tv [untitled] CSPAN June 24, 2009 7:30am-8:00am EDT
substance first. how are you in contact with the iranians and how did you choose your question? guest: through a variety of ways. i initially ask people to send an e-mails once i was contacted by the white house saying that they might be interested in receiving one of these questions. i did my best to get as many potential submissions as possible. so, i had a few iranian-american contacts right up and though farsi language translation request for questions -- which posted it on twitter. there is the farsi-language social networking poseidon which agreed to post my request on their front page, so we had a ton of questions there. we also used facebook and e-
mail. we tried to be very broad. of course, it is still very few iranians who are able to use the internet, and those who do often just do not want to talk about anything associated with these demonstrations. again, it is very courageous for them to submit the questions, the ones who did. i really appreciate it. host: you mentioned there has been a bit of a buzz surrounding the question because of the way it was racist. there have been critics who claim that it was sort of a setup, but you say it is not the case. that the president did not have had up about what question you would ask. is that correct? guest: yes, of course. they were very professional and had no interest, nor would i have told them, with the question would be. their main interest was -- as i said, i posted a notice on our website, we have been liable, the unrest there for almost 10
or 11 days now. i had said, you know, i would like to ask the president a question on behalf of an iranian. they said that there would be happy to have me do that. otherwise, it went like any other question. i felt like it was a tough question, so -- i was happy with it, with how it turned out. host: your publication has a strong on-line presence. do you see the on-line media as being able to move in this new direction of interaction with an audience, getting questions and a way that perhaps more traditional media is not ready to do yet? guest: what is happening is a really significant moment in one sense. what is going on on our side, it is a reflection of how spread out news is these days online. you cannot rely on just the
newspapers for the cable news network's for information. particularly now that the foreign media is in a blackout in iran. you have to rely on all sorts of new tools to help get you firsthand information from the ground. youtube, twitter, facebook down the road. the process is very communal. i am certainly benefiting from the contributions of 70 volunteers who are all looking for information, passing along, -- of so many volunteers, helping to translate documents or stories for me, or watching video that is in persian. providing the information. it is a community news gathering operation. i think we also try to maintain a journalistic standard in the sense that we do not post
material that is not confirmed, or if we do we are clear about the fact we cannot verify its accuracy. but i think we try to provide a really wide swath of information because it is out there in a whole bunch of places. it is spread out across the board and does require a large group effort -- a volunteer effort in many senses, to track it down. host: thanks for being with us this morning, nico. he is the national editor @ "the huffington post." thank you for joining us. you have a piece today. obama will restore the u.s. ambassador to syria. you read about returning a u.s. envoy to damascus. you say the president is working to rehabilitate relations with the islamic world.
why is this? guest: just after the former lebanese president was assassinated in 2005 the bush administration withdrew the ambassador in damascus. there was a suspicion that intelligence was behind the killing and it was an act of protest. since then it the u.s. has had virtually no contact with the syrians. as president obama has reached out to the islamic world, for example in cairo with his speech, they have called for greater engagement with the arab middle east in particular. this is a step in that direction. host: president obama spoke yesterday about the situation and iran, seeming to take a different tone. what went into the shift? guest: there are couple of things to note. he has slowly reted it up his language about the while and he
sees on the street. substantively, however, there is not a big change. he is still not calling for the government to be changed in iran and is not even condemning the actual results of the elections. nico's question reflected the anxiety from iranians. the president said we do not have international observers there and do not know what happened. while he said that the international community in the u.s. is appalled, it still -- it is only walking up to a line rhetorically. the administration says we are not taking sides and do not know it will play out. it's as regardless there will be a government there we want to do with on its nuclear program and on its sponsorship of terrorism. host: how is the president taking criticism concerning his stance? guest: you saw him bristle at it
yesterday, duquesne chip of cbs, that john mccain's rising calls for him to say more about this. they and graham had been invoking cold war rhetoric. there was a front-page piece about this yesterday. he says he is not influenced at all. i am sure there are some elements if not directly from the republicans or other sources and inside his own white house to say more, the images coming out, this video he mentioned yesterday about a young woman who was shot dead in the streets -- a video which has been all over the internet and a symbol of the democratic protests and iran -- he called a heartbreaking yesterday.
i am sure there is some pressure from republicans he is feeling. host: our guest come scott, is with us for the next hour. a piece that you had a n "the washington post" earlier this week, you talk about the president's approach to this situation and you said privately obama is supporters are crediting him cairo speech. hal is the white house feeling about that? guest: they do feel something changed, attitudes about the u.s. in the middle east. days later they understood the elections in lebanon for the hezbollah-backed coalition was
supposed to win and lost largely because there was a large turnout, much larger than expected for the pro-u.s. coalition of parties. they understood that immediately to mean something. they could not quite bring themselves to say publicly, gee, we think that he had a big influence on these elections. now we see something in iran. they are trying to walk the line behind it taking credit for something happening, a new, diplomatic opening in that part of the world, and not antagonizing the authorities in iran or inserting themselves into a debate that they still insist is a iranians debating their own future. it is impossible to say whether or not, how much influence about
events that his congress be chad. host: what is holding back the president and his team? the president has said already that some of his statements have been misinterpreted or miss translated in the arab world. guest: that is an interesting point. president obama mentioned that on one level anything he says is being mis-translated as u.s. medley. the cia fomenting street unrest. what was said yesterday as opposed to saturday statement is that they actually posted the statement on the u.s. white house website is farsi. i talked to the white house about that decision. they said that they wanted iranians to read it themselves.
