This column is about Iran. But first a word about a bearded bully closer to home.
On Monday, New York TimesNYT -0.52% columnist Paul Krugman accused this newspaper of "crude obfuscation" for failing to run a correction for a mistake I made in a recent column on income inequality. "Oh, and for the record," he wrote with his customary charm, "at the time of writing this elementary error had not been corrected on the Journal's website."
In fact, a formal correction was posted on Jan. 5 and I addressed the subject at length onJan. 3.
Columnists make mistakes, and when we do we post timely corrections. Well, some of us do. What's amusing about Mr. Krugman is that he should now commit his own elementary error in the service of a loudmouth accusation. While he's paying attention, maybe he can explain his August 2002 contention that " Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble," or his January 2010 claim that "Europe is an economic success." Misreading Census Bureau data, as I accidentally did, is a misdemeanor intellectual offense compared with those whoppers.
OK, on to the ayatollahs. Earlier this month, the editorial board of the New York Times rebuked 59 U.S. senators for signing on to Iran legislation from New Jersey DemocratRobert Menendez and Illinois Republican Mark Kirk. The bill, claimed the Times, "would ¬impose new sanctions" and "violate the interim [nuclear] agreement" between Iran and the ¬international community.
Well, that's one way of describing the sanctions. In reality, Menendez-Kirk imposes new sanctions only if Iran violates the current deal, commits acts of terror against American interests, or launches a medium-range ballistic missile. It also threatens Iran with sanctions if it doesn't dismantle its illicit nuclear infrastructure to preclude an atomic breakout capability. This is onerous? As recently as June 2010 the Times's editorial board was complaining that U.N. sanctions calling for the suspension of enrichment were "too long in coming and [did] not go far enough."
Then there is California Democrat Dianne Feinstein. In a Senate speech last week now credited for blunting the momentum of the Menendez-Kirk bill, Ms. Feinstein recalled that Germany and Japan, once fearsome enemies of the U.S., are now friends and allies, while countries such as Sweden pursued nuclear weapons until they decided to abandon the quest. She also praised Iranian President Hasan Rouhani as a new kind of leader who "campaigned in support of repairing Iran's relationship with the West."
But wait: Didn't the U.S. pretty much obliterate Germany and Japan militarily in World War II before they became such good allies and neighborly states? And if Sweden had developed nuclear weapons, would it have made any difference to international peace and security?
As for Mr. Rouhani, here's a quote from his presidential campaign, first noted in the West by my colleague Sohrab Ahmari : "Saying 'Death to America' is easy," Mr. Rouhani said in May at a campaign event in the city of Karaj. "We need to express 'Death to America' with action." Sen. Feinstein also put in a good word for Iran's urbane foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who just last week laid a wreath at the Beirut grave of Imad Mugniyeh, mastermind of the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks, the 1985 hijacking of TWA 847 and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires.
Mr. Zarif's wreath-laying came a couple of days before Ms. Feinstein's speech. Perhaps she imagines that such tributes are part of the complex maneuvers Iranian "moderates" have to play to convince the "hard-liners" that they haven't lost their ideological fervor. The West used to play these mind games with itself in the 1990s, when Yasser Arafat's alleged moderation was a function not of what he said, but of what we chose to hear.
Meanwhile, a real moderate—former Lebanese finance minister Mohamad Chatah —was blown to bits in a car bombing last month. He had been gathering signatures for an open letter calling for an end to Iranian meddling in Lebanon and Syria. Real Middle Eastern moderates tend not to fare well when the likes of Ms. Feinstein are busy praising fake ones.
On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry got the U.N. to rescind its invitation to Iran to join talks aimed at resolving Syria's civil war. It's good to know the administration hasn't quite forgotten the role that Tehran plays in feeding the Assad killing machine. But the moment of clarity is unlikely to last while President Obama fantasizes about making an opening to Tehran the way Nixon did with China. For now, there isn't a more dishonest line in Washington than the one that says "all options are on the table" when it comes to stopping Iran's nukes.
At least there's one person willing to tell it like it is. "In #Geneva agreement world powers surrendered to Iranian nation's will," Mr. Rouhani tweeted last week. Just so. No crude obfuscating for him.