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Senators Weigh In on U.S. Response to Iranian Protests

The tone of President Obama's response to the disputed Iranian election has drawn fire from some on Capitol Hill. Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., assess the U.S. response to the protests.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Up until today, President Obama's response to the developments in Iran had drawn fire from congressional Republicans. As we just saw, the president responded to that.

    And now we hear from two members of the U.S. Senate, Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    Senators, thank you both for being with us.

    Senator Graham, I'm going to start with you, because your name came up today at that news conference. You have been saying until now that the president has been timid and passive in his comments. What did you make of what he said today?

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), South Carolina: I thought he was very strong today. And the reason I said that is because it's what I believe. I think he's right on Iraq. I think he's been good on Afghanistan. And with Senator Kerry's help, we're going to do some good things in Pakistan.

    But the president believes that he can sit down with this regime and negotiate to end Iran's ambitions to pursue a nuclear weapon. I hope he can. But this regime has lost credibility with its people, with the world at large, and France, Germany and England came out strong.

    I think the president did today what I was hoping he would do before because he is the leader of the free world, not me. His voice does matter. He's an eloquent spokesman for freedom, and I think what he said today will penetrate in Iran, and I'd like to see the U.N. Security Council, led by us, condemn the Iranian regime. I'd like to see more sanctions.

    And I'd like to see the president continue to speak out about freedom in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, because he is such a strong voice for these ideas. So that was my criticism.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Senator Kerry, did you hear something materially different from the president today?

    SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), Massachusetts: I think the president has been absolutely square on and correct in his statements about Iran.

    You know, there's a difference between politics and statesmanship. And the president has to be a statesman and the leader of our nation in terms of foreign policy.

    At the beginning of your show, you talked about how BBC and Voice of America and public statements are being used by the Iranian government to distract — those were your words in the reporting — to distract from the real cause here.

    The president has been sensitive to that, but anybody who believes that the president has been less than forceful on this is simply ignoring history.

    He went to Cairo. And in Cairo, he made a major speech about democracy, about Iran, about how we will stand up to Iran. He has been clear about the questions raised about this election. And no one in the world doubts where the United States of America is with respect to this election or where the president is.

    But this has to be about Iranians and Iran. This is Iran's moment, not America's. And I think the president has played it absolutely correctly. He's been clear now about what is at stake. And I think he's allowed the Iranians to define this moment of history in Iranian words, in Iranian actions. And that is really the power of it.

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