The past few days, the news sites have been abuzz with Columbia Universities' decision to invite Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to address their students.
Naturally, they took a little heat for it. NYC mayor, Michael Bloomberg, indicated that he wouldn't go to the speech. Specifically, he said "I think he's said enough that I find disgusting and despicable." The list of people on Bloomberg's side was long. On Columbia's side, uh, not so much.
In the firestorm of criticism. Columbia held to the ideals of academic pursuit and freedom of speech, saying, in essence, that even bigoted maniacs had a right to be heard in the public forum.
You can imagine the suprise then, when Columbia President Lee Bollinger used his few minutes of introduction to call Ahmadinjad out as a 'petty dictator' who must be "either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated". A thunderous applause rose from the 600 people gathered in the hall.
Bollinger, only hours ago the scourge of the earth for allowing Ahmadinjad to speak at his university, is now the toast of the nightly news for his boldness in confronting the dictator with the error of his ways.
Uh, excuse me.
First of all, be assured, I'm no Ahmadinjad fan. Heck, I need Kelsey's help to pronounce the guy's name. It's hard to find any sympathy in one's heart for a guy who denies the existence of the holocaust or often insists that Israel be wiped off the map. He is a pitiful excuse for a man, and he should have been kept within the property of the U.N. building for the duration of his stay here.
That being said, it seems a little disingenuous for Bollinger to invite him to speak and then tar and feather him in the opening comments. This is one of the more calculated moves I've seen - feign liberal open mindedness than go FOX NEWS REPORTER on the guy once you have him in the building.
Bollinger's managed to get his fifteen minutes, but what has he done in the long run? He's given Ahmadinjad propaganda fodder for the trip back to the Islamic bloc.
Watch the Iranian dictator spin this to his friends on the lunatic fringe - "They invited me under the guise of open dialogue and then he jumped me like a Texas horned toad." Oh. Wait. That's not the spin. That's what really happened.
Mr. Bollinger, next time you invite an uncivilized nut case to address your students, be civil about it. I'm not saying he shouldn't have been confronted, but in your opening comments you just ratified everything he's telling his people about us.
Right now the best thing we have going for us is that Ahmadinjad is a known liar. Maybe they won't believe him back in Tehran when he tells them how he was treated by American academia.