Since the disputed June 12 presidential election in Iran, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been routinely criticizing President Obama’s response to the crisis. Yesterday on CBS’ Face the Nation, McCain echoed the GOP’s party line, saying “the United States hasn’t done anything” and sought fervently to cast Obama’s actions as “tepid.” Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) demanded that Obama “lead the free world and not follow it.”
But this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough broke ranks and called the senators’ criticism “an exercise in doing things that make us feel good about ourselves” while labeling it “outrageous.” Scarborough — called the “new face” of the GOP by Christopher Buckley — went on to say that those rebelling in Iran would be punished more severely if Obama were to follow McCain’s advice:
SCARBOROUGH: All we would do is undermine those people in the street, who the second that they are attached to the United States of America, the country after all that’s been known in Iran as the great Satan since 1979, we will undermine their cause … It’s so shortsighted I find it stunning. […]
What would John McCain and Lindsey Graham specifically have the president say? All of those people that are emailing in and telling me that I’m being liberal? Oh really? I’m being liberal? No I think it’s called restraint. Showing a little bit of restraint. Looking at the battlefield in front of you and not just running up Pickett’s Charge and getting gunned down. If you want to feel good about yourself — and you can only feel good about yourself by screaming about the evils of Iran — fine do that. But our leaders in Washington don’t need to do that because people will be routed in the street the second they are identified with the United States of America.
Despite McCain and Graham’s claims to the contrary, Obama has expressed U.S. disapproval of the Iranian government’s actions. Obama released a statement on Saturday condemning the violation of human rights while steering clear of the politics. In an interview with CBS’ Early Show this morning, Obama responded similarly to Scarborough, saying the U.S. has to guard against being used as a scapegoat by the Iranian regime:
“The last thing that I want to do,” the president said, “is to have the United States be a foil for — those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States. That’s what they do. That’s what we’ve already seen. We shouldn’t be playing into that. There should be no distractions from the fact that the — Iranian people are seeking to — let their voices be heard.