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BLOG: On Rep. Reed's "terrorist" statement

        A blog by 13WHAM News anchor Evan Dawson

  Congressman Calls President of Iran a Terrorist; Claims Obama Has Been Negotiating With Known Terrorists   

On a media conference call Monday morning, Rep. Tom Reed (R-23) said that President Obama has been more interested in negotiating with known terrorists, including the president of Iran, instead of negotiating with House Republicans.

During that same call, Congressman Reed repeatedly said that he wants to change the culture in Washington, D.C. The culture he seeks to change includes wild hyperbole from both major parties, and Reeds comments this morning only carry on the tradition of potentially problematic rhetoric.

I asked Reed what he meant when he made the remark about the president talking to known terrorists, including the president of Iran. He replied that he was speaking figuratively. But he declined the opportunity to amend the statement, doubling down on the idea that Irans newly elected president is a terrorist.

He called the leader of Iran, Reed said. Iran, with numerous and known terrorists and extremists. Its very frustrating, being a member of Congress when your president is more willing to pick up the phone to talk to a head of state of a country that is no friend of America, but isnt willing to call or talk to us in the House to work out our differences.

I then asked, Do you categorize the president of Iran as a terrorist?

Reed responded, The president of Iran represents a country that has known terrorist agencies and groups within it. By being that representative, I believe there are rightful interpretations to be drawn that he represents those interests. To me, that is problematic.

First of all, to state the obvious, there are extremist organizations in the United States. There are extremist organizations, and often terror groups, in most countries. Whether the president of the United States is Barack Obama or Mitt Romney or Rand Paul or Hillary Clinton doesnt mean the president represents the interests of the worst groups in the country.

Second, Iran has a newly elected leader, Hassan Rouhani, who replaced the bombastic Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani is not a known terrorist, as Reed says, nor does he publicly represents terror groups. He is known as a reformer with a softer touch than his predecessors. Well see if thats a fair description over the coming months and years.

Third, President Obama has plenty of time to call Rouhani on the phone and call House Republicans if he chooses. Its not one or the other. The question of whether the president wants to talk to Republicans is not tied to his other activities.

Finally, the United States is in a very delicate stage with regards to Iran and nuclear development. Whether or not you think that President Obama has acted effectively on this issue, it cant be helpful for a sitting member of Congress to call the new Iranian president a known terrorist just to score a political point.

This is a classic Washington tactic, and while Reed talks about the culture, hes participating in it. Democrats do it, Republicans do it, and its a distraction (at best). Last week, Republicans were right to complain about the rhetoric coming from White House advisor Dan Pfeiffer, who accused Republicans of negotiating with a bomb strapped to their chest.

Reed has every right to complain about how the White House has handled the looming government shutdown. In fact, Reed revealed this morning that hes putting together his own bill (even though he couldnt name Republican colleagues who would support it). But if he wants the focus to be on the way Democrats have botched the budget debate, he should keep the focus there, and avoid making incendiary remarks about foreign leaders. Reed deserves credit for scheduling a weekly conference call with reporters; hell spend as long as we like, answering all questions. Not everyone in Congress does it.

There isnt much time before the government shuts down. Reed is right to say that urgency is needed in Washington.

Evan Dawson, 13WHAM-TV
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