Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 15, 2009

WHEN IN DOUBT, CREDIT BUSH.... It's been a little tough to follow the conservative response to the Iranian presidential election. There appear to be some competing angles -- the election doesn't really matter, we're told, but it does matter insofar as it's Obama's fault.

One of the more creative pre-emptive spins on the recent developments is the notion that the reform movement in Iran is a good thing, and the person who deserves credit for it is ... George W. Bush.

Veteran spinmeister Ari Fleischer, a former Bush White House spokesman, appears to have been the first out the box, at 11:55 a.m. [on Friday], with an interesting analysis. No one yet knew the final outcome, he wrote in an e-mail to our colleague Glenn Kessler, but "one of the reasons there is a substantial reform movement in Iran -- particularly among its young people -- is because of George W. Bush's tough policies." He noted that Bush's policies in Lebanon also helped in the recent elections there.

"A big push for reform is because of the desire of Iranians to get out from sanctions, to put an end to the country's international ostracism," Fleischer wrote and, most interestingly, "because Shiites in particular see Shiites in Iraq having more freedoms than they do. Bush's tough policies have helped give rise to the reformists and I think we're witnessing that today."

Plus there was all this "outreach to the people of Iran," he wrote, at the State Department, with those "people-to-people exchange programs" involving artists and doctors and film folks and so forth.... So "I think it's fair to say the George Bush's Freedom Agenda planted seeds that have started to grow in the Middle East," Fleischer concluded.

There's no evidence that Fleischer was kidding.

I can appreciate the partisan perspective that generates this kind of spinning. The success of pro-Western candidates in Lebanon raised the specter of an "Obama effect" in the region, and if Mousavi was the big winner in Iran, the U.S. president might once again benefit.

So, what's a "veteran spinmeister" to do? Tell reporters on Friday that before anyone looks favorably on the current American leadership, it's more important to extol the previous American leadership -- you know, the one which was widely reviled throughout the Middle East.

And to think, Ari Fleischer is considered something of a shameless hack. Imagine that.

Steve Benen 8:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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"...because Shiites in particular see Shiites in Iraq having more freedoms than they do..."

Only a nitwit would state this in public with a straight face.

I'm sure the Iranians are very envious of all those Shiites in Iraq living in bombed out hovels, with electricity barely up to pre-war levels, and 4 million Iraqi refugees still unable to return home.

I wish the media would stop giving a platform to these non-experts and party apparatchiks.

Posted by: garnash on June 15, 2009 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

Ari the wanker, please. The Iranians aren't that stupid. Even they knew he was a lame duck in 08.

But seriously, this election "coup" is more about Iranian internal politics more than whatever the US does/did. 2/3 of the nation's populace is young and the sputtering Iranian economy has done nothing to give them a future worthy of the name.

Isn't it ironic that the same demographic problems in the Middle East (mostly young and male) that were exploited by various fundamentalists suddenly blew up in the number one fundamentalist regime's face?

Posted by: Former Dan on June 15, 2009 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

But wait..., wait ! my 15 minutes isn't up is it?

Posted by: Ari Fleischer on June 15, 2009 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Bush did everything he could to undermine the reform movement. It was Bush's policies that led to Ahmadinejad's election in the first place. Ar statement is so far removed from reality that it's surprising even for him.

Posted by: fostert on June 15, 2009 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

And, in other news, Ari comments about the "Bush effect" in the Texas Rangers leading the AL West.

Posted by: berttheclock on June 15, 2009 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

This spin shouldn't surprise anyone. Remember when the GOP was claiming Clinton's balanced budget was the result of Reagan's tax cuts?

Posted by: Husker Blue on June 15, 2009 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

I suddenly have this overwhelming urge for balance even though I am unabashedly a screaming liberal. Let's give the Iranian's all the credit for their decision to at least attempt to fight for their more open government. And, while I am a huge fan of Obama, I can not believe that his influence over the Iranian people is any greater at this stage of the game, than his input into the failure of GM or the housing market fiasco. Whether for good or ill, and probably not the reasons as described by Ari F., Bush's policies are the determining factor. I don't want to be someone who is like the parent who takes credit for all the good that happens to their child, but blames someone else for the bad.

Posted by: cainmi on June 15, 2009 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

Mary Matalin used exactly the same trope as Ari late in the week when on a CNN head-to-head with Donna Brazile: "Bush's policies helped if there is liberalization."

I thought "If the people of Iran could toss large shoes at Bush, they would."

I also thought "Why are Brazile and Matalin on to discuss an election in Iran? What a waste."

Posted by: riffle on June 15, 2009 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

One sure hopes that Fleischer's comments were just spinmeister activities for domestic consumption purposes. Looking at some of the neocon responses to the events in Iran though, there unfortunately is a good chance that it's not just the true-believing target audience, but also some of the neocon illuminati who actually take this seriously.

