At his press conference today, President Obama, in a pre-arranged move, invited a reporter from the Huffington Post to ask a question submitted by one of the Iranians with whom that reporter has been communicating via the internet. The reporter, Nico Pitney, transmitted this question:
Under which conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad? And if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there, isn’t that a betrayal of — of what the demonstrators there are working to achieve?
What a terrific question — a query that not one in a thousand American journalists could be expected to match — and kudos to Pitney for selecting it. The question elegantly but pointedly (1) refutes the suggestion of Obama’s apologists that the president helps the protesters by remaining above the fray while (2) reminding Obama that he cannot really remain above the fray in any event because he must eventually accept the election of Ahmadinejad by dealing with him as planned or reject that fraudulently reached outcome by changing his course.
The president could only bob and weave. He responded that the U.S. did not have observers on the ground and therefore could not know whether the election was legitimate. But the U.S. knows that the candidates were pre-screened by the regime, making the election inherently illegitimate.
He responded further that it is up to the Iranian people, not the U.S., to view the election as legitimate or not. But a portion, and probably very large portion, of the Iranian people has already decided that the election is not legitimate; yet the “result” will stand and Ahmadinejad will serve another term. Thus, the ball is now in the Obama administration’s court to treat the election as legitimate, by dealing with Ahmadinejad even as he represses his own people, or to demur.
The question thus stands unanswered by Obama, though it answers itself: if Obama treats Ahmadinejad as the legitimate leader of Iran in the absence of significant changes in conditions there, that would indeed constitute a betrayal of what the demonstrators are working to achieve.