David Sanger on Obama's Press Conference and Iranian Diplomacy

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Getty)

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.


David Sanger

Comments [23]

Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Please stop the "progressive" disinformation.

Here is a video of the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran leading a Nuremberg style rally calling for death to Israel.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "Death to Israel"

Just search Youtube with "iran death israel".

Perhaps jawbone also believes the statement from the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, speaking at Columbia University, that there are no gay people in his Islamic Republic?

Mar. 10 2012 11:00 AM

The time has come, the walrus, to speak of many things...such as zombie lies.

Juan Cole who writes well about the Middle East has tried to kill the zombie lie that Admadinijad is a mad man who said he wants to wipe Israel off the map and that that means attacking Israel. It is near impossible to kill that lie, since our vaunted free press, the MCM (Mainstream Corporate Media), has adopted that lie as sacred text and repeats and repeats and repeats it. Just as they did that there were WMD in Iraq -- remember how well that turned out???

Here is just one post where Cole reiterates that the wording so favored by US and Israeli politicians, by our wise and serious pundits, by war hawks, was a mistranslation of the original statement in Persian by Ahdmadinijad. There are many other posts, plus other experts on the area who agree with Cole.

"He (Ahmadinejad) quoted an old saying of Ayatollah Khomeini calling for ‘this occupation regime over Jerusalem' to 'vanish from the page of time.’ Calling for a regime to vanish is not the same as calling for people to be killed. Ahmadinejad has not to my knowledge called for anyone to be killed. (Wampum has more; as does the American Street)." [Go to the post for the links to Wampum and American Street.]

I can't fault anyone who doesn't have the time to dig deeply for information for being misinformed about what Ahmadinejad said, since our great and free MCM is filled with zombie lies such as this (that Al Gore said he invented the internet is another our MCMers just luuuuv) and this one is a real strong zombie.

Also, Iran, for all its faults, has not practiced a war of aggression, a preventive war, for about two centuries. The US? Ooodles of aggressive wars. Israel?

We should not be threatening Iran; indeed, we should be assuring its safety in the Middle East.

Mar. 07 2012 07:40 PM
bernie from bklyn

@estherestheresther- when was last time iran was an aggressor on the world stage? how about israel? it's not just all about defending oneself. when israel continues to build settlements on land that isn't necessarily theirs and then claiming defense of that land is the reason for THEIR aggression, they are being dishonest and hypocritical.

Mar. 07 2012 11:28 AM
Jenny from UES

@bernine "the jewish voting bloc isn't big enough to really turn the tide of an election, right? "

Actually despite only being a small part of our population, the population in South Florida basically can call our election.

So yea they have a helluva a lot of power. That is why McCain got in trouble to suggesting Obama was soft on Israel while in Florida in 2008. We are not allowed to make Israel a real voting issue like abortion, or gay.

Mar. 07 2012 11:26 AM
Esther from Baltimore

@Bernie Bernie Bernie.... I do believe Israel did not initiate a threat to wipe Iran off the map. However, if one country threatens another country, it is common practice for the threatened country to defend itself. Would you not agree?

Mar. 07 2012 11:21 AM

The first priority of the Nation at this time in the campaign cycle is to acquire a properly advantageous policy, or framing of the policy, for how we facilitate acquisition of the means to prevent human conception and/or live births. We have been too long passive witnesses to the debilitating effect of the individual "pay for play" policy in this area.
Then, of course, there is the question of humanitarian intervention in Syria (for which we may need Iran's cooperation).
There will be plenty of time to organize the appropriate response to Iran's alleged nuclear weapon program ambitions.

Mar. 07 2012 11:19 AM

Israel is THE MOST dangerous country to us and the entire region.

Mar. 07 2012 11:11 AM

Brian... I would like to see some discussion -- perhaps in Followup Friday -- of ISRAEL'S election calendar. As noted here ( there is possibility that Netanyahu will call for primaries in the fall, perhaps as early as September, in advance of a 2013 general election. Are we seeing domestic politics in both countries driving the drums of war?

Mar. 07 2012 11:10 AM
bernie from bklyn

@esther- israel doens't threaten to wipe any countries off the map? how about IRAN????

Mar. 07 2012 11:08 AM
bernie from bklyn

what is the REAL reason for our unwavering support of israel? the jewish voting bloc isn't big enough to really turn the tide of an election, right? so what is it then? is it the irrational, evangelical christian need to "protect" the land of christ and it's icons? what is it? and why can't this ever be debated? even on this show, it's an impossibility to ever hear this debated or discussed. pretty shameful.
and one more thing- david sanger and anyone from the NYT have zero credibility after their irresponsible support of the iraq war. real journalism is supposed to prevent events such as that- a PR war leading to a REAL war. so many people died for NOTHING.

