June 18th, 2009
08:04 PM ET
12 years ago

Republicans take issue with Obama on Iran

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/18/art.cantor0618.gi.jpg caption="House Minority Whip Eric Cantor is criticizing the Obama administration's response to the political unrest in Iran."]
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.

Filed under: Eric Cantor • Iran • John Kerry • John McCain • President Obama
soundoff (81 Responses)
  1. dreamer

    has not the republicans learned anything?we are the UNITED states,give the president some room please to do his job and stop trying to devide our nation in to a mess of bipartsenship.we need a third party or a replacement for republicans and liberials.middle is a good place to be alot less hate.

    June 18, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  2. jimmy combs

    You know, Washing ton democrats and politicians in general better pay attention to the unrest in Iran. Why? Because that's exactly how citizens take back their country and their government! And as soon as enough of us get the message, I'd say Washington can expect, one day, to have its hands full of more Americans than they can handle with all of their police forces combined. We are way overdue for another civil war...and this one will have nothing to do with race, but freedom, democracy, and re-establishing the principles on which this country was founded, and crushing liberalism forever.

    June 18, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  3. pat c


    June 18, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  4. CFD

    It would be absolutely irresponsible and dangerous for Obama to say anything more than he already has on the tense situation in Iran. In 1953, the US instigated the overthrow of a popular and democratically elected government in Iran, and we imposed a brutal dictator to do our bidding. As a result, Iranians on all political sides resent any US efforts to influence their internal affairs. Neither the people on the street nor the government would respond positively to any interference or the slightest suggestion of interference from the US. Stronger language from Obama would irreparably damage the courageous efforts of the people. Obama is doing it exactly right.

    June 18, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  5. tigerakabj

    1. Defend human rights? You mean like a rogue former VP president and his cabal (family, neocons) going around promoting torture (regardless of the fact that the Geneva Convention treaty, which we are apart of, states that torture is illegal)? That is as far as I will go on that front.
    2. Free and fair elections? You mean like the 2000 election where the Supreme court handed Bush the presidency and stopped the recount? You mean the current Franken/Coleman race where Franken has won by over 300 votes (after the recount), yet Coleman wants to keep it going (to prohibit the Democrats from assuming the 60th senate seat and the fact that it is costing the Minnestoa taxpayers millions)?
    3. Why don't we stay out of other folks business for a change. We are not the world police (we are stretched to the maximum as it is). That is how we got into this mess of Iraq (that and Mr. Cheney lying about the fact that Sadaam had WMDs and ties Al Qaeda, which he didn't as he just admitted 2 weeks ago).

    How would we like it if other countries told us what to do in our elections? We wouldn't. Lets give Iran the same courtesy. We had our own revolution back in 1776 about overthrowing tyranny (and the recent one last Nov), let Iran determine its own future.

    As for the GOP, 2010 can't come soon enough. By that time, the economy will clearly be on the rebound, the Iraq war will hopefully be coming to an end, and more truth from the last 8 years will be revealed, further helping the GOP into the hole they are currently digging for themselves.

    June 18, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  6. lori

    Really?!!! Don't we have our own agenda to take care of. Give it a rest republicans.

    June 18, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  7. gl, From Pittsburgh

    PLEASE EVERY BODY LISTEN TO THE PRESIDENT. HE WAS RIGHT ABOUT NOT GOING TO WAR WITH Iraq, but nobody listen and look what happen. We are fighting two wars and one of them was of choice. We have a choice not to start another one.

    June 18, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  8. Stacy from Leesburg, VA

    Mr. Cantor sure does love to hear himself talk, doesn't he? Let me get this straight, he wants to inject the United States into a situation that can only do harm to our credibility? If President Obama says anything, the Iranian Government is going to use it as an excuse to go out and start killing civilians saying the U.S. is causing this "disturbance". Let the Persians figure this one out on their own...seems like the young people there have it figured out so far.

    June 18, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  9. tedious898

    The congressman from Virginia, the number two Republican in the House, added
    This is funny....EarAche Cantor the "republican #2"

    Well the entire GOP is one huge #2. Who told this guy that he knew anything about foreign policy after supporting the failed foreign policies of the previous administration for the last 8 years.

