Mahmoud, you sly son of a gun. You probably slept well last night, your tan dictator jacket hanging neatly in your closet. And why shouldn’t you have? You’ve got everybody who matters exactly where you want ’em.
Today, you’re speaking at the United Nations and trying to play David to the American Goliath. Then you’re taking your look-at-me, attention-grabbing Holocaust-denying freak show to Columbia University, an arsenal of democracy in the most powerful nation on earth. You’ve got conservatives calling for your head, crazy liberals who support you and the whole world watching. Between anti-Semitism and nuclear bomb-making, you’ve put yourself at the top of the global agenda.
You can be sure Columbia President Lee Bollinger will play the patsy when he “questions” you. And while liberals make fools of themselves trying to defend your right to speak, conservatives will work themselves into a Cro-Magnon ’roid rage painting Columbia as a collection of terror-loving, elitist, treasonous sissies.
You’ve denied the Holocaust, called for the destruction of the State of Israel, pursued nuclear weapons and armed terrorists fighting American troops in Iraq. You preside over a country — Iran — where homosexuals are executed for who they are and professors are imprisoned for thinking out of turn. You had former KKK head David Duke over for breakfast (and your eggs weren’t even that good).
Yet, despite your literal and figurative, er, shortcomings, we want Columbia to hear you speak anyway. We want the rest of America, even those who can’t find Iran on a map, to scrutinize your beliefs and pick them apart. We believe in intellectual discourse no matter how much we can’t stand you. After all, freedom of speech is what makes our country so great; if we were to deny you a podium to espouse your views, our policies would be no better than your own. We may not agree with what you have to say, Mahmoud, but we’ll defend to the death your right to say it.