Hume, Will use Iranian election to promote long-standing opposition to engaging Iran

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

Brit Hume and George Will asserted that the disputed Iranian election will make it difficult for President Obama to directly negotiate with Iran. But Hume and Will each argued against direct negotiations long before the election.

On June 14, Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume and conservative columnist George Will each asserted that questions about the legitimacy of Iran's recent presidential election will make it difficult or impossible for the Obama administration to conduct direct diplomatic negotiations with Iran. But both Hume and Will also questioned the efficacy or necessity of diplomatically engaging Iran prior to the election, a fact that undermines their respective suggestions that it is the controversial election results which led them to conclude that the Obama administration cannot proceed with such negotiations.

On the June 14 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Hume stated of the recent Iranian election: "I think it leaves Iran about where it was, but showing the world an even clearer picture, as if any were needed, this is basically a police state. And it is difficult, therefore, to see how President Obama's dreams of a more constructive relationship with the powers that be there can go forward, given the fact that this election appears to have been defective if not utterly fraudulent."

But Hume also argued against direct diplomatic negotiations with Iran during the 2008 presidential campaign. Indeed, during the May 18, 2008, edition of Fox News Sunday -- more than one year prior to the controversial Iranian election -- Hume had the following exchange with host Chris Wallace:

WALLACE: Brit, you made it clear that you think that, on substance, that Obama's wrong. The idea of holding these meetings without preconditions is a bad idea.

Obama goes back and says, "Look -- look at the Bush policy over the last seven years. Has that made Iran weaker or stronger?" Isn't that a fair point on his --

HUME: It's a fair point, but who says it isn't -- who can seriously argue that if President Bush had had some kind of meeting and direct negotiation with [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad that that would have -- would have weakened Iran's aggressive posture in some way?

That makes no sense. In fact, what it would have done would be to elevate this slightly crazy guy who says these unbelievably nutty things to the level of a world statesman, which his present situation does not suggest he is.

Now, some people on the Obama side will say, "Well, you wouldn't really meet with him. You might meet with one of the mullahs." Oh, that would be -- that's a great idea.

I mean, you just stop and think about it. When you sit down at a table with somebody, you expect them to offer you something, but you have to offer them something in return. It's not for the point -- it's not for the purpose of just having a nice chat and getting to know one another.

During the June 14 edition of ABC's This Week, Will stated, "Ahmadinejad is such a repellant figure -- part Huey Long, part Joseph Goebbels -- and he has a clear base in the country. So, the fact that we can't tell whether this was rigged or not is a disaster for the Obama administration, because you can hardly engage this man now when his legitimacy, such as it ever was, seems much diminished."

But long before the controversial results, Will argued that engaging in direct negotiations with Iran and other rogue regimes was unnecessary. Indeed, during the November 9, 2008, edition of This Week, host George Stephanopoulos asked Will, "[D]o you think it's a good idea, as I know their team is talking about, to send lower-level envoys right away to Iran, to Venezuela, to Cuba, perhaps to Syria?" Will responded: "I don't see the urgency at this point. I don't think -- I mean, we're not going to change the trajectory of any of those nations' policies in the near term, and we don't need to change their policies in the near term. What's the rush?"

From the June 14 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: So, a fiercely fought campaign in Iran; results that show that Ahmadinejad won in a landslide. And now we have people in the streets, supporters of the more moderate challenger, Mousavi, saying that the election was stolen. Brit, where does this leave things inside Iran?

HUME: Well, it looks as if Ahmadinejad will cling to power. He is supported by the key elements of the theocracy that runs that country. Whether these protests will grow or spread is in doubt. They seem to have subsided today after all of the trouble they had yesterday.

I think it leaves Iran about where it was, but showing the world an even clearer picture, as if any were needed, this is basically a police state. And it is difficult, therefore, to see how President Obama's dreams of a more constructive relationship with the powers that be there can go forward, given the fact that this election appears to have been defective if not utterly fraudulent. I mean, after all, Mousavi -- Ahmadinejad is, according to the results, was supposed to have carried Mousavi's hometown by a large margin.

