Tommy Christopher, mediaite.com
The uproar over the $400 million payment to Iran in January has reached a fever pitch not seen since reporters thought that the plane carrying freed Americans was kept from leaving Iran until a planeload of money arrived, which would have been an outrage. Now, it’s being reported that a plane carrying $400 million was kept from leaving Switzerland until a planeload of freed Americans was allowed to leave Tehran, which is, you guessed it, also an outrage. None of this, by the way, contradicts anything that President Obama said when he was asked directly about it two weeks ago:
The big “revelation” in this case appears to be that State Department Spokesman John Kirby confirmed that the release of the money that President Obama truthfully described as a settlement payment was held up until the freed Americans had departed Tehran, which Kirby described as “leverage.” While it’s to be expected that political opponents like Donald Trump would try to make hay with this, and even for news outlets to inflate the news value of the revelation, it was more than a little bit jarring to hear mainstream reporters like Andrea Mitchell casually accuse President Obama of lying:
As it turns out, this is a popular notion about this story, but no one ever gets around to pointing out what the “lie” President Obama told was. It seems the only real point of contention is over whether or not to call this a “ransom,” because the President did, repeatedly, say we did not pay ransom, we do not pay ransom, for hostages. The truth of his statement is self-evident, unless you disbelieve a fact that no one is disputing, that the $400 million was already Iran’s money. There is no definition of “ransom” that includes giving someone something that is already theirs.
What makes Mitchell’s smear on President Obama particularly disgusting, though, is that to the extent anyone could possibly construe this incident as direct consideration of the freeing of Americans, this would be the exact opposite of a ransom. A ransom is something that you pay in order to secure someone’s release. This was the exact opposite of that. This was Iran, at worst, securing the release of their own money by first releasing the Americans they’d been holding. At best, it is exactly as Obama and Kirby have described it, an unrelated (or indirectly related) settlement that naturally played out in concert with other diplomatic developments.
I don’t think anyone is trying to say that none of the various concerns surrounding diplomacy with Iran affected the others, but to the extent that it matters what we call things, it really matters whether we call this a “ransom,” because as President Obama has said, it would be disastrous public diplomacy for any foreign power to believe that the United States pays ransom for prisoners. That’s also why Donald Trump is so desperate to call this a “ransom.” ...