WASHINGTON (CNN) - A top congressional Republican on Thursday joined critics of the White House's response to Iran's disputed presidential election, saying the United States has a "moral responsibility" to condemn attacks on protesters.
"The administration's position that what's going on in Iran is a 'vigorous debate' is absurd," House Minority Whip Eric Cantor said in a statement released Thursday. "People are being brutalized and murdered by the regime in Tehran. We have no idea exactly how many have died or have been seriously injured, since the regime has restricted journalists. In no way do these actions constitute a 'vigorous debate.'"
The congressman from Virginia, the No. 2 Republican in the House, added that "America has a moral responsibility to stand up for these brave people, to defend human rights, and to condemn the violence and abuses by the regime in Tehran."
Obama said Monday he was "deeply troubled" by the violent protests that followed Friday's vote, which official results show resulted in the re-election of hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But he avoided siding with Ahmadinejad's opponents, telling reporters that "It is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be."
Tuesday, he added, "It's not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling, the U.S. president meddling in Iranian elections."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs defended that approach Thursday, telling reporters Obama "believes that he's struck the right tone."
"I know some people agree with what Sen. McCain said. Some people agree with what other Republicans have said that's very much like the president's position," Gibbs said. "The president strongly believes that we should - and have - spoken out to ensure the demonstrators have the universal right and principle to demonstrate without fear of harm. But at the same time, we have to respect their sovereignty."
Obama's opponent in last year's presidential race, Sen. John McCain, said Wednesday that the president's stated desire to avoid meddling in the Iranian elections sends the wrong message.
"On this issue, I do not believe that the president is taking a leadership (role) that is incumbent upon an American president, which we have throughout modern history, and that is to advocate for human rights and freedom - and free elections are one of those fundamentals," the Arizona Republican told CNN's "American Morning."
But Moorhead Kennedy, a former diplomat who was among the hostages held in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and 1980, told the same program Thursday that "If we have to hold back from interfering in any country, it should be Iran."
"I think if I had any conclusion to draw, we would have been much better off not interfering in Iran now," he said. Because the United States backed a 1953 coup that put Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in charge, and supported him until the 1979 revolution that created today's Islamic republic, Kennedy said, "There are a great many resentments there."
McCain said he wasn't calling for any American "meddling" by demanding free elections and human rights. But Sen. John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Washington would be making an "enormous mistake" by taking sides in the Iranian protests.
"There is no need for the United States of America to step into the middle of it and make this about America," Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, told CNN's "The Situation Room."
"It is an Iranian moment, spurred on by Iranians, thoroughly supported by Iranians to the degree that the supreme ayatollah has now backed off his own support for the elections (and) called for an investigation," he said.
– CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Deirdre Walsh, Peter Hamby and Dan Lothian contributed to this report.
Updated: 8:04 p.m.
Thank God, it's Obama in office and not McCain or any other republican war mongering idiot. With Obama saying we shouldn't "meddle", he's taking away anything the Iranian government can say suggesting this unrest in their country is due to the United States. Oh, how nice it is to have an intelligent President for a change who thinks before he speaks. We just might have a chance of once again becoming a respected country in the world's eyes.
Jimmy Combs - "...re-establishing the principles on which this country was founded, and crushing liberalism forever." I'm sorry to conclude you never made it past 6th grade–perhaps your lack of intellect can be attributed to the in-breeding that occured because of marriages arising out of family reunions–but the principles upon which this country was founded were democratic and respected the rights of free speech and assembly. I don't recall the Constitution saying those rights were only reserved for those with conservative thinking. Were you perhaps thinking about Nazi Germany rather than the United States?
"Obama is too much of a wimp to stand up to Iran and demand any kind of accountability for their elections"
"Demand" how dumb!
"their elections" your right here!
Sounds like another wonderful Bush administration policy. Let's get our nose involved where we don't belong. The Iranian people if really tired of their leadership should stand up for themselves. It is none of our business. When will republicans wise up and realize that they don't own the world.
Repubs think they own the world.
Funny thing, Bush and Cheney had 8 years to tell Iran what to do.
Mr. Cantor, why don't you go over to Iran yourself and tell them how to run their country. While you're at it, take John and Sarah with you.
What a surprise. The warmonger Republicans want to go to war again despite the fact that their last war, based on lies, nearly bankrupted the country and caused the world economy to see its worst recession since the Great Depression.
