- - Monday, September 30, 2013

Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton in the pantheon of romancers and boudoir bandits, but he is the president, after all, and his vain search for love in all the wrong places is enough to break a heart of stone. He just can’t believe that Hasan Rouhani, the new president of Iran, is just not that into him. (Isn’t everybody?)

Not since Jimmy Carter chased Teddy Kennedy around the platform at the Democratic National Convention in 1980, begging for the traditional hands-above-the-head gesture of acclamation by rivals for the nomination, has an American president been so publicly scorned, rebuked and humiliated. That’s why he’s so desperate to bring on the health care train wreck. He must look tough at something.

The Iranians are skilled at embarrassing American presidents. Bubba tried to get the eye of Mohammed Khatami, an earlier president of Iran, at the United Nations in 2000, and was similarly snubbed. Bubba was willing to buy lunch, but could not even get a wink of recognition.

Before that, Ronald Reagan, who should have recognized that a search for a moderate in Iran is the ultimate snipe hunt, sent the famous cake in the shape of a key to Tehran — whether of German chocolate, red velvet or plain old sheet cake with buttercream icing, we were never told. There were no takers; it was the Gipper who suffered the indigestion.

Humiliating Mr. Obama is not as much fun as humiliating the likes of Bubba and the Gipper, because it’s so much easier to do. The new regime in Tehran makes no pretense of graciousness in triumph; even a homecoming queen will usually spare the feelings of the nerd with the slide rule in his shirt pocket who screws up the courage to ask her to dance. Mr. Obama, unlike the nerd, just keeps going back for more of the same. Like his predecessors, he never flags in his search for the nonexistent “moderate.”

It’s clear to everyone who has been paying attention that the only pursuit the Iranians are interested in is the pursuit of nuclear weapons. The ayatollahs who pull the strings in Tehran, the only politicians in Iran who are relevant to anything important, are pushing ahead to further refine weapons-grade enriched uranium. They know better than to keep doing things that don’t work, so after the years of public bluster and gasbaggery, vowing to demolish the Great Satan and wipe Israel off the map, they dispatched Mr. Rouhani to dispense candy and flowers (and champagne, if they had any) to the gullible in the West. The sanctions are hurting, and like the pain of tight shoes, the pain of sanctions only worsens with time.

The gullibility of the West is the secret weapon of the mullahs — not only in Iran, but throughout the Muslim world. The mullahs, who are not above a little mild flirtation, string along presidents and prime ministers to make the inevitable snub all the more satisfying. Mr. Rouhani’s agents were pleased to go along with the minuet at the United Nations. They gave the White House a nudge and a wink, which the White House passed on to the gullible reporters, suggesting the time and place when and where Mr. Rouhani would acknowledge the deep bow that Mr. Obama always takes when he runs into a Muslim and reach for the American president’s proffered hand.

But it never happened. Anyone else could recognize a snub, but the ayatollahs knew their mark. They could count on Mr. Obama to make their excuses. “The Iranians have an internal dynamic that they have to manage,” an Obama aide told reporters.

That “internal dynamic” is the cultivated glee the ayatollahs take in insulting the Great Satan. This “internal dynamic” was on display the day before Mr. Rouhani left for New York and the United Nations. Flanked by his army’s chief of staff and the commander of the Revolutionary Guard, he presided over the annual parade of weapons through downtown Tehran. There was nothing sweet in sight. Banners on the trucks towing the Shahab-3 missiles, whose 800-mile range puts them within striking distance of both Israel and American bases in the Middle East, proclaimed that “America is not as powerful as it claims to be.” Another proclaimed that “Israel should cease to exist.” Not as sweet as the talk at Turtle Bay, but proof that nothing changes in Tehran.

Alas, nothing has changed in Washington, either. The president of the United States is as clueless as ever.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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