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Obama, Hillary And Iran

The Washington Times adds some detail to prior reports that Hillary Clinton pushed Obama to toughen his rhetoric on Iran:

At his June 23 news conference, Mr. Obama said he was "appalled and outraged" by Iranian behavior and "strongly condemned" the violence against anti-government demonstrators. Up until then, Mr. Obama and other administration officials had taken a softer line, expressing "deep concern" about the situation and calling on Iran to "respect the dignity of its own people."

Behind the scenes, the officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they were discussing internal deliberations, said Mrs. Clinton had been advocating the stronger U.S. response, but the president resisted. When he finally took her advice, the aides said, he did so without informing her first.

But it's not totally clear that Obama really "took her advice," a phrase which implies that Hillary's input was the decisive factor in Obama's thinking. When Obama toughened his posture towards the clerical regime, he had been under pressure from multiple directions, and the Iran regime itself was acting in an increasingly brutal and loathsome way.

So in a sense this is one of those stories that is more interesting for its existence than its substance. (Same goes for Bob Woodward's travels with the oft-maligned Jim Jones. Is the NSC advisor employing his star-report friend in an image-rehab campaign?) Is someone around Hillary trying to remind the world that, despite her strikingly low profile, she does in fact have influence in this administration?

If so, it's clearly a mixed bag, given that State wasn't notified in advance when Obama finally did get tough. The Times article underscores something that I have heard regularly--that Obama has a very personal, hand-on approach to making foreign policy. 

The decision on Iran was very personal, officials said. Mr. Obama knew his senior aides' views, but it was up to him to "pull the trigger."

"We have so few tools when we deal with Iran, and we don't fully understand what's going on, so all we've got is what the president says," the first administration official said. "There isn't a huge process behind it."

As this article illustrates, what that means for Hillary remains a little unclear. 

--Michael Crowley