Jason Schwenkler thinks I overreacted by calling Gibbs' "elected" comment "unforgivable," suggesting that I thought Gibbs should have overtly condemned Ahmadi. I did not. Gibbs' word choice was alarming because it was a clear departure from the relative neutrality of the White House so far. And it was unforgivable because it was immediately seized upon by Iranian state press and bemoaned by reformists in the twitterverse and elsewhere. Allahpundit said it well:
[Gibbs] could have dodged this question a dozen ways. He could have said the election’s irrelevant from our standpoint since we have to play the cards we’re dealt; he could have noted, as Obama’s often done in the past, that true power resides in the supreme leader so it’s only his legitimacy that’s at issue;
Larison makes a more substantive point than Schwenkler:
Andrew complains, “He was selected.” Oh, well, that’s different. As if the finalists for the first round of voting on June 12 were anything other than selected, screened and pre-approved by the real powers in Iran.
Perhaps. But that mistakes and miunderstands the transformative nature of the past few months. A selection of candidates turned into a real election for a symbol of real reform. To cast the coup as an election, as Gibbs did, is to have missed the core truth of what happened. I take his retraction as a reflection on his part that he screwed up.