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Bollinger Shows the Right What's Right About America

Conservatives and Republicans railed against Columbia University President Lee Bollinger (pictured at left) for inviting and allowing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak today:

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said "there is a world of difference between not preventing Ahmadinejad from speaking and handing a megalomaniac a megaphone and a stage to use it."

Poor little whiny-assed Republicans, afraid to let an idiot like Ahmadinejad speak -- but Bollinger showed the world today just what a great country we have -- as he let Ahmadinejad speak after first denouncing his ideas and tactics for exactly what they are... to the loud cheers of the students and other members of the audience. Ahmadinejad was flabbergasted.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad questioned the official version of the Sept. 11 attacks and defended the right to cast doubt on the Holocaust in a tense appearance at Columbia University, whose president accused the hard-line leader of behaving like "a petty and cruel dictator."

Ahmadinejad smiled at first but appeared increasingly agitated, decrying the "insults" and "unfriendly treatment." Columbia President Lee Bollinger and audience members took him to task over Iran's human-rights record and foreign policy, as well as Ahmadinejad's statements denying the Holocaust and calling for the disappearance of Israel.

"Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator," Bollinger said, to loud applause.

He said Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust might fool the illiterate and ignorant.

"When you come to a place like this it makes you simply ridiculous," Bollinger said. "The truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history."

Silencing morons like Ahmadinejad accomplishes nothing.

Let them speak, then expose their lies for exactly what they are -- and that's exactly what Bollinger accomplished.

During a question and answer session, Ahmadinejad appeared tense and unsmiling, in contrast to more relaxed interviews and appearances earlier in the day.

In response to one audience, Ahmadinejad denied he was questioning the existence of the Holocaust: "Granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people?"

But then he said he was defending the rights of European scholars, an apparent reference to a small number who have been prosecuted under national laws for denying or minimizing the Holocaust.

"There's nothing known as absolute," he said.

He reiterated his desire to visit ground zero to express sympathy with the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, but then appeared to question whether al-Qaida was responsible.

"Why did this happen? What caused it? What conditions led to it?" he said. "Who truly was involved? Who was really involved and put it all together?"

The questioning moved on to the subject of homosexuals:

Asked about executions of homosexuals in Iran, Ahmadinejad said the judiciary system executed violent criminals and high-level drug dealers, comparing them to microbes eliminated through medical treatment. Pressed specifically about punishment of homosexuals, he said: "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country."

With the audience laughing derisively, he continued: "In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have this."

America doesn't need to hide from our enemies -- we should confront them face on.

Bollinger let Ahmadinejad have it with both barrels of the truth:

Bollinger was strongly criticized for inviting Ahmadinejad to Columbia, and had promised tough questions in his introduction to Ahmadinejad's talk. But the strident and personal nature of his attack on the president of Iran was startling.

"You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated," Bollinger told Ahmadinejad about the leader's Holocaust denial.

Even Bush spoke up -- speaking against the conservative right (for a change) after they'd skewered Bollinger, but the conservatives weren't satisfied -- the lying , smearing right was still on the attack:

President Bush said Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia "speaks volumes about really the greatness of America."

He told Fox News Channel that if Bollinger considers Ahmadinejad's visit an educational experience for Columbia students, "I guess it's OK with me."

Other American officials were less sympathetic.

On Capitol Hill, conservatives said Columbia should not have invited Ahmadinejad to speak. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said "there is a world of difference between not preventing Ahmadinejad from speaking and handing a megalomaniac a megaphone and a stage to use it."

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., said he thought Columbia's invitation to Ahmadinejad was a mistake "because he comes literally with blood on his hands."

Huzzah Lee Bollinger - and job well done!

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Comments (8)

Steve Crickmore:

Lee, as it turned out it was good strategy on President Bollinger's part to a extend the invitation..It wasn't Republicans alone.. Hillary typically "If I were the president of a university, I would not have invited him, but I did not express an opinion about the decision made by Columbia" and Obama were also against inviting him.... Of course we can be thankful to the location of reviled UN for having him, otherwise Ahmadinejad would never have been allowed to set foot in the US. (in this political climate and moreover without official recognition).

Read my opinions on the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visit to Columbia.

Is Ahmadinejad a dictator or is he being vilified as one?


Lee Ward:


Obama and Clinton respectfully disagreed - Republicans railed and vilified Bollinger - that's the difference:

Democratic Sen. Barack Obama said he would not have invited Ahmadinejad to speak on campus, noting that the Iranian president has other forums to air his views, among them the United Nations, where Ahmadinejad was scheduled to speak Tuesday. But Obama, a Columbia graduate, added that "one of the values that we believe in is the value of academic freedom," and said Columbia officials have the right to invite speakers of their choice.

Obama also stood by his position that he would meet with Ahmadinejad and other rogue leaders if elected. He has been criticized by his rivals for vowing to hold such meetings, a position Sen. Hillary Clinton, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, has called "irresponsible and, frankly, naïve."

Clinton reiterated her position Monday at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

"We need a much more vigorous, robust and deep engagement, but that does not mean that the president of the United States should take part in such preliminary talks," she said.

Clinton said she " would not have invited" Ahmadinejad to speak if she were a university president. But she said she does not express an opinion about the decision made by Columbia.

