I didn’t think it was possible but I’m beginning to feel sorry for Columbia University President Lee Bollinger. His speech of introduction on Monday for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has created a vicious backlash on the left over his use of some rather colorful metaphors to describe Ahmadinejad’s anti-intellectual, anti-humanist ideas.
A backlash against the president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, who on Monday delivered a harsh rebuke to President Ahmadinejad, is coming from faculty members and students who said he struck an “insulting tone” and that his remarks amounted to “schoolyard taunts.” The fierceness of Mr. Bollinger’s critique bought the Iranian some sympathy on campus that he didn’t deserve, the critics said, and amounted to a squandered opportunity to provide a lesson in diplomacy.
What this is really all about is that the left can’t stand it when one of their own is being praised by the right for doing anything. In their universe, Bollinger could have hung Ahmadinejad in effigy and as long as no one on the right took notice, it would have been perfectly acceptable.
For you see, Bollinger did nothing and said nothing that wasn’t absolutely, 100% true and documented. He threw the tyrant’s words back in his face and challenged him to justify them. He highlighted documented incidents in the Islamic “Republic” of Iran where homosexuals were executed. He quoted Ahmadinejad’s thoughts on the Holocaust and called him a dunce – which describes exactly the intellectual acumen of someone who believes the murder of 6 million Jews “needs further study.”
His manners? I’m not sure here what the left is criticizing. I thought “manners” were superfluous when speaking truth to power. Isn’t that what Bollinger was doing? Who cares about superficialities when the important thing is to be authentically outraged?
And does the supreme irony of criticizing someone for the way they confront the opposition totally escape these clueless buffoons?
It’s odd to invite someone and then deal with the objections to inviting him by insulting him before he gets to talk,” a professor of political science at Columbia, Richard Betts, said during an interview in his office yesterday. “He’s having it both ways in a sense, honoring the principle of free speech by not choosing speakers on the basis of how nice they are, but being sharp to him before he speaks.”
Mr. Betts said a more appropriate introduction would have been to make clear that an invitation to speak at Columbia did not qualify as approval of the content of the speech. He said the message should have been delivered as a “less in-your-face assault.”
Jesus Lord! How many times have we heard the left praising those who get “in the face” of people like George Bush or Rumsefeld or any number of conservative pundits like Ann Coulter or Jonah Goldberg? Stephen Colbert ring a bell? Or war protestors who shout like maniacs wherever Bush shows up to speak? Or on college campuses where conservative pundits are regularly confronted in the most insulting, vulgar manner?
I guess “manners” and avoiding “in your face” confrontations only count when you’re trying to spare the feelings of a terrorist supporting scumbag like Ahmadinejad.
And then there’s this bit of obtuseness that I would guess to be a widely held belief on the left:
The professor of history and Iranian expert who had a role in bringing Mr. Ahmadinejad to campus, Richard Bulliet, said that if Mr. Bollinger led a mission of faculty and students to Iran, which he has expressed interest in doing, he would likely receive a more courteous welcome than was provided to Mr. Ahmadinejad.
Yes, I have no doubt that is true. The Iranians are a polite people and follow all the normal customs of civilized humanity. Except the left largely rejects those customs as either representative of bourgeois thinking or artificial cultural constructs created by white males to oppress freedom loving lefties. Rejecting polite behavior allows one to justify getting up in the middle of someone’s speech and trying to shout them down – a favorite tactic of the left for 40 years.
How about practicing what you preach here, fellows? How about criticizing Code Pink every time the witches interrupt Congressional hearings or speeches from people they disagree with? How about wagging a disapproving finger at Mama Sheehan when she tries to disrupt the State of the Union?
Instead, all we hear is praise for such rude, boorish behavior. “Speaking truth to power” is great – as long as the right people are doing the speaking and the wrong people are in power.
Bollinger has little about which to feel proud. Not because of what he said but because of the moral blinkers he put on in order to accede to Ahmadinejad’s visit in the first place. Academic freedom is a fine and noble concept, one I support wholeheartedly. But judging by the worldwide reaction to Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia, it appears that Bollinger and the University were nothing more than props in the Iranian president’s propaganda performance. He was warned that this would happen and indeed it did.
In that sense, academic freedom is meaningless when it is used in the cause of promoting the agenda of America’s enemies.
Malkin picks up where I left off yesterday with the bedwetting meme by linking to this idiotic post from a lefty who accuses conservatives of destroying the American “character” and wonders if we’ll ever “recover:”
Here’s a big question that I want to start addressing in upcoming posts: what is conservative rule doing to our nation’s soul? How is it rewiring our hearts and minds? What kind of damage are they doing to the American character? And can we ever recover?
So: what is the American character? Hard to say, of course. But I daresay we know it when we see it. Let me put before you an illustrative example: one week in September of 1959, when, much like one week in September of 2007, American soil supported a visit by what many, if not most Americans agreed was the most evil and dangerous man on the planet.
Nikita Khrushchev disembarked from his plane at Andrews Air Force Base to a 21-gun salute and a receiving line of 63 officials and bureaucrats, ending with President Eisenhower. He rode 13 miles with Ike in an open limousine to his guest quarters across from the White House. Then he met for two hours with Ike and his foreign policy team. Then came a white-tie state dinner. (The Soviets then put one on at the embassy for Ike.) He joshed with the CIA chief about pooling their intelligence data, since it probably all came from the same peopleâ€”then was ushered upstairs to the East Wing for a leisurely gander at the Eisenhowers’ family quarters.
This guy is accusing conservatives of being bedwetters while wringing his hands like an old woman over whether or not we can “recover” from conservatism?
What an idiot.
And I’d like to briefly address this idea that Iran and Ahmadinejad should be seen as no more of a challenge – even less of one – that the old Soviet Union.
It isn’t that the Iranians are suicidal (I am not entirely convinced that they aren’t but I think there are enough rational heads in the Iranian government to prevent anyone from going off the deep end) and it isn’t the fact that we are dealing with mystics and religious fanatics. There were some pretty fanatical communists we had to deal with over the years – including Kruschev himself who firmly believed in the “science” of Marxism which posited the theory that capitalism, like feudalism, was destined to fail and be replaced by Soviet Style “scientific” socialism. It was his religion and he truly believed that he would see this collapse in his lifetime.
Later Soviet leaders were much more cynical about Marxism, having no illusions about its ability to compete with capitalism in any real way. Their concern was simply to maintain their positions of privilege in a rotting system.
But the real danger in trying to deal with Iran lies in the fact that we have literally no common frame of reference when it comes to history, or culture, or a way to view the world. Ahmadinejad made that quite plain in his speech before the UN General Assembly. At least the Soviets and the west had a common history stretching back a thousand years. We had familiar touchstones that allowed a dialogue where both sides were reasonably certain that misunderstandings about intent could be kept to a minimum.
But where do you find commonality with someone who denies something so elemental as the Holocaust ever took place? How do you find reasonable accomodation when the person across the table believes in a history that never happened (or has twisted the facts to the point that history is unrecognizable)? How do you avoid misunderstanding when the very basis of your opponent’s worldview is derived from a 1500 year old holy book?
I suppose (I hope) there are ways to overcome these monumental difficulties but I trust my point is clear; using our relationship with the Soviet Union as a template for dealing with Iran is idiotic. There is no basis in fact to believe that. And using examples of how we dealt with the Soviets to “prove” that conservatives are a bunch of bedwetters is absurd.