White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is a campaign style spokesman who thrives on political spin. But after almost 18 months of acting as the official White House Spokesman, he shouldn’t be allowed to spin foreign policy facts on Meet the Press without pushback from David Gregory or other journalists. On Sunday, Gibbs tried to spin the Obama Administration’s policies on Iran and North Korea by misrepresenting the facts about the support the Obama team got at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
Gibbs either doesn’t understand what happened at the UN or he is lying. Gibbs repeatedly referred to “bringing everyone to the table” to support “the strongest sanctions” the UN has ever placed on North Korea and Iran. He also said that the Bush Administration didn’t have the support of Russia and China on their sanctions resolutions in “September or October 2008” and that the Obama Administration has “better relationships with countries” and “improved relationships….that make our Country safer.” But the facts show that Gibbs is wrong.
Gibbs should know that the Obama team, lead by UN Ambassador Susan Rice, failed to get a unanimous vote on the first and only Iran sanctions resolution this administration has authored. In fact, the Obama team failed to get the support of Lebanon, Turkey and Brazil. Of the 15 members of the Security Council, Rice and the Obama team only received 12 votes – the least amount of support we have ever seen for a UNSC sanctions resolution on Iran. While Gibbs claims that everyone is at the table, the Obama table has more empty seats than the Bush table had. Despite what Gibbs tries to spin, the Bush team got fewer NO votes in 5 resolutions on Iran than the Obama team got on their one and only resolution.
Additionally, Gibbs needs to go back and look at the Security Council roll call vote and video footage from UN resolution #1835 that passed on September 27, 2008. While Gibbs claims on Sunday’s Meet the Press that Russia’s and China’s support was unclear, they both clearly raised their hand to vote in favor of the resolution. That resolution, which called on Iran to “comply fully and without delay” with SC demands and IAEA directives, was written, negotiated and forced to a unanimous vote 7 days after the IAEA issued their then-latest report on Iran’s illegal uranium enrichment. Gibbs’ claim that we didn’t know where Russia and China stood is laughable when you can actually watch the video showing the Chinese and Russian diplomats with their hands in the air.
But Gibbs is not the only Administration official to spread misinformation about the Bush team’s record at the UN. Shortly after the June 9, 2010 SC vote on Iran sanctions where the Obama team got only 12 votes in favor of the resolution, UN Ambassador Susan Rice also tried to distract attention from her poor performance by misleading Fox News Sunday viewers about the Bush team’s vote count. Rice jumped to defend the Obama Administration’s lackluster performance by claiming that previous Iran resolutions were not unanimous during the Bush Administration and that there were “abstentions”. Her strategy to minimize the Bush team’s performance in order to make her own meager results look better isn’t factual. It was, in fact, one of three Iran resolutions the Bush team got passed unanimously. Two other resolutions passed with only one country voting against sanctions and one country abstaining (singular abstention, not plural as Rice claimed). Not a bad accomplishment for a team that the Obama Administration labeled devoid of friends around the world.
Gibbs’ claims of better relationships with other countries also seem suspect if those friends don’t actually support us on priority issues. The Obama team consistently confuses kind words with actual commitments and votes. While some countries clearly like the softer stance from the Obama Administration, they also aren’t being convinced to support us. The Obama team waited 17 months before they brought forward a UN resolution pressuring Iran with additional sanctions. In that time, the Iranians made unfettered progress toward a nuclear weapon with less pressure and inquiry from an international community celebrating the fact that they weren’t being confronted by the U.S. with the Iran question.
Gibbs’ performance on Meet the Press suggests that he either consciously misled viewers on the Administration’s UN performance or he isn’t paying attention to Susan Rice’s performance. Either way, the White House press corps should challenge his statements and make him correct the record.