Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Obama's Toughest Words Yet on Iran Crackdown

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Obama's Toughest Words Yet on Iran Crackdown

Article excerpt

President Obama sought to assert himself Tuesday on Iran, energy, and healthcare in an hour-long midday press conference.

In a month when Mr. Obama has seen his top legislative initiatives falter, his willingness to take on a key foreign adversary questioned, and his job approval ratings slip, the president used the White House press corps as a foil against which to show that he will not be forced into positions or statements before he is ready.

On Iran, Obama said: "The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days."

It was his most assertive statement to date about Iran since the country erupted in violence over its disputed June 12 presidential election. But he made clear he was not going to be pressured into going further than he wanted to, so as not to turn the conflict into Washington versus Tehran.

When asked about complaints by senators - including his Republican rival for the presidency, John McCain - that his response on Iran had been "timid and weak," Obama twice asserted that "I am president of the United States" and as such will carry out his duties as he deems appropriate. As a rule, whenever a US president feels obliged to point out that he's president, it can be interpreted as a sign he's feeling weakened. [Click here for Europe's view of Obama's policy.]

A plug for energy/climate change bill

On energy, Obama used his bully pulpit to call on the House to pass legislation that will "spark a clean energy transformation" and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. The measure has met resistance over costs - to business, to the federal government, and to American families.

"At a time of great fiscal challenges, this legislation is paid for by the polluters who currently emit the dangerous carbon emissions that contaminate the water we drink and pollute the air we breathe," he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to hold a vote on Friday on the energy/climate change bill, a gamble on a measure that faces stiff opposition by Republicans and some Democrats.

In defense of a government-run health plan

On healthcare, Obama also addressed the cost issue, insisting "this is legislation that must and will be paid for. …

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