Wednesday, September 26, 2007
QUESTIONS THE LEFT WON'T ASK
OF MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD
[Photo:Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism]
When Columbia University extended an invitation to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he came under heavy criticism by many on the Right. Harsh words and numerous charges were flung at Columbia President, Lee Bollinger. "Inappropriate" was one commonly used word.
Bollinger bravely stood his ground.
Resisting calls to cancel the speech, Mr. Bollinger stood up for the concept of unpopular but free speech. He was applauded by a few civil libertarians, anti-war groups and a handful of liberal pundits.
Now, the other shoe falls for Bollinger. In his introductory remarks before Ahmadinejad's speech, the president of Columbia posed a series of hard, tough questions to the would-be Hand of the Apocalypse. As if by magic, his critics on the Right largely disappeared. These were many of the same questions that they would have asked if given the chance. The flip side to that: howls of protest from the now-aroused Left. Mr. Bollinger, who had given Ahmadinejad his forum, evidently had no right to ask anything but softball inquiries.
Ahmadinejad responded as he usually does: with a mixture of evasions, lies, half-truths, 'believe-it-or-not' declamations and changing the subject. When he ran out of those, he turned to outright denial. But, unlike his opponents back home in Iran, Mr. Ahmadinejad got to have his say--in front of an audience, on TV and and in front of a battery of news reporters. When he was finished, Ahmadinejad was able to walk out of Columbia and leave.
He wasn't detained, handcuffed, taken to some unknown location, blindfolded, questioned, tortured or shot in the back of the head. Appealing as many of these options may be to some, he was free to go about his business. Again, unlike his opponents back home in Iran. Unlike uppity women, homosexuals, or those who watch banned TV cable channels in Tehran.
The whole Ahmadinejad affair is now finished. At the end of it all, Bollinger can be proud that he stood his ground and didn't cancel the appearance by the Iranian Madman. He has nothing to be ashamed of; nothing for which to apologize.
On Monday, Mr. Bollinger asked the hard questions. Now, it's time for many on the Left to ask some questions of their own. Of themselves. Leading off they might examine Ahmadinejad's answers and wonder, "Who would support such an obviously disturbed man"?
Like Lee Bollinger, it's time for liberals to starting asking some hard questions of their own.
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