The lesson of this sad episode was to listen more carefully to what leaders actually say.

Rouhani, in the interview, was in the midst of a presidential campaign and getting pressured from his right. So it’s possible that he reacted defensively in the heat of the moment. But consider this statement, which he wrote in 2011: “While we were talking to the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in Isfahan.”

These are not the words of someone who wants to end Iran’s nuclear program. Taken together, Rouhani’s statements sound like those of a man who is proud of the program and believes he may have devised a way to carry it to completion: By speaking softly, smiling and spinning the centrifuges all the while.