Now, was that so bad?
We’re talking about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York City last week, one which generated loads of heat for Columbia University, which hosted a speech by the controversial leader before he addressed the United Nations.
First he wanted to visit Ground Zero to lay down a wreath.
No! the people screamed. And perhaps Ahmadinejad was seeking a photo op of the same stripe as President Bush speaking in Jackson Square in the aftermath of Katrina or, dare we say, posing on an aircraft carrier with a “Mission Accomplished” banner behind him.
Still, it’s true that none of the 9-11 hijackers were from Iran.
Much of the ire was directed at the university, rebuking them for the invitation on the grounds that it gave the dictator some sort of legitimacy. And though criticism came from across the board, even from the left-leaning HuffingtonPost.com, much of it came from the quarter of FOX News and the like. For example, Bill O’Reilly called the decision to host Ahmadinejad “revolting.”
You’d think the conservatives would have more faith in the marketplace of ideas.
Some do, including O’Reilly who, as it turns out, had himself invited Ahmadinejad to sit in the hot seat of his “No Spin Zone.”
And why not? Sunlight, as they say, is the best disinfectant.
Ahmadinejad’s speech at Columbia University was a fine example of that maxim. Hundreds of protestors gathered, allowing Ahmadinejad to feel the brunt of that freedom he hates so much. He got called out by Columbia President Lee Bollinger of the hosting university in front of the entire crowd. The assembled students were sympathetic to a degree, but when Ahmadinejad asserted that the phenomenon of homosexuality does not exist in Iran they laughed in his face. And his joke, the one where the punchline is “retard,” fell flat. Talk about a tough room….
What was everybody so afraid of? That the booking somehow legitimized Ahmadinejad’s stature? Maybe a bit, but the guys is the president of a country the size of the Midwest – this speech is not a resume builder, and his appearance probably did more to enhance Columbia’s reputation than his own. Maybe there was fear that the assembled Ivy Leaguers would turn into rabid Muslims upon hearing Ahmadinejad’s words. They did not.
And while the people are still debating the wisdom of inviting Ahmadinejad and evaluating Bollinger’s caustic introduction, not too many of them were swayed by his words.
He did get one favorable write-up, with the lede: “Columbia University President Lee Bollinger’s insult to Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad seriously lowered the status of the university.” It appeared on the front page of the Tehran Times.
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