    It was Pres. Obama's Cairo speech that fueled this disarray. Our POTUS will get the credit for dismantling this scary, terrorist supporting regime without firing a single shot. Think of the savings in lives and treasure.

    Oh that's right ...the GOP doesn't want to save either

    June 18, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  10. Adam

    Here we go again! Hey why don't we invade another country just so warmongers republican's represent can make even more money.

    June 18, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  11. Jerry

    The Republicans new moto, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran.

    June 18, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  12. gl, From Pittsburgh

    Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday the United States could defend itself against a missile should the North Koreans launch one toward Hawaii.

    THIS IS WHERE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE NEED TO BE TAKING ABOUT. This is a war we may have to fight not one with Iran. Let Iran handle this one on it own.

    June 18, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  13. Liz in Texas

    It is SHAMEFUL that some of our Republican politicians put their self-interest above all else. Experts have warned that our administration must not interfere in the Iranian elections and told us the President walks a fine line in showing his support. Yet some Republicans are so caught up in their own party self-interest that they will take advantage of any situation, including the lives and fates of those courageous Iranian protestors.

    June 18, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  14. Linell, former Republican Winter Park, FL

    FYI–a comment I saw this morning from Iran, "I thank God Obama has said so little, the regime can't use the excuse this is CIA backed revolt." The last thing we need to be doing is fanning the flames on this so that the United States becomes the culprit! The president has a fine line to walk here and I think he is doing a good job!!

    June 18, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  15. white supremacist = al qaeda =hamas = terrorism

    Oh my god the republicans are worried about deads in Iran. How many Americans have died because they did not have health insurance? mr. stupid aka cantor shame on you

    June 18, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  16. Jason

    I don't understand Cantor's and McCain's motive. What do they want to achieve by trying to link the US to an Iranian opposition movement, and thereby damaging it? Do they want to ensure that the current Iranian administration stays in power? How does that help America?

    June 18, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  17. tedious898

    jimmy combs June 18th, 2009 4:07 pm ET

    . We are way overdue for another civil war…and this one will have nothing to do with race, but freedom, democracy, and re-establishing the principles


    Treason there much Bubba? Hey......answer that phone the dentist is calling about fixing your missing eye teeth. And yes, you can bring your pet pig Gomer – all the conveniences for our GOP citizens. Much better than what's happening in Tehran right now. Just so you know...Most of us love this country and support our president

    June 18, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  18. John

    Let me see if I get this. On the one hand Canotor proposes we be outraged about free and fair elections in Iran. Yet we say nothing about our friends who don't even have elections at all or have one party rule.doesn't seem Canotor has thought the the logical outcomes of pursuing his policy proposal.

    June 18, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  19. Tulsa

    Thank God the Republicans are NOT in power. All we need is ANOTHER war.

    June 18, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  20. Erik in real Pennsylvania

    Rep. Cantor sees himself on the 2012 Republican Presidential ticket and he gets all wiggly about it. The VP nominee spot, of course. Pawlenty will get the top spot.

    June 18, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  21. Matt

    Obama is too much of a wimp to stand up to Iran and demand any kind of accountability for their elections.

    June 18, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  22. kevin

    Lets Not Get Into A War Of Words with Iranian Leaders.

    Lets not forget the other party, they also place there honest vote!

    June 18, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  23. Dean

    Mr. Cantor you hit the nail on the head when you said "We have no idea " No Idea's on how to fix the economy, No Idea's on Healthcare, No idea's on Iran ,good one's anyway.. Yep I see why the call you the party of NO.
    Obama is doing the right thing by just staying out of their business I can only imagine how upset you Republicans would be if Iran were messing with our elections.

    June 18, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  24. c -"W"

    This guy could care less about Iranian citizens or their democratic process. What he is really after is launching point from which to criticize the President. Nice try but completely transparent.

    Where was this outrage when the US Presidency was twice stolen by Bush gang in his own country? I guess Iran should have invaded us back then to help out the disenfranchised American voters of 2000 and 2004? (Rhetorical)

    June 18, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  25. Lesley Anne

    I think the Republicans should shut the heck up about foreign policy and let Obama speak for the nation. He is the official voice now and his policies are the official ones. They had their way, they spoke for our nation in their time, and did a poor job of it. If they stopped crowing for a few seconds, they just might learn something.

    June 18, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
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