Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University earlier today. Judging from this clip, it looks like he made a fool of himself. According to the New York Times, it seems something vaguely evolution related came up:
He then gave a speech that meandered from science and religion to creation of human beings and the misuse of wisdom. But it was during the question-and-answer session that he was confronted about some of his most controversial positions.
I haven’t found a transcript of his precise remarks, but somehow I think I can guess what he said.
The right-wing punditocracy has been in all its glory in the week leading up to this talk. The occasion of a despised dictator from a hated country coming to a speak at a major American university plays into two of their favorite activities: Bashing academe and feigning outrage. Here’s Fox News pundit Michelle Malkin running down the talking points:
GIBSON: OK. Well what about abandoning Mahmoud altogether? Could New York actually do that? Could New York say, hey, you just can’t come into the city?
MALKIN: Well, I’m not sure about that, Geraldo. I think the New York — John, I don’t think that the New York Police Department — I think they’ve done as much as they could there. I think Bloomberg could have sent a stronger message in the same way that Giuliani did when he told the Saudi prince to bug off with his money, but he didn’t. He was an accommodationist. And there is something that somebody in New York could do something.
Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, ought to rescind the invitation that basically honors Ahmadinejad as a world leader. He’s going to be going to that campus when, as Bill Kristol, our fellow FOX News person has said, Columbia University won’t allow the ROTC on its campus and it’s going to have Ahmadinejad. This is absolute insanity, John.
GIBSON: Well, I don’t understand something, Michelle. It seems to me the last time Ahmadinejad was in the country, last year, for the same U.N. meeting, Columbia withdrew an invitation. So why would they be going forward with it now?
MALKIN: That’s exactly the question that people should be asking Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University. And if I were a parent of a student there, I’d be bombarding him with e-mail.
What are the criteria for honoring a world leader in a forum? The president has assured people in a mass e-mail that, oh, yeah, Ahmadinejad will be challenged, but basically what we have here is tea with terrorists on the campus of Columbia University.
Ahmadinejad was being allowed to speak at Columbia. He wasn’t being honored in any way.
That ROTC talking point proved to be a popular one. Here’s Dinesh D’Souza making the same point:
President Lee Bollinger of Columbia University is a very open-minded guy, in his own opinion. In inviting the Iranian prime minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia, he issued this statement. “Columbia, as a community dedicated to learning and scholarship, is committed to confronting ideas…Necessarily on occasion this will bring us into contact with beliefs that many, most of even all of us will find offensive and even odious. We trust our community, including our students, to be fully capable of dealing with these occasions, through the powers of dialog and reason.”
So why won’t Bollinger allow the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) to recruit on the Columbia campus? ROTC was expelled from Columbia in the late sixties. In 2003 a majority of students said they wanted ROTC back, to give students the choice to serve their country in this way. The Columbia faculty opposed the measure, however, and Bollinger sided with them against the students.
D’Souza bloviates for several more paragraphs after this. The comparison is specious, of course. ROTC is not there to express an opinion, they are there to recruit students. Anyone from the military is free to show up and express whatever opinions they like. But orgainzations that discriminate against homosexuals in defiance of Columbia’s own policies in that regard ought not be allowed to recruit on campus. If Ahmadinejad were trying to recruit Columbia students into the Iranian military, that would be different.
So should Ahmadinejad have been allowed to speak? Of course. He’s the leader of an important country we’re in danger of going to war with, for heaven’s sake. End of discussion. I, for one, would like to hear what he has to say.
The other facet of this was whether Ahmadinejad should be allowed to lay a wreath at Ground Zero. Once again, of course he should have been allowed. Iran had nothing to do with 9/11, and it costs us nothing to take the high road as a country, for once.
Here’s right-wing hack Tony Blankley getting pounded on this question in yesterday’s edition of The McLaughlin Group:
MS. CLIFT: I guess you can legitimately say that his country is aiding and abetting al Qaeda. But Iran had nothing to do with 9/11. And so I don’t really see that we need to exclude him from this sacred ground.
MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly. John, again —
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Nor have the Iranians attacked any American citizens.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, also —
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, of course they have, in Iraq. They’re supporting the killing of American troops in Iraq now.
MR. BUCHANAN: But Tony, why doesn’t Congress —
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did we not permit the Soviet Union to participate in the kind of public event that Ahmadinejad was seeking, even though we knew that the Soviet Union was supplying weaponry in small wars throughout Southeast Asia and South America?
MR. BUCHANAN: John, look, Richard Nixon went to —
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see the logic behind that?
MR. BLANKLEY: No. This is a —
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A robust diplomacy will permit that kind of —
MR. BLANKLEY: You can have a robust diplomacy —
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: — relatively minor transgression. Isn’t that true?
MR. BLANKLEY: You can have a robust diplomacy, but not at a sacred site. We can meet him in Switzerland.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to hear from Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: Richard Nixon went to Moscow and Richard Nixon went to Beijing in the same year that the Soviets and the Chinese were pouring weapons —
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There you are.
MR. BUCHANAN: — into South Vietnam to kill our guys —
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There you are, Tony.
MR. BUCHANAN: — because he wanted to stop the damn war. That’s what we want to do, Tony, is stop the war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, chew on that, will you?
The right just loves the good vs evil story line. And why not? It permits maximum self-righteousness with a minimum of thought. Just what they like!