From the May 18, 2008, edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: Brit, you made it clear that you think that, on substance, that Obama's wrong. The idea of holding these meetings without preconditions is a bad idea.

Obama goes back and says, "Look -- look at the Bush policy over the last seven years. Has that made Iran weaker or stronger?" Isn't that a fair point on his --

HUME: It's a fair point, but who says it isn't -- who can seriously argue that if President Bush had had some kind of meeting and direct negotiation with Ahmadinejad that that would have -- would have weakened Iran's aggressive posture in some way?

That makes no sense. In fact, what it would have done would be to elevate this slightly crazy guy who says these unbelievably nutty things to the level of a world statesman, which his present situation does not suggest he is.

Now, some people on the Obama side will say, "Well, you wouldn't really meet with him. You might meet with one of the mullahs." Oh, that would be -- that's a great idea.

I mean, you just stop and think about it. When you sit down at a table with somebody, you expect them to offer you something, but you have to offer them something in return. It's not for the point -- it's not for the purpose of just having a nice chat and getting to know one another.

There have been times when we've sat down with terrorist sponsors -- twice I can recall. The first President Bush and later President Clinton met with Hafez Al-Assad. There were specific, narrow purposes for those meetings, and they were very uncomfortable indeed, and were held on neutral soil, as I recall, both in Geneva.

They were very odd meetings, and they were very narrowly focused. There were, as they say, preconditions.

JUAN WILLIAMS (Fox News contributor): Well, what's so naive about talking? I don't get this. What's wrong with talking, given the bottom line? The bottom line is Iran is stronger in the Middle East, able to fund terrorists. We have trouble now in Lebanon. Israel is less --

HUME: Juan, talking --

WILLIAMS: -- safe as a result. No, hang on a second.

HUME: Talking for the sake --

WILLIAMS: You say talking is wrong.

HUME: -- for the sake of talking?

WILLIAMS: What's the carrot, Brit? I'll tell you what the carrot is. The carrot is you look at what's going on in North Korea, where we did have help in engaging the North Koreans, and we have done -- taken positive steps --

HUME: Excuse me --

WILLIAMS: -- in dealing with their nuclear capability.

HUME: That's fine. That is -- those are specifically focused diplomatic events engaged in multilaterally and not president-to-president contacts, president-to-president negotiations. And it would have made no sense to engage in talks at that level.

From the June 14 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's move on to the Iranian elections over the weekend. We've seen protests in the streets for the last couple of days after these elections. You know, what we can't tell yet is exactly how rigged the elections were. Ahmadinejad won with more than 60 percent of the vote despite the fact that his lead opponent, [unintelligible], was -- had a lot of support in the streets, George, before the elections. So, setting that question aside, which is hard for us to know, how big a crisis is this for the Iranian regime?

WILL: Hard to say. Ferdinand Marcos held an election improvidently in 1986, and four days later he was gone because it was widely considered rigged. The difference is that the Catholic Church in the Philippines said it was rigged, and there was an enormous moral authority there.

Ahmadinejad is such a repellant figure -- part Huey Long, part Joseph Goebbels -- and he has a clear base in the country. So, the fact that we can't tell whether this was rigged or not is a disaster for the Obama administration, because you can hardly engage this man now when his legitimacy, such as it ever was, seems much diminished.

From the November 9, 2008, edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:

OBAMA [video clip]: How we approach and deal with a country like Iran is not something that we should, you know, simply do in a knee-jerk fashion. I think we've got to think it through, but I have to reiterate once again that we only have one president at a time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: George Will, he was determined not to make any news there. And I guess you can't really blame him at this point. But do you think it's a good idea, as I know their team is talking about, to send lower-level envoys right away to Iran, to Venezuela, to Cuba, perhaps to Syria?

WILL: I don't see the urgency at this point. I don't think -- I mean, we're not going to change the trajectory of any of those nations' policies in the near term, and we don't need to change their policies in the near term. What's the rush?

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy
Network/Outlet
FOX Broadcasting Company, ABC News
Person
George F. Will, Brit Hume
Show/Publication
FOX News Sunday, This Week
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