The Latin Lesson
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
It is going to be illuminating to see how Hillary Clinton’s campaign deals with the confirmation by the Wall Street Journal that President Obama’s payment to the Iranians of $400 million in cash was used to ransom American hostages. It’s not just evidence, were any needed, that one act of appeasement always leads to another. Among the devils in the details is the disclosure of the fact that the aircraft via which the cash was delivered was linked to an airline used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
How is Mrs. Clinton going to react to all this? She is perfectly capable, she has shown, of breaking with the administration she served and of doing so over foreign policy — as in, say, flip-flop in respect of the Trans Pacific Partnership. Supporters of the Democratic nominee like to suggest that she will implement a more hard-headed, hawkish foreign policy than the president she served. How could that square with her embrace of the Obama administration’s appeasement of Iran?
“Iransom,” to use the headline phrase for the cash for hostages deal. It’s not just the appeasement and the cynicism. It’s the dissembling and evasions — the linguisticalistic hair-splitting — to which the President and his spokesmen have had to resort. It’s right up there with President Clinton’s “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Here’s an exchange between a spokesman for the State Department, Rear Admiral Kirby, and Brad Klapper of the AP and James Rosen of Fox News, on the “leveraging” of the $400 million:
KLAPPER: So it was a quid pro quo?
KLAPPER: You took advantage of it, and you made it a quid pro quo.
KIRBY: We took advantage of leverage that we thought we could have to make sure that they got out safely and efficiently.
JAMES ROSEN: So you were holding the Iranians’ money hostage?
KIRBY: No, James.
KLAPPER: They paid the ransom. Because they released the prisoners.
KIRBY: It was their money, it’s their money. They were gonna get it anyway.
ROSEN: Would you at least agree, John . . .
KIRBY: Look, guys, we had to, you know, if we hadn’t done that, and if for some reason the Iranians did play games and we didn’t get the Americans out, and we hadn’t tried to use that leverage, then I could understand the disdain and the criticism here. But this was a sound decision made in the end game of two separate negotiation tracks.
KLAPPER: I’m making no value judgment on the decision. I’m just trying to get you to say what it is, which is very simple.
KIRBY: I have described what it is for the last 15 minutes. I haven’t used the Latin phrase that you like . . .
News that the quid pro quo was delivered on an aircraft linked to the Revolutionary Guards comes in the wake of the scoop in June by Eli Lake of Bloomberg warning that the money transfers under the articles of appeasement were going to the Iranian military. Yet this issue itself has never been addressed by the administration or its former state secretary, now running for president. It’s hard to figure which is the bigger scandal, the ransom or the recipient to which it was delivered.
Much, after all, has been made of the question of character in this election. President Obama and Mrs. Clinton are trying to convince the American people that Donald Trump lacks the character needed to be president — he speaks too coarsely, he is prone to exaggeration, no one can tell what he might do, he’s unfit to hold the office. But what about the issue of plain talk and old school honesty? What should Americans be able to expect in the way of straight talk from the winner of this election who will be, among other things, their fiduciary?