The Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal aptly describes the cynical posturing of Lee Bollinger, Columbia University’s president, who first invited the oppressive Iranian despot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia, then criticized him only after Columbia was widely ridiculed for the invitation.
Commentators pointed out that his “free speech” rationale for inviting Ahmadinejad was specious and hypocritical, since Bollinger has turned a blind eye to campus harassment of conservative speakers, has supported campus speech restrictions and speech codes, and has been silent about the Iranian government’s brutal suppression of dissent.
Columbia was also ridiculed for saying that it would have been appropriate to invite Hitler to speak.
As the Washington Post observes, the Iranian ruler turned Columbia’s invitation to his advantage in the international arena, effectively using it as a soapbox for conveying his anti-American message to a global audience.
His Columbia audience approved of most of that anti-American message. His attacks on America and other western countries consistently drew applause.
When he accused the U.S. of supporting terrorism, he was applauded.
When he complained that the U.S. and other “monopolistic,” “selfish powers” were trying to thwart Iran’s nuclear program, he was cheered.
When he refused to answer whether he seeks the destruction of Israel, he was greeted with more applause.
Only when he denied the existence of gay people in Iran did he draw boos.
The Columbia audience’s anti-Americanism seems to be shared by Bollinger, albeit in a more subtle way. As president of Columbia, he barred the U.S. military from recruiting. As dean of the University of Michigan Law School, he barred the CIA. But he allows anti-American dictators to speak at his campus.
In his remarks before Ahmadinejad’s speech, Bollinger was narcissistic. As the New York Times noted on September 25, he used the opportunity to “praise himself.” That is something the pompous Lee Bollinger often does.