Monday, September 24, 2007

Columbia's Folly

I was surprised when I got in the car today and turned on my XM radio to the Spencer Hughes “Fox Across America” show, a program I often listen to when I’m driving in the afternoon. I get a little irritated with Hughes’ abruptness with callers, but that really isn’t all that unusual among talk show hosts, and although he is a fairly conservative guy, I find some of his positions disagreeable.

Today was one day when I disagreed with him, and it was on the topic of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s address at Columbia University. Hughes was all upset that some people didn’t want Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia, and tried to paint it as a free speech issue, and he complained that it was therefore improper for the state and federal government to cut off funding to Columbia on that basis.

But this isn’t a free speech issue. Our Constitution guarantees certain unalienable rights to Americans, the right to free speech among them. However, even if Ahmadinejad is entitled to speak freely when he is in the United States because of the freedoms our Constitution guarantees, that guarantee does not include providing a forum for speaking, particularly one such as Columbia University.

We ought to all be upset at Columbia’s hypocrisy, inviting Ahmadinejad to speak, but denying Lawrence Summers, the former Harvard president who got in trouble over some relatively innocuous remarks about females. Does Summers not have at least as much a right to speak at Columbia? We ought to be upset that Columbia will not allow military recruiters on campus, but invites the Iranian president to speak. We ought to be upset that Columbia gave Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist a forum in which to speak, and then allowed the audience to shout him down. It is a legitimate objection to oppose Ahmadinejad on the basis of Columbia’s hypocrisy.

It is further fair game to oppose Columbia for its bad judgment in honoring an enemy of our nation, and a terrorist whose nation funds and arms the Iraq insurgents, by giving him a forum in which to spout his anti-US venom. We have little defense when our own citizens go to foreign countries and badmouth us, like the badly confused Congressman Dennis Kucinich recently did in Syria, and self-absorbed boobs like Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte did in Venezuela a while back. It’s is part of the freedoms we protect for people to do stupid things if they want to. But we don’t have to allow foreigners to come here and do it, and it is stupid in the extreme to invite them to do so. And, by the way, does Columbia intend to reimburse New York and the federal government for the security costs involved in this fiasco?

So, if someone in the New York legislature and someone else in the Congress wants to introduce a bill to take funding from Columbia for its hypocrisy and bad judgment, I say, “go for it,” and I hope they succeed.

Some submit that the upshot of all of this, after Ahmadinejad got finished blathering and dodging questions, is that the kids at Columbia will see him for what he is, and he will have lost face by coming here. Maybe so. But in other places around the world, he will have grown in stature and reputation by coming to the land of the Great Satan, and putting America in its place.

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