The Left Reacts to Ahmadinejad

Rick Moran
A smattering of views from liberals on Iranian President Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia University yesterday:

Ezra Klein:

I genuinely don't understand the quaking fear over Ahmadinejad's interview at Columbia. When did America become so weak, so insecure, that we mistrust our capacity to converse with potentially hostile world leaders? Do we really believe the president of Columbia is so doltish as to be outsmarted by a former traffic engineer from Tehran?

Cenk Uygur:

If Ahmedinejad's views on the Holocaust are not being used as propaganda fodder for an attack against Iran, then I don't care. Condemn him all you want. He's earned it. But if this is being used - as we all know it is - to build a new boogeyman in the Middle East, then it is dangerous folly.

Ahmedinejad is being cast as the new Saddam Hussein or the new Adolf Hitler. After all, we need enemies to tear down. That's terrific. How about we focus on the enemies who have already attacked us, like Osama bin Laden?

Kevin Drum:

Am I the only liberal who believes all that stuff but is still pretty queasy about letting this lunatic engage in some wreath-laying crocodile tears at Ground Zero? There's a difference between being unafraid to let someone speak and being unwilling to let him use the most venerated site in the country for a crass PR stunt, isn't there? Hell, a lot of us complain when Rudy Giuliani does this, let alone a guy who denies the Holocaust and has made a career out of chanting "Death to America." Am I off base here?

Professor Juan Cole:


There is, in fact, remarkably little substance to the debates now raging in the United States about Ahmadinejad. His quirky personality, penchant for outrageous one-liners, and combative populism are hardly serious concerns for foreign policy. Taking potshots at a bantam cock of a populist like Ahmadinejad is actually a way of expressing another, deeper anxiety: fear of Iran's rising position as a regional power and its challenge to the American and Israeli status quo. The real reason his visit is controversial is that the American right has decided the United States needs to go to war against Iran. Ahmadinejad is therefore being configured as an enemy head of state.


Will Bunch:


But my other question is this. In suggesting that America's problems lie partly in our "phenominon" of rampant homosexuality, didn't Ahmadinejad sound a lot like our own right-wing pundits like Dinesh D'Souza, Glen Beck. or Pat Robertson, who concured with the late Jerry Falwell when Falwell blamed 9/11 on "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle..."?


I'm sure all the TV talking heads and columnists who opined in the recent past that Osama bin Laden sounds just like a blogger on Daily Kos or a member of the Democratic Party are now going to inform America that Ahmadinejad sounds just like a right-wing homphobe, aren't they?


A smattering of views from liberals on Iranian President Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia University yesterday:

Ezra Klein:

I genuinely don't understand the quaking fear over Ahmadinejad's interview at Columbia. When did America become so weak, so insecure, that we mistrust our capacity to converse with potentially hostile world leaders? Do we really believe the president of Columbia is so doltish as to be outsmarted by a former traffic engineer from Tehran?

Cenk Uygur:

If Ahmedinejad's views on the Holocaust are not being used as propaganda fodder for an attack against Iran, then I don't care. Condemn him all you want. He's earned it. But if this is being used - as we all know it is - to build a new boogeyman in the Middle East, then it is dangerous folly.

Ahmedinejad is being cast as the new Saddam Hussein or the new Adolf Hitler. After all, we need enemies to tear down. That's terrific. How about we focus on the enemies who have already attacked us, like Osama bin Laden?

Kevin Drum:

Am I the only liberal who believes all that stuff but is still pretty queasy about letting this lunatic engage in some wreath-laying crocodile tears at Ground Zero? There's a difference between being unafraid to let someone speak and being unwilling to let him use the most venerated site in the country for a crass PR stunt, isn't there? Hell, a lot of us complain when Rudy Giuliani does this, let alone a guy who denies the Holocaust and has made a career out of chanting "Death to America." Am I off base here?

Professor Juan Cole:


There is, in fact, remarkably little substance to the debates now raging in the United States about Ahmadinejad. His quirky personality, penchant for outrageous one-liners, and combative populism are hardly serious concerns for foreign policy. Taking potshots at a bantam cock of a populist like Ahmadinejad is actually a way of expressing another, deeper anxiety: fear of Iran's rising position as a regional power and its challenge to the American and Israeli status quo. The real reason his visit is controversial is that the American right has decided the United States needs to go to war against Iran. Ahmadinejad is therefore being configured as an enemy head of state.


Will Bunch:


But my other question is this. In suggesting that America's problems lie partly in our "phenominon" of rampant homosexuality, didn't Ahmadinejad sound a lot like our own right-wing pundits like Dinesh D'Souza, Glen Beck. or Pat Robertson, who concured with the late Jerry Falwell when Falwell blamed 9/11 on "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle..."?


I'm sure all the TV talking heads and columnists who opined in the recent past that Osama bin Laden sounds just like a blogger on Daily Kos or a member of the Democratic Party are now going to inform America that Ahmadinejad sounds just like a right-wing homphobe, aren't they?