Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) introduced a non-binding resolution yesterday “condemning the crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Iran.” Roll Call reports that it was “cleared for a Friday floor vote.” Pence, in recent days, has been all over cable news channels talking up his resolution, repeatedly insisting that it was motivated out a sense of loyalty to the “American cause of freedom.”
While the text of his resolution appears to offer unobjectionable support for Iranian freedoms, Pence is using bipartisan support of the resolution to criticize the Obama administration’s response to Iran.
On Fox News this morning, Pence repeated the pitch he’s made again and again on cable news in recent days: “We’ve yet to hear the President express the unqualified support of the American people for the people who are bravely going to the streets in Iran.” But despite his very public campaign for Obama to make such a statement, Pence admitted that he hadn’t actually talked to the President about how to best support the people of Iran:
PENCE: I haven’t talked to the President about it this week, but I do want to say that I think it’s a false choice to say that you can be either about engagement and or speak the ideals of the American people and our historic commitment to freedom. I think you can do both.
Later, Pence cited former President Reagan’s speech at the Brandenburg Gate as reason for Obama to combine tough pro-democracy talk with engagement. Watch it:
Despite Pence’s criticisms, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger endorsed Obama’s response. “I think the president has handled this well,” he said. Similarly, Iranian human rights activist and the Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi called Obama’s comments on Iran “sufficient” and said “what happens in Iran regards the people themselves, and it is up to them to make their voices heard.” Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) took a similar view, saying, “For us to become heavily involved in the election at this point is to give the clergy an opportunity to have an enemy and to use us, really, to retain their power.”
Pence also may want to consider how the demonstrators feel about the U.S. inserting itself into their struggle. Former Iran correspondent for Time magazine Azadeh Moaveni reported that there is “a resounding belief that this time the United States should keep out.” As for Pence’s criticism that the U.S. posture toward Iran should include Reagan-style pro-democracy rhetoric, Obama already has that covered. In his speech in Cairo earlier this month aimed, in part, at Iran, Obama declared:
America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere.
Politico reports that Obama’s White House aides worked with House Democrats “to moderate a fire-breathing resolution circulated by Republicans to rebuke Iran for its post-election crackdown on dissent.”
,Despite the fact that Obama has steered clear of meddling in Iran’s internal affairs, President Ahmedinejad’s top political aide has been trying to allege U.S. “interference.”