Mar. 07 2012 11:07 AM
Esther from Baltimore

Here is why Israel is not mentioned Ramon....Israel does not threaten to wipe any country off the map. If anybody thinks that Iran is just a threat to Israel if it acquires nuclear weapons, is not thinking of the ripple effect it would have on the balance of power in the world. The Saudis may be shaking more than Israel.

Mar. 07 2012 11:03 AM

I guess aggressive preventive wars are cool for the hegemon, but illegal for the losers of such actions if they're not hegemonic enough. Hitler, bad; Bush/Cheney/Obama good.

This is making me sick to my stomach. And writing letters, making calls, telling our Dear Leaders you do not do this "in my name" does not absolve me of guilt. This nation needs an intervention, and if we the people don't do it, who will? Who can control the biggest baddest junk yard dog?

Who can control the Number One Rogue Nation which has enough nukes to destroy the world?

And we worry about Iran, which has not undertaken aggressive war in, oh, about 200 years?

Really? Reeeeaaalllly?

Mar. 07 2012 10:54 AM
Shara from UES

This WOULD NEVER be a voting issue. AIPAC wont allow this be a debate.

Mar. 07 2012 10:50 AM
Jared from UWS

So you just admitted there is not debate? Why are you even talking about this, that is the lead. That there is no debate and it's shocking to pretend there is a difference. Nobody goes against AIPAC.

Why is this news? We are not allowed to have a real debate about Israel/Iran in this country.

Brian this is embarrassing.

Mar. 07 2012 10:47 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Thank you David for reminding the Leftie Morons here that most of the mistakes were made in underestimating nuclear capacity.(Pakistan, India, etc.)
Iraq has been a convenient exception for these kneejerks.

Mar. 07 2012 10:47 AM
Ramon from Forest Hills

Didn't we also miss the Israelis with respect to a nuclear weapon? Why is Israel hardly mentioned wheb discussing nuclear weapons?

Mar. 07 2012 10:46 AM
Sarah from LES

I just don't understand where the debate is.... Obama and the Republicans are staunchly for Israel as is MOST of congress. This business of a real debate is disgusting because there isn't one.

Republicans and Democrats (both) support sending billions in aid to Israel. AND Israel wants us to go to war with Iran. If you poled the US population (and we have) MOST 60% Americans do not support foreign AID and the majority of that group ARE REPUBLICANS!

Israel has universal healthcare and gay serving in the military. Israel recognizes foreign same-sex marriage. Abortion is legal in Israel....yet we send them billions.. and Republican (and Democrats) are cool with it.

Mar. 07 2012 10:45 AM

The Christian Science Monitor had something that the New York Times and NPR _never_ run -- a timeline of all the times Netanyahu and Israel have claimed that Iran was on the verge of a bomb. For 20 years, the Israelis have been trying to strongarm the US over the 'imminent' Iranian nuclear threat.

Sanger has been a part of this problem, as was the Times in propagating Bush lies about Iraq.

Mar. 07 2012 10:44 AM
bernie from bklyn

why can't iran have a nuclear weapon? why do we protect israel when it goes against our best interests?

Mar. 07 2012 10:42 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Soldiers Father - careful, some on this site may consider you an anti-semite.

Mar. 07 2012 10:37 AM
Shannon from UES

Uhhhh could this have anything to do with this past weekend's AIPAC convention?

I am disgusted. The everyday average American do not want a war with Iran. Iran could physically strike the US with a nuclear weapon. Let Israel defend herself!

Mar. 07 2012 10:37 AM
Ron Sanecki from keyport nj

He did what needed to be done. War is serious stuff. Good for him the logistics worked for him.

Mar. 07 2012 10:27 AM
Soldier's Father from Pelham NY

I am happy that the President called out the Republican candidates for their warmongering on Iran. They are all brave "chicken hawks", pompously ready to "lead" safely from behind while sending other people's sons & daughters into harm's way. None of them served when it was their time, nor have any of their children. (Are any of those 5 oh-so-photogenic Romney boys ready to volunteer?) Worse, none of them seem to have any interest in going to Walter Reed or any VA hospital to confront the real world potential consequences of their bombast.

Mar. 07 2012 10:00 AM

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