Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Bollinger on Ahmadinejad

I listened to Columbia’s President Bollinger "introduce" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today as a "petty tyrant" and confess to being cheered by his words and hopeful that I was wrong to question the invitation. I hoped that Bollinger was on to something and that he was much more clever than I had been led to believe by his critics. But as I continued to listen (on Dennis Prager’s radio program) I found myself agreeing with Prager that it is extremely unlikely that anyone in Iran will ever hear Bollinger’s words. Then, as I listened to Ahmadinejad’s ramblings, I became even more convinced that the invitation was more than a mistake. It was a colossal mistake. The applauding in the audience as Ahmadinejad argued that the Palestinians should "not have to pay" for Europe’s role in the "so-called" (as he would have it) holocaust, is not only shameful--it is ammunition for our enemies abroad. He further dissembled reason as he discussed the need for "free and open discussion" on the question of whether the holocaust even happened. He papered over common sense as he suggested that there should be openness on the question of whether the holocaust happened, but that in Iran freedom is at the height of its glory because of its oppression of women. There can be no absolutes, you see, except those dictated by his understanding of ALLAH.

Ahmadinejad will go home a very important man now. He will be able to puff out his already considerably puffed-up chest. He was able to make the Americans dance. He came here to make Americans look weak and foolish. He achieved his purpose. We do not look stronger for tolerating this "free speech" and this "open exchange of ideas." No ideas were exchanged. Bollinger called Ahmadinejad the names he deserves to be called, but Bollinger was chastised by Ahmadinejad, essentially told to sit down and shut up and a good number of students at his university applauded. I think perhaps I might applaud that suggestion as well--but for different reasons.

Lisa Schiffren was there and you can read her impressions by clicking on that link. She has some good insights on the character of the crowd.

UPDATE: There is a saying in politics that "perception is reality"--whether or not it is actually reality. If that is true, I have some concerns about the perceptions that seem to be emanating from this Ahmadinejad talk. The first is that--of all the outrageous and hideous things that man said--the only cut that’s getting any negative play from his speech in the mainstream press is his claim that Iran has no homosexuals. THIS is the outrage? The holocaust never happened in Ahmadinejad-land, and we’re worried that he thinks Iranians don’t produce homosexuals?! Beyond that, the media coverage I’ve seen portrays Bollinger as a hero for inviting him and petty for attacking him. I stand by what I said above. This only helped Ahmadinejad--if it stirred up anything in America, it was only more confusion.

Discussions - 10 Comments


I don't think Ahmadinejad achieved his purpose in making us look weak and foolish. If anything, he's the one who has come out weak and foolish. Lacking in knowledge, he mistakenly believes his prejudices as matters of truths. His talks and posturings only reveal that he is beyond the reach of reason. He makes of himself the world's laughingstock, and everyone knows it.

If the Iranians don't want the world to think of them in such a bad light (you deserve the regime that you elect, right?) they must do something about their ignorant leader.

But who invited and took seriously this "laughingstock"? Is it more preposterous to be preposterous or to knowingly listen to someone who is preposterous? Do you attempt a serious discussion with a madman? If you do, doesn't this make you even more mad? It was a parade of the absurd. But it will not play this way in Iran. They will only see that America took this idiot seriously and gave him a platform. Anyone who is not already crazy with admiration for this guy (and I think there are a great number of good Iranians who wish him ill) will be disheartened by this display. It makes us look loopy and untrustworthy and hypocritical in the worst sense. We say we love liberty and yet we lunch with tyrants?

I watched most of the speech, and got nothing out of it except that Ahmadenijad's rhetorical skills are terribly overrated. He blatantly refuses to answer questions and immediately asks his own in response. Very annoying. I was pleasantly surprised by the pointed questions and facts which began the meeting, but those feelings were quickly dashed by the multiple rounds of applause awarded Ahmadenijad, though I liked it when he was laughed at for saying there are no homosexuals in Iran. Very quaint. However, in the end the whole debacle went down just as most people claimed it would: we learned nothing from the exchange, his prestige was in no way injured by it, and ultimately it will probably result in a PR boost for him and his regime (those applause sound-bites will be playing on Iranian news agencies and al-Jazeera for weeks).

Why should he bother answering questions when most of his audience is ready, indeed EAGER to conjure excuses for his behavior and his policies?

He came; he gave all those determined to find Iran "peaceful" and "ready for dialogue" all the encouragement they might have desired.