the larger picture is that president obama does not want the united states to become a major element in the debate as long as the ruling clerics a iran say that this is a western- sponsored demonstration, that is one thing, but if it becomes overt and the demonstrators themselves see the united states calling for regime change, a loaded term in that part of the world following the iraq war in becomes more complicated. it answers the united states into something that would complicate the demonstrators' cause. host: guest: let's go to the phones. -- host: but the to the phones. caller: i would like to talk about the history ofiran. we overthrew the government in 1973 by the cia and we install shah was a mass-murder. look at what we have done to those people? what you talk about what is going on ingaza, send all your
news people there and to what is happening to those people in gaza. we spent $500 million to destabilize the iranian elections and what you see now with all the cellphone and twitter -- that is where our money when. when will america stop being one big hit agree? i'm sick of these elected officials and so-called expert to get on tv and have no, have no idea of the history of this country and what we have done tuesday iranian people. host: historical perspective can be a big part of this. guest: yes, the caller raises a good point. obama raised couthe question abt that coup. the ayatollah khamenei led a revolution that overthrew the government. that is when hostages were
taken in the u.s. embassy. it began 30 years of very antagonistic relations between the u.s. and iran. part of what the caller is frustrated with -- use the word hypocrisy, which i think it's an interesting term, one that i think the obama administration is aware of. if you look at cuba, for example, it is something that is a hypocritical u.s. policy in a part of the world that drives a lot of countries down their crazy. his talk about the embargo in cuba and its limits. he talked in cairo about the 1953 coup. other that will clear the air and allow people to start over -- maybe not because there's a lot of history. he mentioned gaza. i was a correspondent there. these are stories that emerge and then slip back out of sight
quite a bit. i think he expresses a lot of frustration. much frustration that is felt in the arab world about u.s. policy. host: in addition to being a juror salaam your chief, and has also served in latin america and elsewhere joins us. our next call is from miami. caller: good morning, i am a cuban-american. i do not know what your opinion is about that. in to both we have no freedom. i have never been able to visit my homeland. anyway, why should we apologize all the time? 9/11, i don't think we need to apologize -- we have done wrong in the world, but we have done good. i am not jewish, but we cannot abandon the jewish people either because they are our friends.
that last phone call written a thought that would be over when obama was elected. i did not like it against bush, i do not like it against the present government, but anyway, syria -- i am not educated like you, sir, but they have been around a long time and created a lot of mischief. i don't know if that is the smartest thing that we should do. guest: those are all good points, again. there is a balance that i think this administration is trying to strike between trying to clear the air and not been seen as going around the world and apologizing. he has been criticized particularly by conservative republicans in congress for doing that. in terms of syria, i think what -- in terms of the whole middle
east, and you mentioned israel, what the administration is trying to do is to bring more balance to the relationship between the united states and israel and the united states and its arab neighbors so that it can regain our role s and honest broker. during the bush administration we were seen as so pro-israel that the united states could not stand as and interlocutor among those nations for reasons partly because we did not have any diplomatic presence in damascus. i'm not sure help the russian ship will develop with the syrian ambassador, but the administration believes it is better to talk and be present with and not to be. i think that is the logic. host: we're joined on the democrats' line from newark, new
jersey. caller: thank you to your balanced response to the questions coming your way. as a person who watches c-span consistently, it is a pleasure to hear you cannot avoid questions posed to you. my question to you as a reporter for "the washington post" regarding john mccain and lindsey gramm attacking the president's response to the situation iniran, do you s a writer for net to be out of hand on their part and only politically motivated? do you think -- what are we supposed to do in response, technically, to what is happening andiran? should we sit back, observe, and be the third party like the rest of the world was to our own the elections? be thankful that there was a process seat that the people are responding to change?
guest: it is a good question. on being out of hand i do not think so. i think the debate taking place captures the two wings of foreign policy thought. republic hawks believe and invoke ronald reagan and the cold war has been unambiguous in their criticism of authoritarian government. the they are calling for obama to say clearly, we do not want this government in iran to be in power anymore. the obama administration believes that is counter- productive. pragmatism calls for dealing with the government in front of you and as you correctly noted at the end, what exactly would that accomplish? john mccain said clearly over the weekend he is not calling for u.s. troops to be in iran or anything like that. it is unclear exactly what the
republicans are looking for and why what the president has said so far is weak, and then stopping short of a call for a regime change which would be complicated and a part of the world. i think it is just a big, not out of hand. the president said yesterday he believes john mccain is passionate, but he does not agree with them. host: is he doing with foreign policy compared to his domestic agenda? guest: i think the american public has a lot of confidence in what he is doing. he is getting high marks in the polls. higher than in some of his domestic policy, particularly his managing of the federal budget. health care now is on capitol hill. i believe there are five different committees writing this legislation now people are concerned about this complicated subject. he addressed that yesterday
also. at this time many of us are hunting for an ideology. the bush administration had a very clear sense of the way that it saw the world -- freedom as represented by democracy which they defined in different ways was their goal. it became a mother became sort of the purity to it that at times and bumped up against reality. for example, in egypt and authoritarian government challenged by a democratic movement -- the bush administration supported the authoritarian government. hypocrisy came up there. the obama administration is avoiding debt. it is a very pragmatic, not a very emotionally-satisfying response at times. you want to stand up and shout, and the republicans demand that.
