Monday, September 24, 2007

Not Our Finest Hour

We've looked pretty shabby as a country during the past few days. As a Columbia B-school alum, I don't think the invitation to Ahmadinejad was one of the university's better ideas. I also thought it was embarrassing and absurd for president Lee Bollinger to upbraid him from the podium as "a petty and cruel dictator." Ahmadinejad is lots of things -- extremist, demagogue, thug -- but one thing he's not is a "dictator."

For the Right, it seemed the main issue was that Columbia gave Ahmadinejad a "forum." Sen. Mitch McConnell called it "handing a megalomaniac a megaphone." But Columbia's megaphone reached only a few hundred people. Fox News broadcasted it and allowed him to reach millions. I was busy today, so I'm sure I missed the Right's denunciation of Fox as enabler and abettor. Was the objection to that "forum" based on what Ahmadinejad represents? Or was it because the enduring image of him from today -- on a campus, calmly answering questions, dressed like he might have just stepped off the subway from an office job in midtown -- makes it harder to brand him a menace and thus build public support for the use of military force?

After the past few days, it's hard to ignore the growing hysteria in this country. As the Iraq quagmire deepens and the search for scapegoats intensifies, the frantic desperation is palpable. Here's a writer for one of conservatism's titular standard-bearers telling readers he eagerly awaits a press conference at which the U.S. military trumpets its unprovoked, targeted killing of a foreign head of state. In the past, that sort of comment would have relegated one to the looney-tune fringe. Today it's called burnishing your conservative credentials. To the rest of the world, it must look like we're quite capable of anything right now.


Blogger automax4 said...

I saw coverage of the story on ABC News this evening and I have to say I thought Bollinger was embarrassing, especially when compared to Ahmad.'s cool, controlled demeanor. The "dictator" comment rang false and I couldn't help but wonder how Bollinger's heated rhetoric would play in Iran. I'd bet Ahmad. thought it would boost his standing back home?

On MSNBC this morning I heard Alex "Nit" Witt quickly refer to Ahmad. as a supporter of terrorists. That might very well be, but he's also the elected president of Iran, so we might want to learn how to manage him and not call him names and stomp our feet like spoiled children and think that'll make him go away. More and more the mainstream media seems to follow the unhinged right wing in its refusal to engage with reality.

But then, of course, Ahmadinejad and the brains behind Bushco/FNC/RNC know very well the reality of how much both sides need each other.

9/24/2007 10:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out Dana Milbank's column today.

Unreality show is right.
Those who fomented the war in Iraq have paid no price for it, maybe even benifitted, so they will do it again.

As a non-American I'd always thought of America as the biggest force for stability in the world.
No longer.

9/25/2007 12:53 AM  
Blogger Grace Nearing said...

Or was it because the enduring image of him from today -- on a campus, calmly answering questions, dressed like he might have just stepped off the subway from an office job in midtown -- makes it harder to brand him a menace and thus build public support for the use of military force?

Absolutely. Nothing undermines the demonizing process of an "unfavored" (usually non-Western) leader than to have him come across as a rational human being during an interview or to appear in such an unthreatening setting as Columbia.

Think of all the times that nuclear-powered Soviet premiers came to the UN/New York. There no doubt were protests, but not this plug-up-your-ears-his-words-will-taint-your-soul hysteria.


9/25/2007 2:48 AM  
Anonymous gypsy howell said...

We've collectively lost our minds. And as someone who has not bought into the anti-Iran hysteria, I feel like I've REALLY lost my mind. More and more, I feel like I'm living in some sort of bizarro world.

I hope we're not, as a country, beyond help and redemption. We really need an intervention soon from some kindly well-meaning friends.

9/25/2007 8:14 AM  
Anonymous nil said...

It was good to have Ahmadinejad squirm being confronted with the very real human rights abuses in Iran. But the university president calling him a petty, cruel dictator seemed out of line. Ahmadinejad has limited powers in Iran and he does not step beyond them; Iran is a humorless theocracy but not a strongman personality cult state. I suppose that Bohlinger was covering his ass. Glenn Greenwald is telling me that that the university is facing very real threats of reprisals for inviting the iranian president on its campus:

"It's not going to go away just because this episode ends. Columbia University has to know . . . that they will be penalized," an assemblyman of Brooklyn, Dov Hikind, who also attended the rally, said.