Think of the reaction on the streets of Iran had we taken the dirtball into custody and whisked him off to Gitmo. Think of the euphoria, the explosion of joy and excitement to get rid of the mullahs. But now ponder the confusion, the discouragement felt by those ready for a change, ready to discard the fantasy of the shariaa, the caliphate and islam itself.

But this is ridiculous. The dirtball should have already been tried and executed by now.

Julie, right on! Achmad-nutjob should not have been invited to Columbia in any capacity, largely for the reasons you cite. I also think he shouldn't have been allowed to set foot in the U.S. However, given the lousy decision to invite him to speak, Bollinger did a good job of confronting him vigorously immediately before the speech in his introduction -- and with strong, obvious, well-reasoned, and utterly deserved contempt. A rare moment in academe.

Ahmadanejad is completely harmless. He has no ICBMs, and in conventional war Israel would defeat Iran in about 12 hours - not that the latter matters, since Israel's interests are not the same as the U.S.'s and Israel is more of a liability than ally. This stuff about Ahmadanejad is just all propaganda put forward by insane neocons drunk on hubris. I have a feeling divine retribution is only around the corner. I pray that Christian Americans will be spared the wrath.

Bede, you and Ahmadenajad are two peas in the same insane pod. Shave your beard and get a life.

By the way, Drudge has a link to an Iranian news site which is, in fact, playing the clips of applause (without the harsh questioning and his responses, of course). I wouldn't click on the link, though, because Iranian websites are notorious about sending out hostile spyware.

Am I in the minority in thinking that president Bollinger was correct to invite Ahmadinejad to speak? If I was a University president I would invite all the crazies and tyrants of the world. Hell if I was a University president I would have an open invite to Osama Bin laden. If it was possible to bring the dead back to life, I would even invite Hitler and Stalin.

Now and this is where I would no doubt really be in the minority among those who might agree with my first paragraph...I should hope that not all of those I felt comfortable in inviting...would be permited to come and then go freely. After I was done argueing with them...I should no doubt wish that that they not pass Go...not collect $200...but instead go directly to gitmo, and I would certainly ammend the rolling doubles or three turns rule...Lock them up and throw away the key!

It is really backwards to try to say that Columbia is somehow culpable in inviting this guy to speak...Would everyone be this shortsighted if Columbia had invited Osama Bin Laden to speak?

And yet all the supposed presidential candidates are saying: "It is not a decision I might have made as a University president..." as if they are fucking running to be president of Columbia. What they should instead be made to answer: As president would you seize and detain Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or anyone else who is the leader of a terrorist regime, when you have him in your hands...the moment he steps foot on U.S. soil, or perhaps the moment he steps off the podium...for Dramatic effect?

In reply to Bede...what you are saying must be true because our dear president obviously didn't think detaining Ahmadinejad was worthwhile...The Army is always told that he is culpable for the IED's that plague us in Iraq...that he funds the folk who not so secretly train the bombmakers in Iraq. That he is therefore culpable for the deaths of many american soilders...but maybe we are being lied to?

Maybe the president didn't detain Ahmadinejad because Dan is dead wrong about the reaction we might expect on the Arab street: In 4 Dan says: "Think of the euphoria, the explosion of joy and excitement to get rid of the mullahs. But now ponder the confusion, the discouragement felt by those ready for a change, ready to discard the fantasy of the shariaa, the caliphate and islam itself." Please...they would hate us... it would provoke extreme blowback... So maybe it is not prudent to capture and detain Ahmadinejad...okay I suppose I might buy that briefly. After all the argument was that we would be greated with praise in Iraq....but let me ask this question: Is it more prudent to seize a man on your turf...or to wage a complex war to seize him in his?

I can just see us in a few years in Iran...The ticker at the Bottom of my TV screen reads: FOX NEWS: Paris Hilton shaves her head...The hunt is on for Ahmadinejad as Fourth ID searches Bunkers in Tehran...China shoots down Japanese plane...FOX NEWS:Dollar hits new low against Yen/rises against Euro...FOX NEWS:Dow Jones hits 20,000...FOX NEWS:Democrats complain that Republican plan for socialized medicine allows rich to buy better care while trapping middle class in nightmare!


The President of Iran doesn't really run the country.

The Supreme Leader is the one who truly runs the government, the country, and the military.

So, to say Ahma ... whatever ... is nothing to worry about would be true.

The problem is that he is being used as an official spokesman for Iran, with the blessing from the Supreme Leader, of course, which means the official thinking of the Iranian government is deranged and something to worry about.

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