Post Politics Hour

Garance Franke-Ruta
Washington Post National Politics Web Editor and Producer
Monday, June 22, 2009; 11:00 AM

Washington Post national editor and producer Garance Franke-Ruta was online Monday, June 22 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news about the White House and Congress.


Louisville, Ky.: Hello, Garance. Thanks for taking questions. First, I understand and very much respect Obama's restraint and caution regarding what he says about Iran. I don't understand the logic by some of the benfits of an Obama "Bring 'em on" or "Smoke 'em out" speech. But behind the scenes, I'm curious what the United States is doing to monitor or perhaps steer the events. I do believe (without any real evidence however) that the U.S. has a lot of players there and here who are watching and working behind the scenes to sow the seeds of a coup. Maybe I watch too many movies. What are your thoughts as to what the U.S. is really doing behind the scenes?

Garance Franke-Ruta: I don't have any direct knowledge of U.S. government efforts in Iran beyond what has been reported. But I don't think your suspicions that there are monitoring efforts

Garance Franke-Ruta: Hello and welcome. I don't have any direct knowledge of U.S. government efforts regarding Iran beyond what have been reported. But I don't think your suspicions that there are monitoring efforts are unfounded, at the very least.

That said, no outside power could get teenagers and students and people of all walks of life to take the risks they have been taking all over Iran over the past week; that's the kinds of thing that only results from an organic upwelling of sentiment.

And the main thing the U.S. is doing to steer sentiment is to stay out of things and not give more ammunition to those who say that the protests have been fomented by outside powers. Sometimes restraint is a form of action.


Richmond, Va.: First, upfront, I am an uber-Obama supporter, so it is with dismay that I ask this: Why is Obama giving in to GOP criticism that he should be more forceful in his support of the student demonstrations in Iran?

The fact is, Obama is PRESIDENT of the United States (in case the GOP has forgotten), and he has an obligation to protect this country, which means, not speaking recklessly about the internal affairs of another country that could get us into situations that might endanger us -- diplomatically or physically.

The GOP goading is just UGLY campaign rhetoric, or worse, the same kind of cowboy, shoot-from-the-hip talk that got us inot Iraq (with all of its consequences). The Iran situation is VERY, VERY complicated, and I was proud of Obama for resisting calls to be more outspoken -- now I am confused as to why he is giving in to the silly prodding by an out-of-oower GOP. Any thoughts?

Garance Franke-Ruta: Is he giving in to GOP prodding? I'm not sure that I see any evidence of that. His statement on Saturday seemed a reaction to a change in facts on the ground on Saturday and the images of violence now echoing around the world.


Burke, Va.: I realize you're (Froomkin) probably been bombarded (Froomkin) with questions about a recent Post firing (Froomkin), but isn't it pretty apparent that the WP is trying to get more conservative voices on board on its political coverage/op-eds?

Garance Franke-Ruta: Ah Fromkin. I was wondering how long it would be before there was a Froomkin question!

I don't work on the editorial side of things so can't speak to the strategy there or the decision-making wrt to Froomkin.

What I can say is that a lot of exceptionally talented people have left The Post in the short time I've been here for a variety of reasons related to changes in the industry. Very few of them have done so wholly voluntarily.

I know so many journalists who have lost their jobs because of the changes in the industry that it seems wrong even for people to write about him being "fired" -- a relic of a different economic era.


Salinas, Calif.: Hi Garance. I'm fascinated by the question circling news panel shows of late, "Is the Obama honeymoon over?" My question in reply is, "When did it ever begin?" Republicans started criticism of him immediately after the election and liberals joined the drum beat after their pet issues (same sex marriage, DADT, Guantanamo, torture, etc.) weren't reversed in his first week of office. Even though his personal poll numbers remain favorable, couldn't we just dial back the histrionics a bit and let the government govern?

Garance Franke-Ruta: I think what people mean is that once you get into the nitty gritty of policy making everything gets a lot harder. And once people start evaluating whether promised improvements have indeed come about. That said, Obama continues to have historically high approval ratings for a president at this point in year one, even as those rating have declined from their extraordinary heights earlier in the year.


Boston: Will Obama's political power be dependent upon job figures starting in the next six months and moving forward?

Garance Franke-Ruta: I don't think so -- but if things don't start improving in 2010, all bets are off.


re Republican Criticism: I'm more dismayed by the lack of historical perspective on the part of those few in the GOP who are criticizing Obama with regard to Iran. Iranians are very familiar with our actions in their country over the past 60 years and the 1979 revolution was expressly a referendum on part of that legacy. It seems to me that those who are critical of Obama are living out Santayana's warning, "those who do not study the past are doomed to repeat it."

Garance Franke-Ruta: I think the president has shown both in the campaign and since that he is not easily buffeted and so far I'm not seeing signs he's feeling particularly pressured by the criticisms of folks whose philosophy he profoundly disagrees with.


Arlington, Va.: When is enough, enough? When will Obama stop wasting political capital on tax cheats and forgetful filers and refuse to send up another nominee with tax problems? We now have a State Dept. nominee who failed to file two years in a row, and initially tried to blame the Post Office. Aren't there leaders and experts on the left who have paid their taxes properly? New York Times: Pick for Protocol Post Corrects Failure to File Taxes in 2 Years

Garance Franke-Ruta: Not paying your taxes is rather a breach of protocol, isn't it?


Los Angeles, Calif: Eileen Sullivan's article today about radiation detectors for cargo seems to suggest that the Dept. of Homeland Security is being more rational when spending our money. How changed in general do you think DHS is from the Bush days when 'security' was all about screaming at airline passengers and forcing people to remove their shoes before boarding a plane - a system that has been described as 'security theater'? New detector not much better catching nuke matter

Garance Franke-Ruta: Security theater has its role, too.

That said, there seems to be an uptick in program evaluations based on science over the past few months and there is a what appears to be a systemic effort afoot at the agencies to examine recent past decisions and reevaluate whether or not they should be carried forwards.


Flippin, AR: This am before work I checked the morning shows and both Morning Joe and CNN had former Bush foreign pol advisors on criticizing Obama's "timidity" re: Iran. Why would networks OR viewers give time or credence to ANYONE associated with that foreign policy debacle? Not learning from "history" is one thing, but how 'bout just months ago?

Garance Franke-Ruta: I think the best news sources on Iran have been those with the least commentary...this is a story that's been breaking online, not as much on cable...


Garance Franke-Ruta: Thanks for your questions today. You can follow our continuing Iran coverage here: Iranians Protest Presidential Election Results


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company