Which is somewhat of a problem, because, as developments of recent years have shown, even the neocons don't get to make their own reality.

Posted by: SRW1 on June 15, 2009 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

The republicans are playing games with the fate of our nation. I hope people realize this. They would rather see our country fail than give the President and/or democrats any credit whatsoever. For they know that the democratic agenda's success spells doom for the future of the republican party.

Their lust for power has blinded them, it's party over everything else to them.

It's a petty, cynical, and immature. I have never despised anything in politics more than I despise modern republican conservatism.

As far as I'm concerned, they are all traitors and should be dealt with accordingly.

Posted by: citizen_pain on June 15, 2009 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

George Bush is responsible for the reform movement in Iran in the much the same way drug dealers are responsible for the creation of rehab centers.

Posted by: chrenson on June 15, 2009 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

The success of pro-Western candidates in Lebanon raised the specter of an "Obama effect" in the region

The March 8 coalition (including Hezbollah and the Syrian Nazi party) won the popular vote - by as much as 10 points. 'Course the Lebanese system is gerrymandered worse than the Senate, so March 14 won.

If there was an Obama effect it was that people hoped they could do better than Saudi/Bush puppets.

Posted by: Slaney Black on June 15, 2009 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

But seriously, this election "coup" is more about Iranian internal politics more than whatever the US does/did.

True. Khamenei is trying to purge everyone else from Khomeini's inner circle to solidify his own position. The Pasdaran is trying to purge all the Khomeinists to solidify theirs.

Posted by: Slaney Black on June 15, 2009 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I still admire 'ole Ari for sticking with his convictions -going into politiks when he could have written his own ticket with those 'Hollywood' good looks...

Posted by: Brian on June 15, 2009 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

Brian, Rob Cordrey appreciates your "Hollywood" good looks comment as well. Says that is why he has to fight off Clooney for ever sooooo many roles. Rob did play Ari ever so well in "W".

Posted by: berttheclock on June 15, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

I think all the other shameless hacks will be insulted by the comparison.

Posted by: Repack Rider on June 15, 2009 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

sometimes i just caint git it outta my head when these guys talk -- al pacino as keanu reeves dad in some dreadful movie...

ari always smells of sulfur and brimstone.

he literally has a murderer's mouth.

Posted by: neill on June 15, 2009 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

It takes a spokesman of a former fascist regime to spin with such alacrity.

Ari Fleischer, go f... yourself.

Posted by: Michael Herrinton on June 15, 2009 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Bush will get his credit.......

It will be from a war crimes judge in The Hague, but he'll get all the credit coming to him.....

Posted by: WarCriminal on June 15, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

So, what's a "veteran spinmeister" to do? Tell reporters on Friday that before anyone looks favorably on the current American leadership, it's more important to extol the previous American leadership -- you know, the one which was widely reviled throughout the Middle East.

Of course. Watch for them to start blaming Bill Clinton for Iraq one of these days.

Posted by: jonas on June 15, 2009 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Wait till the economy recovers. The recession will be Obama's fault and the recovery will be Bush's doing. Time will go backwards!

Posted by: Steve M. on June 15, 2009 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, Ari is engaging in another Newsthink moment. The truth is actually exactly the opposite. When Bush took power, relative moderates were doing reasonably well in Iran. But, Bush hung them out to dry by not giving them any support and being overly aggresive in Iraq, and the result was the hardliners took over.

Posted by: do on June 15, 2009 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

While I voted for Obama, and dislike Bush's policies as much as any of you, let's keep in mind that we, at best, tangentially affect the internal affairs of other countries. As someone pointed out upthread, Khamenei has his own agenda, as do other Iranian figures. Let's not make the mistake of assuming that our policies are of overweening importance outside of this country. But we DO have influence and we need to exercise this responsibly. I'm glad that Obama is attempting to mend fences.

Posted by: Wolfdaughter on June 15, 2009 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Well: Mr. Fleischer is partially right, though hardly for the reason he believes.

The Bush influence is clearly visible in the way the election(s) were manipulated. Like Bush, the presumed winner is awaiting word from their version of the Supreme Court to validate the desired outcome.

Freedom, and the concept of freedom, are delightfully non-partisan and international. All people want to be free, and oddly, don't wish freedom to be imposed at gunpoint. This last item is the part of the Bush legacy no doubt foremost in the minds of those wishing a voice in how they are governed.

Posted by: Tom C. on June 15, 2009 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Good afternoon. Reality is nothing but a collective hunch. Help me! It has to find sites on the: Ventolin hfa prescribing. I found only this - ventolin medicine. Representative john miller, falling as the resentment, ventolin. Are you effectively many about the day? :-) Thanks in advance. Livia from Britain.

Posted by: Livia on March 11, 2010 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK
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