The dramatic and at times deadly post-election fallout in Iran dominated the Sunday conversation. And as we watched more demonstrations on the streets of Tehran, the debate among key policy-makers in the United States centered on whether the Iranian regime was potentially near a tipping point and whether President Obama has been too cautious his handling of this major challenge.
(CNN) — The dramatic and at times deadly post-election fallout in Iran dominated the Sunday conversation. And as we watched more demonstrations on the streets of Tehran, the debate among key policy-makers in the United States centered on whether the Iranian regime was potentially near a tipping point and whether President Obama has been too cautious his handling of this major challenge. Developments of note included: • The chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said she has been assured, as of late last week, that no clandestine U.S. operations were under way aimed at helping the protesters or influencing the Iranian election. • The ranking Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar of Indiana, said he believed Iran’s supreme leader had mistakenly escalated the stakes of the showdown by demanding an end to protests. • Lugar also said that if the government of Iran indicated a sudden willingness to negotiate with the United States about its nuclear program, the administration should accept the offer despite the regime’s harsh handling of the election crisis. The senator also said he thought such an invitation was “improbable.” • The president’s rhetoric has become more forceful with each new statement on the crisis. But some of his conservative critics say he still falls short of what they would like to see: an unequivocal statement that he stands with those in the streets. President Obama’s evolving position “What you’re seeing in Iran are hundreds of thousands of people who believe their voices were not heard and who are peacefully protesting and seeking justice. And the world is watching. And we stand behind those who are seeking justice in a peaceful way. Already we’ve seen violence out there. … We stand with those who would look to peaceful resolution of conflict and we believe that the voices of people have to be heard. … The last thing I want to do 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.” — President Obama interviewed on Friday by CBS’ Harry Smith
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“The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.” — Presidential statement released on Saturday by the White House Read more about Obama’s statements Reaction to the president’s statements “If America stands for democracy and all of these demonstrations are going on in Tehran and other cities over there and people don’t think that we really care, then obviously, they’re going to question do we really believe in our principles.” — Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa on CNN’s “State of the Union” “We should not let them change the narrative to one of being, you know, meddling Americans, American Western imperialism, that sort of thing.” — Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana, on “Fox News Sunday” “This regime is corrupt; it has blood on its hands in Iran, they’ve killed Americans in Iraq, innocent Iraqi people, now they’re killing their own people. Stand up with the protesters, that’s not meddling, that’s doing the right thing.” — Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, on ABC’s “This Week” “I think the president has it correct. … It is very crucial as I see it that we not have our fingerprints on this. That this really be truly inspired by the Iranian people. We don’t know where this goes. And I sure wouldn’t want to be responsible for thousands of people being killed, which is a distinct possibility.” — Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California on “State of the Union” Read more about what the senators had to say The future of Iran and relations with the U.S. “I think we’re seeing a challenge of the regime. The leader Khamenei perhaps made a grievous error by making that issue. In other words, he could’ve called for another election or for reforms or various other things. In his speech on Friday, comprehensibly, he said now out in the streets you’re indicating opposition to the state, the regime itself. It’s not a question of Moussavi or Ahmadinejad; it’s me and the Supreme Council.” — Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, on “State of the Union” “This thing is unfolding, and it’s never going to be the same in Iran. Something is stirring in the hearts of Iranians that we’ve never seen before. And we shouldn’t just measure it by the number of people on the streets. There are a lot of people in their homes that are feeling this. This is a movement of the likes of which we’ve never seen. I think it’s going to continue. We have to monitor it closely.” — Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, on “State of the Union” Sens. Lindsey Graham and Christopher Dodd had an interesting exchange with George Stephanopolous, host of “This Week”:
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Graham: “The regime, to me for the moment, is more important than negotiating about nuclear weapons. If we could empower the Iranian people by giving them the moral support they deserve, then — and do sanctions and stand tough against this regime. It’s one thing for me to talk here in South Carolina about Iran, the people who are out in the streets in Tehran are losing their lives are the ones that I admire. And we’ve got a chance here to stand by these folks and give them the moral support we need.” Stephanopolous: “So just to be clear, you’re for regime change” Graham: “Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.” Stephanopolous: “Are you, Sen. Dodd” Dodd: “…Well, I would love to see a different regime in Iran. Who wouldn’t My Lord, what’s going on there for the last 30 years has been a disaster for the people in Iran. Certainly I would like to see change there.” Read more about what the senators had to say On the domestic front Health care was the key subject of discussion domestically. Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, suggested the president and key players in Congress might have to scale back their heath care goals. That’s after the Congressional Budget Office estimated plans would cover fewer uninsured Americans at a far higher cost than previously thought A sober assessment came from another key voice in the debate. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, said the president’s problem at the moment is a shortage of votes among Senate Democrats. Across the airwaves, many GOP voices suggested it was time to set aside calls for sweeping reforms and look for incremental steps to deal with the major health care issues. “The CBO estimates were a death blow to a government-run health care plan. The finance committee has abandoned that. We do need to deal with inflation and health care, private and public inflation, but we’re not going to go down to the government-owning-health-care road in America.” — Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, on “This Week” Read more about health care costs Father’s Day discussion “State of the Union” headed to the home of the Cleveland Indians, Progressive Park, and our diner conversation wasn’t over coffee but hot dogs and beer instead. The dads were concerned about the future of the kids they had brought to see batting practice. King: “People used to define the American Dream — the next generation always does better than the last generation. Is that in doubt” Joel Brodman, Ohio resident: “Somewhat. But it always turns around. It always does. The economy always turns around. It might be five years. You might have to go to college. You will be going to college to get a job. That’s one thing that’s changed. You must go to college to get the first.” Tom Nowak, Wisconsin resident: “Similar, but maybe not better. Out of school in ’83 and that was a real tough job market then as well. Some guys struggled for a while finding a job. I think college grads now will have that same problem.” King: “Does that scare you all, looking at these guys” Jeff Landry, North Carolina resident: “You know what; I’ve got a kid here who’s 13, that’s going to college. My 529 has suffered and his 529 has suffered. And this little guy down here, Adam has suffered. I think people’s attitudes, quite frankly, have changed. I think we’re probably more similar to my grandmother from the Great Depression where I think people are going to be a little bit more conservative financially, not taking the risks that they once were.” Watch dads discuss issues at the ball park