Obama apologetic about boycotting Ahmadinejad's U.N. speech
As expected, the U.S. delegation boycotted Iranian President Ahmadinejad's speech at the UN General Assembly in New York. But the reason given by the Obama administration for this gesture is, to say the least, perplexing. Here's the official explanation, as related by Erin Pelton, the spokeswoman for the U.N. mission to the United Nations:
"Over the last couple of days, we've seen Mr. Ahmadinejad once again use his trip to the U.N. not to address the legitimate aspirations of the Iranian people but to instead spout paranoid theories and repulsive slurs against Israel."
So far so good. But not so good when Pelton gets around to why the American delegation wasn't in the hall when Ahmadinejad went through his tirades. Here's how she put it:
"It's particularly unfortunate that Mr. Ahmadinejad will have the platform of the UNGA on Yom Kippur, which is why the United States decided not to attend."
I had to read that sentence several times to get its full significance. And then it hit me. It turns out that the reason for the U.S. boycott wasn't due to Ahmadinejad's lengthy history of genocidal threats to eliminate the Jewish state, which one might assume prompted other diplomats, including the Canadian and Israeli delegations, to boycott his speech.
No, the Americans kept away not because of Ahmadinejad's repulsive record, but because the Obama administration didn't want to offend Jews on Yom Kippur, Judaism's holiest date. But this in turn suggests that it might not have boycotted the Iranian leader if he spoke at the U.N. on any other day. Say, the day before or the day after Yom Kippur. And this is more than a mere supposition about some presumably innocent slip. Team Obama is well known for its reverence of the U.N. and its determination to "engage" in diplomacy some of the world's worst tyrants, usually getting nothing in return. Given this predilection, it's not really a great surprise that only Yom Kippur stood in the way of the administration turning its back on Ahmadinejad. On any other day, it could or would have been different.
Or in other words, plain and simple, it wasn't Ahmadinejad who prompted the U.S. boycott -- it was the Jews. The boycott came with an apology to Tehran on Yom Kippur - the day of Repentance. How fitting.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers