with Post reporters and Obama administration officials, has issued an apology:

I want to apologize for a planned new venture that went off track and for any cause we may have given you to doubt our independence and integrity. A flier distributed last week suggested that we were selling access to power brokers in Washington through dinners that were to take place at my home. The flier was not approved by me or newsroom editors, and it did not accurately reflect what we had in mind. But let me be clear: The flier was not the only problem (emphasis mine). Our mistake was to suggest that we would hold and participate in an off-the-record dinner with journalists and power brokers paid for by a sponsor. We will not organize such events. As publisher it is my job to ensure that we adhere to standards that are consistent with our integrity as a news organization. Last week, I let you, and the organization, down.

That’s a pretty good start, but then, Weymouth goes on to explain that the way she had planned out the events would have been just ginchy.  So what happened?

When the flier promoting our first planned event to potential sponsors was released, it overstepped all these lines. Neither I nor anyone in our news department would have approved any event such as the flier described.

We have canceled the planned dinner. While I do believe there is a legitimate way to hold such events, to the extent that we hold events in the future, large or small, we will review the guidelines for them with The Post’s top editors and make sure those guidelines are strictly followed.

That sounds a lot, to me, like “Yeah, the problem was the fliers.”

The Post’s ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, doesn’t seem to be buying what Weymouth is selling:

Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti issued a statement describing the flier as a “draft.”

The “draft” is a single-page solicitation, printed in full color on glossy paper, which was distributed to potential underwriters for a gathering on health care. It reads: “Underwrite and participate in this intimate and exclusive Washington Post Salon, an off-the-record dinner and discussion at the home of CEO and Publisher Katharine Weymouth” on July 21.

Oh, it was a draft.  Kinda like those photocopied sheets they distribute in every office in America for the football pool, or something.  Just a sketchy, hastily prepared spitball-y deal, right?  Not so much.

post-salonflier

Alexander goes on to quote Charles Pelton, whose office produced the flier, taking a curiously high-handed attitude:

“There’s no intention to influence or peddle,” Pelton said this morning. “There’s no intention to have a Lincoln Bedroom situation,” referring to charges that President Clinton used invitations to stay at the White House as a way of luring political backing.

Do you really want to bring up bedroom hijinks here, Chuck?

The one positive, as I have noted, is that the Washington Post’s own Howard Kurtz did a good job in reporting on his own paper’s scandal.  Still, although it’s pretty clear to me that Kurtz got all he could out of Weymouth, some may question whether he really held his boss’s boss’s feet to the fire.

It also has the side-effect of undercutting Post reporters’ ability to point out other journalists’ potential conflicts of interests.  For example, when this story broke, I was immediately put in mind of Dana Milbank’s lecture of HuffPo’s Nico Pitney on Kurtz’s own “Reliable Sources.”  That splinter in Pitney’s eye is looking positively microscopic, now.

Kurtz, ironically enough, raised questions about such conflicts in reporting on the launch of this site.  In responding to criticism about his consulting business, Mediaite founder Dan Abrams was blunt:

Says Abrams: “It does seem I’m being held to a higher standard than anyone else in the history of the consulting world. That’s okay. . . . What some of the purists say is that if you’re engaged in journalism at all, you should not be able to work with business, ever.”

By that standard of purity, it would be tough to argue for the continued existence of the Post, at least under the stewardship of Katharine Weymouth.

Update: President Obama responds to ‘Public Option Cave’ Story

Update: I told you so.  Jump to the end for a statement the President released this morning, obviously in response to the WSJ article.

The Huffington Post is running the scare headline “WHITE HOUSE MAY CAVE ON PUBLIC OPTION,” linking toxraybanner this Wall Street Journal report that seems to have Rahm Emanuel begging Republicans and Blue Dogs to punch the public option in the face:

It is more important that health-care legislation inject stiff competition among insurance plans than it is for Congress to create a pure government-run option, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Monday.

“The goal is to have a means and a mechanism to keep the private insurers honest,” he said in an interview. “The goal is non-negotiable; the path is” negotiable.

What the frak, Rahm?  Didn’t I just get done saying how you guys punked the Blue Dogs with the $611 billion HELP committee bill that includes a public option?

Coming, as it does, on the heels of President Obama’s urging that outside groups stop attacking cojone-free Democrats on the public option, supporters of the public option are not too happy with Rahm’s comments (or “Rahmments). Continue reading

“Washington Post For Sale” Bombshell Good News/Bad News

What a disappointing day for journalism.  Not minutes after I revisited the dark Playboy saga, I got an email from Lee Stranahan with his video parody of a story I hadn’t even heard yet:

Apparently, WaPo’s publisher hatched a half-baked scheme to pimp the paper’s staff, and the Obama Administration, for huge wads of cash: Continue reading