After the thunderstorm of criticism launched almost immediately after the Iran deal was announced on Tuesday, July 14, President Barack Obama held a press conference the next day, in an effort to quell the storm and sell the deal.
It did not really work.
For one thing, after a brief, assertive pitch in which Obama relayed “yesterday’s historic, comprehensive” deal, accomplished with “our allies…and partners” – more on that word* below – the deal “cuts off all pathways to Iran’s nuclear weapons program.” The president reiterated the same points he made at the press conference announcing the deal, and then he opened it up to selected media representatives for questions.
The first journalist called on, Andrew Beatty of the AFP, asked whether the deal would lead to a more moderate Tehran. The president then did something incredibly odd.
He started over.
Obama said he was sure Beatty would forgive him, but he just wanted to tell everyone…and then he launched into another, fuller version of his just-completed – we thought – sales pitch.
The twittersphere exploded with comments, many wondering if something happened to their news feeds.
After about ten minutes of grinding away at the same points he made the day before and even just moments before, the president seemed to remember he was in the middle of a press conference and had already begun allowing questions.
The answers to the questions posed were simply replays of his Iran deal talking points – no surprise, that’s why he was holding the press conference.
But then everyone tuned in to watch the press conference, and everyone in the briefing room, watched as the president revealed his fury at a journalist who dared to do his job and ask a tough, pointed question.
The question came from Major (that’s his first name) Garret, from CBS. Garrett pulled himself up, shoulders back, and asked about the American hostages being held in Iran. Obama did not like it. Not one bit.
Here’s the question: “As you well know, there are four Americans in Iran, three held on trumped-up charges, according to your administration, one whereabouts unknown. … Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content with all the fanfare around this deal to leave the conscience of this nation, the strength of this nation unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans?”
“Content?” Obama spat out, while fixing Garrett in his steely gaze. Obama than incredulously restated Garret’s question as if it were why he was out celebrating the deal while American hostages were still being held.
“That’s nonsense. And you should know better,” the President said.
The president went on to lecture Garrett and the rest of the reporters about why the American hostages were not made a part of the deal. The reason he gave was that if the hostages were made a part of the deal, then the Iranians would want to add their own issues to the deal. There’s one problem – the Iranians did add non-nuclear aspects to the deal.
So the president’s news pitch to seal the Iran deal sales pitch went badly awry. But you won’t learn about that from the mainstream media which dutifully reported Obama’s bottom line claims that no one else – meaning, especially, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – has come up with a different plan, and that the only alternative to his deal is war. Those are still the sales pitch sound bites. The fact that they are not true does not seem to matter one whit.
*President Obama’s use of the word “partners” appeared to be an intentional inclusion after Trita Parsi of the National Iranian-American Council wrote an article decrying the fact that the U.S. and the other P5+1 parties did not give Iran enough respect. Parsi specifically bemoaned that Iran was not referred to as a “partner” by the other parties.