Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Will Iran cost Obama the presidency?

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 2:31 PM EST, Tue March 6, 2012
President Obama addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual conference in Washington on Sunday.
President Obama addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual conference in Washington on Sunday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson: President Obama's decisions on Iran are complicated by politics
  • He says Obama will be criticized by GOP candidates on foreign policy no matter what
  • He says winning an election in today's sound-bite culture prompts candidates to deceive
  • Granderson: What works politically might not be the right call in tense Iran standoff

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs. Watch him on Tuesdays on CNN Newsroom in the 9 am ET hour.

(CNN) -- I'm sure if President Barack Obama were stuck between a rock and a hard place, that would be preferable to the spot he currently finds himself in.

Consider this: Most nations agree Iran cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. However, no one -- including the United States -- can afford the price of another war. And in the middle of this delicate situation, Obama's rivals are thrashing about on TV, employing the first rule of politics: Characterize everything the incumbent says and does as wrong.

I'm not sure if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad intended to kidnap the 2012 general election with his little nuclear weapons game, but that is exactly what appears to have happened.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

Obama, the man, is being tested because Obama, the politician, must find a way to navigate the world through this current Middle East quagmire without being sidetracked by what may or may not be the best narrative for his re-election bid. Not that his integrity or foreign policy have anything to do with what his opponents say about him.

On Sunday, the president stood in front of the crowd at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and reiterated that while he prefers to handle the Iranian nuclear dilemma with diplomacy, he will not hesitate to use military force to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Obama, Netanyahu look for unity on Iran
Netanyahu: Iran can't get nukes
DNC chair: Iran military option on table

"There should not be a shred of doubt by now, when the chips are down, I have Israel's back," Obama said to applause.

A short time later in Georgia, Mitt Romney stood in front of a large crowd and essentially lied.

"(Obama) failed to communicate that military options are on the table and in fact in our hand, and that it's unacceptable to America for Iran to have a nuclear weapon," he told supporters.

This is how Obama will spend the rest of 2012, watching his rivals get in front of cameras and crowds misrepresenting his record and second-guessing every foreign policy decision he's ever made because they have the luxury of talking without actually having to make a decision.

Politically speaking, it's a nice place to be in -- and one Obama should recognize, because he was there five years ago. As a junior senator, Obama stood in the halls of the Capitol denouncing President George W. Bush's plan for a surge in Iraq only to have his campaign team purge that criticism from his website a few months later after the surge was considered a success.

No harm. No foul.

Fast forward a handful of years and Obama the perpetrator has become Obama the victim.

Last spring, Republicans criticized the president for not using military force to aid the rebels in Libya, only to criticize the president for using military force to aid the rebels in the summer. And now that longtime U.S. adversary Moammar Gadhafi has been killed, in large part due to Obama's decisions, notice his rivals don't mention Libya at all anymore.

They've moved on to Syria and Iran.

No harm. No foul.

Only this time around, the stakes are significantly higher.

Back in 2007 Obama was pushing to end two wars. Today, the GOP candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, are pushing for a pre-emptive one.

If that sounds familiar, it should.

It's the Bush Doctrine all over again, the one that helped take us away from a projected $2.3 trillion surplus to a very real $15 trillion debt.

Author George Santayana famously said, "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Somehow I doubt we will hear that line of reasoning brought up by Romney, Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum when they talk about what the United States should do about Israel and Iran.

We also won't hear how Iran is not in violation of international law or that U.S. presidents don't control gas prices.

All we'll hear is that this president is weak and that we need to bomb the hell out of Iran.

And maybe that's true, I don't know.

I do know it is hard for voters to separate the wheat from the chaff, because before Obama even voices his position on an issue, his opponents are prepared with a rebuttal. That's no way to hold a healthy national discussion on something that's inconsequential, let alone foreign policy.

But in our sound-bite driven culture, it is an effective way to win an election. And at the end of the day, that's why candidates run for office—to win. They are free to pontificate without needing to be right, criticize without having all the facts and loudly call for war without ever having to wage one.

No harm. No foul.

As for Obama, I'm sure he hears the rhetoric and juxtaposes that to the situation in the Middle East and well, harm and foul is all he sees.

Follow us on Twitter: @CNNOpinion

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Iran: Mounting tensions
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Fri April 13, 2012
Two months ago, Emad Ghavidel turned on the television in Tehran and saw graphic footage of an injured Syrian child crying out in pain.
updated 9:38 AM EST, Fri March 9, 2012
Iran's biggest customers are responding to increasing pressure to cut imports from Tehran.
updated 5:44 PM EST, Thu March 8, 2012
Faced with mounting pressure from world powers over its controversial nuclear program, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA says this country "is ready to re-engage with (the) IAEA."
updated 4:52 PM EST, Tue March 6, 2012
Republican presidential hopefuls and U.S. President Barack Obama trade barbs over Iran.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Fri March 9, 2012
Why is the international community suspicious of Iran's nuclear program? CNN's Hala Gorani reports.
updated 5:05 PM EST, Fri March 9, 2012
President Barack Obama's rebuke of Republicans who are "beating the drums of war" for military action against Iran should also be directed at Israel, Asher Kaufman says.
updated 12:51 PM EST, Thu March 8, 2012
Opinion: The only way war with Iran may be avoided is if the country believes an attack from the West is a real possibility, Frida Ghitis says.
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Mon March 19, 2012
Iran's controversial nuclear program began more than 50 years ago with aid from the West.
updated 11:39 AM EST, Thu March 8, 2012
(file photo) Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has criticized Barack Obama's threat to impose more sanctions on Iran.
Recent remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama that he is not thinking of military action against Iran are positive, according to Iran's supreme leader, Iran's state-run Press TV reported.
updated 5:31 PM EST, Mon March 5, 2012
CNN's Matthew Chance reports U.N. inspectors have "credible information" that Iran may be developing a nuclear device.
updated 2:31 PM EST, Tue March 6, 2012
LZ Granderson looks at the effect of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his nuclear weapons "game."
updated 11:22 AM EST, Fri March 9, 2012
A threatened Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear program carries enormous risks for the Jewish state, including international isolation, retaliation at home and abroad, and steep economic costs.
updated 3:36 PM EST, Tue March 6, 2012
Erin Burnett breaks down the mixed messages between Israel and the U.S. on Iran.
updated 1:34 PM EST, Tue March 6, 2012
Israeli President Shimon Peres discusses his concerns about Iran.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT