Why wouldn’t the President agree to a red line?
Mr. Obama, the official said, repeated the assurances he gave to Mr. Netanyahu in March that the United States would not allow Iran to manufacture a nuclear weapon. But the president was unwilling to agree on any specific action by Iran — like reaching a defined threshold on nuclear material, or failing to adhere to a deadline on negotiations — that would lead to American military action.
“We need some ability for the president to have decision-making room,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the talks. “We have a red line, which is a nuclear weapon. We’re committed to that red line.”
Bill Keller, former executive editor and now lead pontificator and explainer weighs in:
The jibe apparently referred not to Obama’s statement but to one issued independently by the U.S. embassy in Cairo, deploring the video. The Cairo outpost rejected “efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” The Cairo embassy was understandably trying to defuse a potentially dangerous situation outside its walls. (Sure enough, the embassy was soon surrounded by an angry throng.)
When the situation became clearer, Romney could have tempered his remarks, and offered the president a hand of American solidarity. That would have been the right, the classy, the traditional and, incidentally, the politically popular thing to do. (It’s what virtually ever other senior Republican official did.) Instead, at a press conference, Romney doubled down, recycling his baseless charge that Obama was “apologizing for American principles.”
Romney has excuses for this kind of blunder: he is a foreign policy naïf, and he is desperate. But, like Netanyahu, he is not helping himself. The polls show that American voters trust Obama more than Romney on foreign policy. Romney’s ham-handed handling of this episode confirms their judgment.