this administration sits back and says it might be easier to do that in the short term, but in the long term we need to be pragmatic. this government is very important and we have to deal with it. host: john on the independent line is joining us from rockport, new york. caller: hello. my comment is this, there seems to be a trend ofiran developing nuclear weapons, on the other hand, israel has 200-300 of their own nuclear devices. secondly, there seems to be a great deal of credibility put into the tweets and twitter which was rolled out only two months before all this happen. also myspace -- myspace is owned by rupert murdoch who also owns
fox news -- i'm sorry, but i cannot put much credibility in anything i see on myspace, the same for twitter. there is no credibility in twitter. 97% of the input from twitter is coming in the former re-tweets. guest: on israel -- we were hoping to ask that question yesterday and did not get a chance to in a news conference. again, back to this theme of hypocrisy. the administration, the current administration is trying to avoid hypocrisy. we have heard the president talk about the a de-nuclearized iran. the iranian government denies it, but the larger world and
believes it is a nuclear program. we were going to ask, wouldn't that give the president more leverage in pursuing some of these other programs that we have to get an answer to that at some time. it is a good question. it is one i am interested in also. as far as twitter as a reliable source of information i think you raise a goodpoint. i would take issue with one nico said about the foreign media been under blackout. we have a great course, they're writing to us every day on the front page under pressure. foreign journalists are working iran. we prefer obviously that information that we trust people we know to the others. that said, asnico alluded to, there's a much information to me fromiran in some ways and
twitter is just one of them. the idea that you can corroborate information reported by twitter seems hard to believe, but if you do label it as, for what it is -- clearly, on a website, that may add some value to the overall picture emerging. host: how does this change things for the white house, having the social media be a presence? do they see that as opportunity or challenge? guest: i think they embrace it. i think they see -- this is a white house that has reached out over mainstream media quite a bit. i believe "the huffington post" was called in the very first prime-time news conference. it is a white house that embraces new media, has its own blog on the white house website. that is a first. at the same time, you are right. it adds to the flow of
information coming in and questions asked, and feeds the calls for more, for harsher language about what is happening iniran. host: from philadelphia on the the republican line. caller: good morning, mr. scott wilson, your newspaper and all the other liberal media seems to forget there were over 4000 american soldiers who died in iraq. it is right next toiran if i'm not mistaken. do you think that head anything -- that had anything to do with the change for people can see next door what is going on, other than just words from that speech that obama gave? guest: i have not forgotten that. i spent a lot of time in iraq. but the caller raises a goodpoint.
yes, i think that iran -- not only is iraq on one side, but afghanistan is on the other. u.s. troops are on both side ofiran. i am sure iran feels a great deal of pressure because of that, however, -- and please, do not mistake me that i think the speech has changed the world in iran. it is one of many factors. iraq, afghanistan is another factor. the new world of electronic media is another factor. there are many factors going into this. i do believe the iran has worked very hard to influence events in iraq over the last few years precisely for the reason you're talking about. they feel they need to control a lot of what is happening on the ground. it isa shiite majority country
and the government is led by those clerics. and they believe, they have a huge interest in shaping the outcome in iraq so does not become a threat. host: this caller is from the democrats line caller:. yes, first of all, it is amazing to me how this whole thing is media-driven. where was the concern an outcry over what happens darfur or rwanda which is much worse than what is happening andiran? where is the concern for that? also, these republicans, lindsey graham, john mccain -- they just
need to be quiet. iran, unless you are aniranian citizen, who are we to say who they should elect? guest: darfur is a very good example of a story that like gaza surfaces and then slips away far too often. 400,000 people indarfur have died because of war or famine in recent years. it is a place that my newspaper spends a lot of time covering. a correspondent spent weeks at a time there. this is an age where stories are of the moment, unfortunately, and our attention span can be very short. iran in particular has captured the world's attention and this
country's imagination largely because of the very tangible u.s. national security interests there. that is one of the reasons special attention is paid iran. darfur poses such a huge moral dilemma to the world and a challenge to western powers not to allow genocide again. the response has been inconsistent. it is a story that does deserve more attention. host: from florida, chris on the independent line. caller: good morning. some of the statement you are putting out are disingenuous. let's go to john mccain and lindsey gramm. they said they wanted a harsh statement. once he said the statement they said that is what they wanted. when you said that they're still pushing him, it is a lie.