The [Tuesday] Papers
I have cable, so this doesn't affect me personally, but isn't it an outrage that Cubs playoff games - should they actually come to fruition - won't be on free, broadcast TV?
Not everyone has cable; I have friends who simply cannot afford it. And - memo to Mayor Daley - think of the kids. Really.
First principle: Public spaces should not be turned over to private entities.
"How about calling the city's track record in preserving affordable housing a disgrace?"
Glad to have you here!
A university - as a (theoretically) non-partisan, non-political, open forum for ideas - is the perfect setting for us to hear the views of even those we may despise. I can't think of a better setting. In part, this is what universities are for - to expose us to the ideas of the world, however repugnant they may be.
We are all better off for having seen, heard and read the remarks of Ahmadinejad. How better to understand a man our president would no doubt like to kill - and whose troops American blood may be spilled fighting.
But understand this: People are complex. Ahmadinejad may be the "petty and cruel dictator" that Columbia University President Lee Bollinger described him as, but he's not an idiot. Iran's grievances with the United States are not without foundation. We toppled an elected, democratic government in Iran once to install the imperious Shah. To Iranians who remember, we are hardly a beacon of freedom. The rise of Ayatollah Khomeini, including the infamous hostage crisis, sprung at least in part from that. And our invasion of Iraq, whom we armed and supported in its war against Iran, doesn't help our efforts to appeal to Iranians for peace and cooperation.
It's also fascinating and enlightening for all of us to understand where this man is coming from. Frankly, I think Bollinger's attack on Ahmadinejad was over the top. The inflamed rhetoric will play well with the public, media, alumni and donors to whom it was aimed, but how much more effective would it have been for Bollinger to calmly stick to the facts - of the Holocaust, of the existence of gay people the world over, of the value of freedom of speech and political dissent - and challenge Ahmadinejad to answer each point by point?
In fact, I would have preferred to see a debate of just that.
It's also easy to dismiss Ahmadinejad as a crazy man when he says things like "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country."
Consider how crazy our own presidents are, though. "When Bush was running for the presidency in 2000, the feds released their annual report on hunger in America, and Texas was once again in its perennial spot at the top of the list, No. 1 in Hunger," Molly Ivins wrote in 2002.
"Bush thought it was some dastardly scheme by the Clinton administration to make Texas, and hence Bush, look bad. He denied there were any hungry people in Texas and said, 'You'd think the governor would have heard if there are pockets of hunger in Texas.'"
Of course, the easier example would be invading an entire frickin' country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and possessed no WMDs, but you've heard that one already.
So a bill of goods against our president speaking in another nation might look equally as silly - equally as silly, say, as the Tribune editorial page's lambasting of Ahmadinejad's criminal justice and human rights record.
Karla Faye Tucker, anyone?
Of course, the easier example would be the decimation of civil liberties and shredding of the Constitution, but . . .
I also suppose it's better to have a president who believes there are no gay people in his country than to have a president who thinks gay people are immoral reprobates. And wasn't it Ronald Reagan who famously ignored AIDS for years?
So let's get down off our high horse. Ahmadinejad is in no way a sympathetic figure and does, in fact, appear to be a twisted and dangerous man. But, like Hugo Chavez - and unlike, say, Kim Jong-il, who appears to be just downright nuts - he ought to be engaged.
Barack Obama has it backwards.
"Democrat Barack Obama says he probably wouldn't have invited Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia University - Obama's alma mater," AP reports. "But Obama said he'd be willing as president to meet with the Iranian leader as a way to protect U.S. interests."
So if Obama was president of Columbia University he wouldn't have invited Ahmadinejad to speak, but if he's president of the United States he would welcome him to the White House?
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Posted on September 25, 2007
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