The Leveretts' substantive point, that we should engage with the Iranian government we have, is a serious position that deserves real debate. Arguing, without sufficient evidence, that Amadi won the election outright was not necessary to advance this position but doing so made made their position easier to defend, as did downplaying the protests and ignoring the violence. Pundits who advocate bombing Iran should address all the likely consequences of that action. Pundits who advocate engagement with Iran should recognize the crimes that the Iranian government has committed against its people.
Just because a fact is not convenient to the argument at hand does not mean you can disregard said fact. Ignoring the strongest evidence against a position opens one to charges of intellectual dishonesty and does not move the debate forward. It's intellectually lazy and it damages the discourse.
I think Appel and The Daily Dish are arguing with a quasi-straw man here. I'm not sure what would sufficiently qualify as recognizing the crimes of the Iranian regime here; the Leveretts have absolutely acknowledged the regime's brutality. Their point is not that violence hasn't occurred, but that the government has yet to crack down with the full capacity and brutality at its disposal. This isn't obfuscation, it's historical perspective. Contrary to the Dish's insistence, not every act of repressive brutality is Tiananmen Square.
But to make such an observation - like simply pointing out that Ahmadinejad even has supporters - may invite accusations of indifference or, worse yet, sympathy for the Iranian regime.
In short, it's fully embrace the Green Movement, or face the consequences. That doesn't strike me as intellectual honesty or vigor.
In an ideal world, I suppose the Leveretts would couple their analysis with lofty rhetoric about Iranian oppression and human rights abuses. Then, perhaps, our public officials would follow up with more lofty rhetoric and inspired condemnations. And in the end, we'd all feel really good about ourselves for being better than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (a rather low bar, I'd say).
So how then do we reconcile these words with actual policy? It's the policy that matters here, otherwise, it's all just puffery and empty rhetoric.