In the Arena

Happy Nowruz!

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The President had two significant video moments yesterday–in a personal message to the people and government of Iran…and on Jay Leno. He aced both.

The Iran message–already being criticized by neolithic conservatives–is part of a strategy: make it clear that we’re willing to be reasonable, that our goal isn’t regime change (hence, the reference to Iran as the “Islamic Republic”), that the ball is in the Supreme Leader’s court. In other words, he’s treating the Iranians the same way as he treats the Republicans. One hopes the Iranians will respond more rationally, although there are no guarantees. As Britain’s Foreign Minister David Miliband said to the Iranian representative, Ali Larijani, at the Munich Security Conference: don’t blow this opportunity.

As for Leno, the emphasis will be on the special olympics gafflette. I am in favor of granting politicians leeway, when it comes to human failings like smoking, getting slobbery over their pets, napping occasionally (when jet-lagged, as Brent Scowcroft once did), blowing lunch (as George H.W. Bush did in Japan) and being unable to diet successfully…but especially when it comes to humor. Obama has a darkish, naughty sense of humor–sort of like Bob Dole’s, though not nearly so dark. (It should never be forgotten that Dole called Haldeman, Erlichman and Nixon: “See No Evil, Hear No Evil and…Evil.”) Yes, he should apologize, as he has. But we shouldn’t belabor this. I’d much rather see Presidents caught in the act of being human than in the promulgation of egomaniacal excess.