Monday, March 23, 2009

Neocon Bill Kristol Calls Obama an "Embarassment"

Kristol is one of the architects of the invasion of Iraq. He pushed for war with Iran during the Bush administration. While appearing on FOX News Sunday Kristol insults the President. Read the complete transcript. Excerpt below:

WALLACE: That was a video message from President Obama in which he seemed to turn the page on President Bush’s policy in recognizing the government of Iran.

And we’re back now with Brit, Mara, Bill and Juan.

So, Bill Kristol, you have an editorial in the new Weekly Standard in which I think it’s fair to say that you do not applaud the president’s message to Iran or his new policy. What’s wrong with it?

KRISTOL: You know, it’s an embarrassment. There’s no statement of solidarity with the people of Iran -- the word “liberty,” the word “freedom,” the word “democracy,” the words “human rights” nowhere in the message.

He speaks to the leaders of Iran who have imprisoned Americans in the last couple of months and American journalists who -- an Iranian blogger died in prison last week -- not a word about that. But he speaks to the leaders of Iran and promises them respect.

And it’s a gesture -- it’s weak, and I think the Iranians took it as a weak statement since they immediately showed contempt for it and said, “Well, that’s nice talk. Now follow up with some actions. Remove the sanctions.”

And I suppose now Obama will be under pressure -- he’ll feel that to really be nice to the Iranians, he’s now got to -- you know, he doesn’t mention the nuclear program, incidentally, in the statement. No, it’s a weak and embarrassing statement by a president of the United States. I hope it doesn’t actually have damaging effects.

WILLIAMS: Well, I couldn’t disagree more. I mean, it seems to me this is the start of a new year there, and this was a new year statement and an attempt to sort of set forth new diplomatic opportunities to say we are going to view you as a government. He didn’t use the term regime of President Bush’s vintage. Instead, he says, “We view you as a government, but at the same time, you can only gain credibility in the international community by peaceful means, not through use of terror.” And I think he speaks very clearly, if not, you know, powerfully, to the idea that there are alternatives here for the U.S., but we now choose to try to engage you, to speak to you.

And their decision to, you know, come back, you know, with -- sort of disrespectfully -- I think that speaks to them, but it says to the international community the United States is trying its best to work this out peacefully and, therefore, Russia and the European community might do something with the United States.

WALLACE: Brit, one of the things that the foreign policy people have noticed is that twice in his address, he talked specifically about the Islamic Republic of Iran, which President Bush never did -- and see that as him taking regime change of the Islamic fundamentalists government there off the table.

HUME: Well, perhaps he did. You know, Condoleezza Rice said something to me last year that when she -- when she said it, I was surprised. She said almost no governments in the world practice diplomacy the way the United States does. “Huh?” I said. She said that is that we practice diplomacy always backed up by the possibility or even the threat of some force -- forceful action, whether it be economic or whatever.

She said most governments in the world think diplomacy -- you don’t do that. You talk, and then when that doesn’t work, you talk some more, and then you keep talking, and eventually you hope through diplomacy of this kind to persuade regimes that you’re having trouble with to behave differently.

Well, it appears that Barack Obama , by this statement, has joined the rest of the world. She said -- Rice told me -- she said the United States does it that way, the Brits do to some extent, and the Australians do. Well, it appears that President Obama has joined the rest of the world in practicing the diplomacy of talk.

WALLACE: Mara, let me -- the White House officials make two arguments to explain what President Obama did. They say, one, it’s important to play the diplomatic card first, to show good faith, so that if it fails, then you can go back to the allies and ask for tougher sanctions.

And two, they say there are Iranian presidential elections coming up this summer. This kind of moderate talk perhaps undercuts the hardliners.

LIASSON: Well, I don’t know about the second part. The first part I agree with. I don’t think the damage by this videotape is going to be great, and I do think it gives Obama a firmer leg to stand on when he tells the Europeans, “I tried this, I got no response. Now I want you to join with me in these tougher sanctions.”

Now, the second one, whether this kind of a statement can actually influence the Iranian elections -- I don’t know. I think that, you know, the initial reaction from Iran was very hostile, and it came from the ayatollahs, but what -- you know, we’re told by experts in Iran that sometimes it takes a couple weeks for them to actually formulate their response to...

HUME: The worst thing that...

LIASSON: ... something, and this is the placeholder.

HUME: The worst thing that could happen would be for the Iranian government to respond favorably and positively and want to engage and have a discussion. And then we would be on a track like that which will lead nowhere in the end.

I mean, it’s not as if there’s not enough evidence to figure out what kind of government this is and what its intentions are. That’s been abundantly clear for many, many years.

And a -- and a -- and an endless round of talk -- first, there’d be talks about talks, and then there’d be talks, and then there’d be talking, and in the meanwhile the Iranian regime would continue to do what it’s been doing, but everybody in the world would sit by nodding affirmatively that this is the right approach. It’d go nowhere.

WALLACE: But, Bill Kristol -- Bill Kristol, the -- President Bush didn’t recognize the Islamic Republic of Iran. He didn’t engage in diplomacy without preconditions. Where did that get us?

KRISTOL: It got us three rounds of sanctions agreed to by the U.N. and by the Europeans. Why did the Europeans...

WALLACE: But did the sanctions have any effect on Iran?

KRISTOL: Well, if not, then we have to consider the use of force. But if you want more sanctions -- the reason the Europeans went with sanctions is because we were threatening. It’s because we deposed Saddam Hussein, and that’s when they got interested in sanctions suddenly, in late 2003, and because they were worried that the Bush administration might actually do something.

With Obama taking the threat of force basically off the table, the willingness of the Europeans and certainly of the Russians to be serious about sanctions is going to diminish. Appeasement begets appeasement. Appeasement does not -- appeasement does not lay the groundwork for toughness among your allies who already are weaker.


WILLIAMS: Why do you think -- why do you think that he’s taken anything off the table? He simply offered...

KRISTOL: Here’s why.

WILLIAMS: ... an opportunity to have a discussion.

The second point to make is in terms of these elections that are scheduled, I think that you have to have some faith in the Iranian people that they are, in fact, hoping for some moderation and change and view this as an opportunity to isolate the hardliners.

WALLACE: All right.

KRISTOL: If they could vote for someone who wasn’t a hardliner, they might vote for people. But they’re...

WALLACE: That’s change.

KRISTOL: It’s not a free country.