One last remark: when was the last time you saw president Bush face an openly hostile crowd? Not the carefully screened ones, not the neutered White House journalists, not the usual army base?

9/25/2007 8:55 AM  
Anonymous goldhorder said...

Bush is the emperor of the world. He doesn't need to bother himself with such petty for addressing the common masses. What do you think Fox news is for?

9/25/2007 12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I'm suddenly reminded of a book I read a few years ago, a thriller about an attempted putsch in Russia (_Archangel_, maybe?). One of the more memorable passages in the book was when the would-be dictator faces an audience of Western journalists who fail to respond to his rhetoric and start asking him difficult questions. He panics and the conference is a disaster for him. He's used to facing only the usual crowd of tame journalists and hacks. How unpleasantly prophetic, albeit about the wrong country.


9/25/2007 1:39 PM  
Blogger Enlightened Layperson said...

Have some sympathy for right-wingers. Here they are, trying to start a war with Iran, and the public just won't get on board. So they rant and rave and foam at the mouth, hoping to change people's mind, and succeeding mostly in making themselves look ridiculous.

9/25/2007 2:26 PM  
Blogger Mike V. said...

when the Columbia Prez announced a petty, cruel dictator, I thought that GWB would appear on stage.
I guess it was that guy from Iran instead.
BTW, he actually brought up some good questions.
Why are India and Pakistan not targets under the NTP?
Why did we arm Saddam for years before declaring him the enemy?

9/25/2007 2:29 PM  
Anonymous Thomas Daulton said...

As usual, TCR has an intelligent, thoughtful perspective pointing up subtle details that nobody else seems to see. In all the partisan frenzy about the speech, I missed the clear implications of that "dictator" remark, even though I knew Ahmadinejad's role in his country's government.

As for Ahmadinejad's questions, which Mike V. wonders about -- it's simple, really. My neo-conservative friends are very clear in saying that throughout history, great nations have always favored, trained and armed certain allies during convenient and expedient circumstances, and then during inconvenient times, gone to war against those same allies, spending youthful blood and treasure fighting former allies. My neo-con friends expect and demand nothing less from a truly great Empire.

Have a little patience, Ahmadinejad -- we'll demonize and then go to war with Pakistan, for example, in a few short years when Musharaff gets violently overthrown by Muslim radicals. And then we'll be sending American soldiers to die fighting American-financed planes and weapons, just like we did with Saddam.

9/25/2007 8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

America is done. I'm sad, as a parent I'm terrified for my children's future, but as a realist: I'm not surprised and frankly we deserve to reap what we've sown.

Its going to end in blood and tears for AmeriKKKa, I'm sorry to say.

9/25/2007 11:46 PM  
Blogger Great Idea said...


Helpful to know who this guy really is and what he really believes.

Who is the REAL Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?


9/26/2007 2:06 AM  
Blogger LFC said...

nil said... One last remark: when was the last time you saw president Bush face an openly hostile crowd? Not the carefully screened ones, not the neutered White House journalists, not the usual army base

The gov't just lost a lawsuit because they arrested, handcuffed, fingerprinted, and held for several hours a couple who had the nerve to show up to a rally with anti-Bush t-shirts on. No screaming. No yelling. No civil disobedience. Just t-shirts.

Part of the lawsuit brought to light the Bush "playbook" on how to handle his speaking events. They actually have squads of loyalists prepared to surround anybody saying things they don't like and drowning them out by chanting.

And people wonder why he has no grasp of reality? He's a geopolitical bubble boy!

9/26/2007 8:32 AM  
Anonymous A Historian said...

I'm glad to know that I wasn't the only one to find that Columbia event disturbing.

I was appalled that the host of the event, who had invited Ahmadinejad to speak, berated him in his introduction. That was in incredibly poor taste. I don't care if the speaker was Attila the Hun or Adolf Hitler. He was a guest, invited (presumably) to share his words and thoughts. For his host to insult him like that, whether or not deserved, was simply rude, especially if the guest isn't warned beforehand, as I would guess was the case from Ahmadinejad's reaction.

This does not mean the audience has to be polite or deferential, but the host has to be. Always. (Remember Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind, acting as a good host to Rhett Butler at Twelve Oaks no matter how objectionable he may have found his guest's political views to be?)

