ALISON STEWART, host:
Now, the Obama administration continues a measured response to the situation in Iran. Yesterday, President Obama said how Iran's leaders chose to, quote, deal with the people who are through peaceful means trying to be heard will signal, quote, what Iran is and is not. And the White House reacted favorably to a Congressional resolution condemning Tehran's crackdown on demonstrators.
Joining us now in studio is NPR News analyst Juan Williams. Good morning, Juan.
JUAN WILLIAMS: Good morning, Alison.
STEWART: We're going to shift to domestic politics in a minute, but your thoughts on the political divide here in the U.S. on how to respond to the situation in Iran.
WILLIAMS: Well, I think you could divide it into two categories: one would be meddling - and the president's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said yesterday the U.S. wants to avoid becoming a political football or foil in the midst of what's taking place in Iran. And the other way to look at it, Alison, would be to say you want an expression of solidarity, which is why the Obama administration absolutely supported what took place in the House and the Senate yesterday in terms of resolutions condemning the Iranian regime.
But the other thing to keep in mind here is that you have to, if you're the president of the United States, look at the long-term view. The U.S. interest here is one of preventing nuclear proliferation by the Iranians. And so you want to make sure that whoever comes out as the leadership in Iran is willing to talk.
Now, the contrary instinct is to say, well, they haven't been cooperating so far, what makes you think that they will cooperate in the future? But what you see here is the effort, the notion that you have to be willing to sit down, and it's hard to sit down with a government that you have widely condemned, even if you are interested in promoting democracy.
The one added problem I would throw in here, Alison, is this: how do you negotiate with a government if it's deemed to be an illegitimate government? If you make any moves towards compromise with them, it will be viewed as having appeased someone who is an authoritarian and illegitimate regime.
STEWART: I want to get to some domestic politics. There are some interesting poll numbers out on President Obama. President Obama's approval rating is at 56 percent, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, and it's 61 percent in a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Solid numbers, but that's not really the whole story. What else do the polls show?
WILLIAMS: The key point here, Allison, is that you see now a growing opposition to some of President Obama's policies. The most important one - 56 percent in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll opposed to federal intervention to save General Motors; 35 percent supported. And also 52 percent opposed to the closing of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba; 39 percent supported.
So let's go back, though, to I think what's the most important point of opposition to President Obama here, is the opposition to his helping GM out. In the Pew poll, for example, his handling of the economy is now down to 52 percent approval from 60 percent in April. And the large part of that is concern about the budget deficit, although people remain generally optimistic -55 percent - that he can reduce the budget deficit.
I think the most important finding, to my mind, was that it's 53 percent who say that Obama's economic policies have not had any effect so far. So people are still saying this is President Bush's problem.
STEWART: One last question: what will the president have to do now to get past the skepticism and push his reform plan through?
WILLIAMS: He has to spend some of that political capital, Alison. And the question is: is he willing to do it and how does it transfer? Is it possible that he says, you know, I'm willing to sacrifice my popularity to take on unpopular solutions, such as tax hikes, such as saying, you know what, we may have to make some hard choices here and I'm willing to do it, realizing that I'm going back on words that I uttered previously. So it's a matter of is the president willing to spend that political capital.
STEWART: NPR News analyst Juan Williams. Thanks for joining us in studio this morning.
WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Alison.
STEWART: Good to see you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.