David Sanger on Obama's Press Conference and Iranian Diplomacy

Email a Friend
President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House.

Recap from It's a Free Country.

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent at the New York Times and contributor to WNYC, talked about President Obama's press conference and how the U.S. plans to confront Iran.


In a news conference Tuesday, President Obama called out Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail for the "casualness" of their rhetoric about going to war with Iran.

Republican presidential candidates have hammered Obama repeatedly for not doing enough to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and for not making it clear enough that military options remained on the table. Most recently, on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recommended that Congress authorize a military strike against Iran.

"I'm reminded of the costs involved in war," Obama said during the press conference yesterday. "I'm reminded of the decision that I have to make in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impact that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy. This is not a game, and there's nothing casual about it."

David Sanger said that this is the most we've seen a president resist going to war in recent memory, calling it a far cry from the days of Iraq and Afghanistan.

There's a recognition that Americans of all types are somewhat tired of ten years of war and occupation. In the Iranian nuclear case, nobody, not even the most hawkish people, are talking about putting troops on the ground.

Watch the press conference below.

Seeing eye-to-eye with Israel

One of the many factors complicating President Obama's response to Iran is that U.S. and Israeli officials can't agree on what they know and how they know it.

Sanger said that while the United States and Israel both recognize that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon right now, they disagree about whether or not Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has made a fundamental decision to take the final steps to produce that weapon. The U.S. remains unsure, while Israelis believe the decision has been made at least implicitly.

The two nations also disagree about whether or not we'd know if and when Iranians decided to "go the last mile."

Americans say we'd see it; Iran would throw out inspectors, we'd detect from scientists who are informing back to the U.S. or Israel, you might see some testing. The U.S. is pretty confident they'd see it. Israelis say you can't be that confident.

Romney's plan looks a lot like Obama's

As far as what the U.S. can and should do about Iran moving forward, Republican candidates like Mitt Romney offer a laundry list of options they accuse the President of failing to pursue: informing the Iranian people of the risks and consequences of their leaders having a nuclear weapon; putting together an extensive military plan; use covert operations; put in place crippling sanctions.

There's just one problem with Romney's critique of President Obama's "inaction", as David Sanger pointed out.

Is there more that can be done? Absolutely. But I didn't hear anything on Mr. Romney's list that I haven't heard over the past two or three years as I cover this day-to-day watching this administration.

Implications for November

That said, if the situation in Iran comes to a head before the election this fall, Sanger said it could join the economy as a defining issue of the race.

If there's an incident in the Gulf, a big surge in gas prices, if the Israelis act—all of those things could definitely affect the discussion leading up to the election. You could imagine it going either way.