Republicans, its time to keep your warmongering to yourself. No one else wants to hear it.
Cantor is a hall monitor that only knows how to complain.
Jon June 18th, 2009 3:56 pm ET
It's nice to see someone in Washington with a little common sense, who sees brutality for what it is and not a debate. President Obama's messaging reminds me of some of the messaging of the old Soviet Pravda newspaper.
duh duh duh...blah blah blah. Jon, you know nothing! But that's consistent with the leaders of your party. Ever heard of Darfur. ALL THE EXPERTS SAY STAY OUT OF IT! These are people from Iran saying the president is right. These people have family members in Iran so I take their opinions as much more realistic than the confused butt pickin you and your party espouse
Republican Whip Eric Cantor's statements are insane. He is only taking this position because there is an opportunity to take one. He cares nothing for the people of Iran. Republicans care for no one, but the businesses.
Bomb, baby, bomb??
Oh, yeah, that would galvanize the Iranian base against the US. And then we could have another REAL American war!!!!
Mr. Cantor, we have lost thousands of Americans due to the atrocities of Iraq, and you are worried about Iran. How about Sudan, Pakistan, and the many other genocides in progress right now? Does Oil have anything to do with this Mr. Cantor?
What needs to be done is to get all those OLD HEADS thats been in congress and the senate OUT so we can get people of the 21ST century in there with BRAINS because these people are stuck on STUPID!!! Mccain don't know if he's coming or going and Cantor just opens his mouth and make no sense AT ALL!!! as most of the republican party! Dems really need to show them who is in charge period!
Everyone that is familiar and knowledgeable about Iran has said getting involved with the election dispute would be damaging to Moussavi and help Ahmadinejad.
I am so happy McCain did not get elected.
I trust President Obama to do and say the right thing He is the voice of reason, he thinks things through before he talks and acts and he is the one who is running the show, unlike bush who was the puppet pres for cheney, wolfowitz and the right wing loonies.
I was wondering when Cantor would crawl out from under Boehner's desk for air...
If Cantor, Limbaugh and McCain are against you, you know you are on the right track.
Kimberly June 18th, 2009 3:58 pm ET
FUNNY, EVERY SINGLE EXPERT on this matter are saying he is doing the right thing,
Olbermann, Maddow, and Matthews are not "experts"...
@ jon, who said "President Obama's messaging reminds me of some of the messaging of the old Soviet Pravda newspaper."
Give us an example.
Republicans still haven't learned from their Iraq disaster. The people of Iran are fighting for democracy themselves, which works far better than dropping bombs and imposing our will upon them.
What do they suppose we do? Interfere in their domestic politics and turn this whole thing into an American 'crusader' episode? Let them earn democracy the same way we have – by rising up and fighting for it. Sure we'll stand beside you, but we can't send in the army and overthrow their government. Been there. Done that.
Republicans. Clueless. Absolutely clueless.
You gotta love the utter hypocrisy of Cantor. Millions killed in Darfur and not a peep. 7 killed in Tehran during the protests and Obama isn't doing enough. The neocons want us to "solve" this by invading. Worked out well for us in Iraq, huh? How about letting a sovereign nation work through this themselves for a change? The Bush/Cantor way was a miserable failure.
He is doing the right thing. Everybody knows it except this moron.
i guess america can save the whole world. our own country is in a mess because of you and the incompetent we had as a president, please go away.
Stand up for them because it suits your agenda, right? Who else are you standing up for Eric CANTor? There are millions of oppressed all around the world in many different countries, you don't even know their struggles, let alone sympathize with their cause. Even in the face of inhumanity and injustice, Eric CANTor still only thinks of his political games. We all see through your facade. Today you feel for them, tomorrow you feel like bombing them.
Richard Lugar is an expert AND Republican, and he believes the President is doing the right thing.
I thought we had no money according to you repukes. So, we have money to go to war in a place thats none of our business but we don't have the money to take care of the American people? What in hell is wrong with your brains?
Oh what a surprise...another CNN blog about what a republican has to say about Iran...and nothing about that every expert you have had on has agreed with the president's stance, this morning a former Iranian hostage stated his support of the president and spoke out against the republicans and Blitzer just interviewed an expert on iranian expert that he had on for his knowledge who also SUPPORTED the president.
CNN you are truly pathetic ...so one sided...