Just back from Tehran this morning after trying again yesterday to see Roxana Saberi on the first day of her declared hunger strike. Unfortunately the Iranian government’s Judiciary Department would not entertain our request despite President Ahmadinejad’s suggestion to me that he had nothing to hide.
This was Ahmadinejad’s first U.S. interview since Obama’s election, so I began by asking him what he thought of America’s new President. Playing the pundit, Ahmadinejad said that last November the American people "were calling for change, and they wrote it in the slogan of change. Mr. Obama is a manifestation of the will of the American people."
I reminded the Iranian President that last March he declared that unnamed sinister forces would conspire to "keep Obama out of the White House even if the whole American nation votes for him." So was he surprised and what does that say to Ahmadinejad about the United States? Here’s that exchange:
Ahmadinejad is a cagey interview, and he seems conflicted about how to approach Obama now that his nemesis President Bush is out of office. The mixed messages Ahmadinejad sends may also stem from the uncertain political situation he faces at home. He often answers questions with questions, and doesn’t shy away from a strong challenge. We had several spirited exchanges, as I pressed Ahmedinejad for responses to President Obama’s call for a "new beginning" in US-Iran relations and Obama’s decision to drop pre-conditions and join talks over Iran’s nuclear program; the condemnation heaped on Ahmadinejad following last Monday’s speech at the UN Racism Conference in Geneva; Iran’s refusal to play a constructive role in the Middle East peace process; and how Ahmadinejad is approaching his own re-election campaign with voting coming up on June 12.
All that will air Sunday on This Week, plus we’ll have a brand new poll on how the country sees Obama at the 100 day mark of his Presidency. Joining me to talk about that and all the week’s politics will be George Will, Donna Brazile, and Matthew Dowd, along with the Chief Washington Correspondent for the New York Times, David Sanger, and the U.S. Editor of the Financial Times, Chrystia Freeland.