The Media’s Response to Iranian Protests? Protect Obama!
In a volatile situation reportedly sparked by a sudden hike in food supplies, Iranians have taken to the streets in three full days of protest with some calling for the end to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s reign of power. The protesters, angry about a corrupt government, a failing economy, and a lack of basic human rights throughout the Islamic Republic, could also pose a threat to the regime of President Hassan Rouhani, who was elected partially on his promise to revitalize the Iranian economy. Far from carrying through on that promise, Rouhani has presided over a government largely run by hardline Islamists who have spent much of the country’s capital on warfare – both current and potential.
President Donald Trump had weighed in twice on the protests as of Saturday. On Friday, the president said, “Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption & its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching!”
On Saturday, President Trump tweeted two more messages in support of the protesters. “The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most,” he wrote. “Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice. The world is watching!”
Strangely (or not, given their biases against this administration), the American news media, which would typically write sympathetically in favor of oppressed people seeking greater freedom, has suggested that the best thing Trump can do…is to keep his mouth shut. Unbelievably, after a solid year of criticizing the president for failing to use the White House as a bully pulpit to speak out in favor of human rights around the world, the New York Times is now telling Trump that he can best help the Iranian people by holding his tongue.
In a piece published Sunday, Phillip Gordon wrote, “I, too, want to see the government in Tehran weakened, moderated or even removed. So let me offer Mr. Trump some unsolicited advice: Keep quiet and do nothing.
“On Friday night and again on Saturday, Mr. Trump sent out tweets calling on the Iranian government to ‘respect their people’s rights’ and warning that ‘The world is watching!’ That’s more than enough,” he continued. “At this stage, we have little idea what these protests are really about or where they will lead. But we can be fairly certain that high-profile public support from the United States government will do more harm than good.”
Ah, so in this instance – this ONE instance – it is counterproductive for the American president to weigh in on the situation? Why would they take such a stance?
Well, there are two reasons. One, it gives them yet another opportunity to let their readers know that “Donald Trump is doing it wrong,” which is apparently the only story they know how to write these days. Two – and perhaps more importantly – it allows them to protect the legacy of Barack Obama, whose silence during the 2009 Iranian protests was deafening.
Of course, we know now why Obama remained mum; he wanted to protect the nuclear agreement that was, at the time, only a blueprint on the drawing board. But his refusal to support the protesters can only be regarded as a black mark on his human rights record, and that black mark looks especially bad if Trump takes the opposite approach. Therefore, the New York Times has to take the extraordinary position that they’re taking: America has no business interfering in the affairs of a sovereign country.
Gee, doesn’t that sound like the very sort of Trump rhetoric they’ve been bashing since July 2015?