Former Sen. John Edwards, a Democrat, also criticized Obama's vow to meet with Ahmadinejad and other leaders.

"In the case of a leader like Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il, Hugo Chavez, any of these leaders, you'd have to be extraordinarily careful that they would not use such a meeting for PR purposes or for propaganda purposes," he said.

Edwards characterized Ahmadinejad's positions as "abhorrent" but said it "is for Columbia to decide whether they want a man like this to be able to speak at their university."

Compare that to (same link):

Former Sen. Fred Thompson, a Tennessee Republican, criticized Columbia while appearing on conservative pundit Bill Bennett's radio show this morning.

"It's a clear double standard and rank hypocrisy" on the part of Columbia to allow Ahmadinejad to speak, he said, and not allow the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, or ROTC, on campus. On Thursday, Thompson said he would not have allowed Ahmadinejad into the country if he were president.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, also objected to Ahmadinejad's visit. "Instead of inviting him to speak at the United Nations and Columbia University, I believe he should be indicted under the Genocide Convention," the candidate said in a statement.

Romney also released a radio ad today claiming he is "leading the opposition" to Ahmadinejad's visit.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said in a statement that he finds it "astonishing and astounding that Columbia University would welcome the president of a country that has not only dedicated itself to a policy of extinction of the state of Israel, but as he is speaking, most of the lethal and explosive devices are being exported from Iran into Iraq, endangering and taking the lives of brave Americans who are serving."

That's the difference I'm pointing out.

Obama, Clinton and Edwards are running for office, so they took the safe middle road trying to make everyone happy - no surprise there.

Conservatives railed against Bollinger, and wrongly so in my view - and Bollinger proved what he was worth, and showed them exactly how to handle this situation.

Steve Crickmore:

Lee, thanks for for clarifying the difference, between the Republicans and Democrats. However, Obama instead of getting only a single could have gotten a home run, (which he desperately needs ) by saying "No problem he welcomed the opportunity for students or even himself to pepper Ahmadinjad with questions. Hey Columbia has a very high student Jewish enrollment; there was really no danger Ahmadinjad would intimidate the students, and moreover the administration and Hillary don't want to talk to Ahmadinjad directly. Besides, this is likely going to be the biggest issue of the next 15 months whether to launch military action on Iran, or not. Obama, by being as tepid as Hillary, missed a great opportunity to show how why he might be different leader. It is given that the Republicans are leaping over themselves to see who would be the first to push Iran or ourselves to the brink of war.


I'm sorry but I don't think you've got a very good understanding of the situation. Regadless of the fact that Lee Bolinger took all the right wing talking points and acted just as much a cowboy as George Bush ever was, this was still a PR win for Ahmadinejad. I don't buy the whole 'its a win for free speech' crap. We all know we have free speech in America. We don't need to prove it by inviting dictators and thereby lend them legitimacy on the world stage. This is the classical definition of Pyrrich Victory.

Frankly, I am surprised that you liberals are all slapping themselves on the back. Your dear Bollinger did not act like a liberal should. He sounded just like all those right wing nutjobs: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, etc. Why is that something to be applauding? He invited someone to speak then was an ingratious dolt.

Finally, in the comments, Lee Ward, you made a stunning admission. You said that the 3 Democrats "...are running for office, so they took the safe middle road trying to make everyone happy - no surprise there." Wow! So, they just kowtow for POLITICAL reasons and that is a good thing? Yeah, thats the type of leaders this country needs.

Well, I suppose the one good thing in this whole post is that we at least know liberals have the power within them to cheer for America and hate a dictator instead of their normal modus operandi.

Lee Ward:

Steve -- that's easy to say in retropect. Obama, and any politician running for office for that matter, is unlikely to take such a forward approach without knowing in advance that Bolliinger would in fact hit a home run.

If the event had occurred as most would have predicted, Obama's out-front stance would have put him too far to the left of center. Yes, at this stage he's courting Democrats with the hope of winning the nomination, but folks like myself are juding him on his electability, and choosing whether to select him as the Democratic nominee -- in part -- on his ability to win the national election.

For Obama to have gone as far as you suggest would have, in my view, put him outside the box. Fine, if what you want is the ideal Democrat.

What I want is a Democrat who can win the 2008 election.

I have a pretty good feel for who Obama is -- and what his views are on issues like this. I'm comfortable with the fact that he didn't pound the table and wlecome Ahmadinejad. Compared to any of the other candidates on either side, his is a more reasoned approach.

Lee Ward:

Scotty, my points apply to you as well.

Please feel free to choose a Newt Gingrich, Fred Thomspson, or a Ron Paul, ignoring the fact that they don't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning.

Me, I'm going to work for a candidate who will whip your sorry ass in the 2008 election.


Lee, I'm not sure what the last comment was getting at. Maybe you assume I spend a lot of time reading your stuff and have some idea of the context of your meandering thoughts. Well I don't!

I don't disagree that Newt, Fred or Ron have no chance of winning. So, whats your point?

If you want a debate well then try to wrap your mind around this: Obama has about the same chance of winning in 2008 as Fred Thompson.

If the election were today its about a 50:50 between Hillary and Rudy and most polls say Rudy would just edge out Hillary. That being said, the whole thing is up in the air and anything could happen.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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