President Obama exhibited his typical cool and analytical manner Wednesday in arguing for the new Iran nuclear deal and rebutting a variety of initial criticisms.
Well, he did so with one notable exception during a long White House press conference in which he even asked himself questions that he proceeded to answer. Clearly, he had a long list of points he wanted to make, as if he were a courtroom litigator.
CBS News White House Correspondent Major Garrett brought up the fate of four Americans, three of whom are being held in Iranian jails on what the U.S. calls bogus charges (a fourth is unaccounted for). Those in prison include Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who is charged with “espionage” and on trial in a closed proceeding.
Garrett suggested that Obama seemed “content to leave the conscience of the nation unaccounted for” by leaving the four in Iran.
The thrust of the question was patently obvious: The administration had turned its back on them by cutting a nuclear deal and not seeing that at least the imprisoned trio is freed.
Garrett clearly touched a nerve as he made it all a bit too personal (and perhaps needlessly so). The generally unflappable president was quite obviously pissed off.
“The notion that I am content as I celebrate, with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails, Major, that’s nonsense and you should know better,” said a curt, peeved Obama during a generally impressive, systematic performance in which he sought to answer every major qualm voiced about the deal so far.
He repeated how he’s met with “the families of these folks and nobody is content” and is trying diligently to get them out. But he also underscored why he deems it folly to tie their situation into the nuclear issues he negotiated.
That’s because such a linkage would run the risk of letting Iran think it could extract additional nuclear concessions by holding onto Americans.
Conversely, he said, even if the U.S. itself had walked away from the negotiations, its attempts to free the Americans would be unceasing.