If you, as the host, consider your guest's views too repulsive or you expect the guest to lie and distort the truth, you have two options: allow the audience to rip the speaker to shreds in the Q&A period, or not invite him in the first place. But to invite him and then attack him before his speech, either to prove a point or win praise for yourself, is just plain wrong.

9/26/2007 10:54 AM  
Anonymous goldhorder said... there is a man without an agenda. LOL.
Expansionist? When was the last offesnive war Iran fought? I can't seem to recall.

My mission is to raise the clarion call about the imminent and present danger of expansionistic theocratic Islam. I, my people and my native country, Iran, have been victimized by a primitive alien ideology for far too long. Having witnessed first-hand the horrors and indignity that Islamofascism visits on people it subjugates, I have taken it upon myself to do my part in defeating this ideology of oppression, hate and violence.

9/26/2007 1:02 PM  
Anonymous goldhorder said...

Where did this guy come from, Dick Cheney's OSP?

9/26/2007 1:05 PM  
Anonymous Mr Hedley Bowes said...

My objective credibility meter drops to zero when I see 'Islamofascism' as part of an argument. The term itself is a fabrication, perhaps from Frank Luntz. If we want to discuss extremist theocracies, fine. Let's put them all on the table rather than 'cherry picking' for effect.

9/26/2007 2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CU grad and undergrad here.....

it wasn't our finest hour that's for sure. thing is, when I first heard that they were going to give Mr. A a platform, I was so proud of them.....made those Fox guys froth at the mouth, pissed off Georgie Boy, and stood up for freedom of speech. I was ready to write a check to the roaring proud, so proud...

and then, Bollinger opened his mouth.

9/26/2007 8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the Ahmadinejad speech at Columbia, the really sick, disgusting thing about the matter is this: That it would take someone like Ahmadinejad to state the obvious fact that Palestinians should not be paying the price for the Holocaust which they had nothing to do with. While America's so-called journalists cringe in fear from the Israel lobby, afraid to criticize Israel in the least, let alone take issue with their ethnic cleansing which made possible their shitty little country in the first place, it takes someone like Ahmadinejad to finally say this painfully obvious fact? American pseudo-journalists, you should be ashamed of yourselves for your cowardice. Don't be afraid of the ADL and other Zionist racists using their tired, worn-out tactic of calling anyone who disagrees with them an "anti-Semite" (and calling any Jewish person who criticizes Israel a "self-hating Jew"). Enough is enough. Yes, the Holocaust was horrible, I'm not trying to belittle it. But it's long overdue to call out the Zionists on this constant beating of the Holocaust dead horse and using it as an excuse for basically everything they've done since 1948. Suffering through the Holocaust DOES NOT GIVE ANYONE THE "RIGHT" TO ACT LIKE THEIR FORMER OPPRESSORS.

9/27/2007 7:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...I hope we're not, as a country, beyond help and redemption..."

I am afraid you are wrong. We are beyound redemption.

Bush has bankrupt this country any way you look at it. Financially, morally, and in doing that has stolen its and our future.

There is nothing left and we will never recover. Oh, we may limp along like a drunken sailor, but any hope that we may have had last November is gone.

The GOPfascists have made sure that we will continue to bleed for some time to come. And if one bleeds long enough one dies.

I am afraid that is the only thing we have left. There is no good will left in this country and the hate and devisiveness that is the hallmark of this administration and the GOP has poisoned the well beyond hope of recovery.

I am no longer young and maybe the collapse will come after I am gone, but I doubt it.
I would not want to be the next president, for he/she will inherit only a broken system and an empty treasury. I will also predict that he/she will only serve one term, because by then the electorate will be so angry that it will not be in the mood to give him/her more time to fixing things and we will probably end up with another extrimist, like Germany did in the 30's.

Also the environment will be in such bad shape that it really will not much matter.

I must say that Bush will have done more damage, fatal dmage to this country in 8 years than all our enemies in 300 years.
And if they are stupid enough to attack Iran ALL BETS ARE OFF. Because than we will have even less time.

10/02/2007 12:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw some of the fuss, even on TV news in Australia. Reminded me of a book I read in high school "The Crucible" about Salem Witch hunts. I understand many world leaders were in new york that week to deliver speeches at the UN General Assembly, and Columbia was a side show. Here's his speech:

10/03/2007 9:48 AM  
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