I do wonder if I'm the only person who found Mahmoud Ahmadinajad's performance at Colombia University a compelling one. I do wonder if I'm the only person that thought his introduction and the official speech of welcome was insulting and immensely skewed. And I wonder if I'm the only person who finds the way that an American academic institution's officers treated a visiting head of state was appalling by any standard.
And yet Ahmadinajad put in an impressive performance. Sure, he was a bit too Godly for secular Western tastes at times. Sure, he wasn't going to take questions like 'Do you oppose a Jewish State of Israel?' head-on. But he did a damn good job, overall. He pointed out that his country couldn't equip civil airliners because of sanctions: that America, the UK, Germany and others had defaulted on contracts, had provided material assistance to Iraq in attacking Iran, had worked to destabilise his country's elected (for better or for worse) government. It wasn't a bad case to make and he made it pretty well.
What a shame he wasn't a lunatic demagogue with no sense at all of rhetoric or public speech. That would have made it so much easier to continue to mindlessley demonise him.
I do wonder what Georgie boy will do tomorrow against a man who is brighter and more charismatic than he is. I'm not saying Mahmoud isn't dangerous. But he's damn smart and, as he pointed out in his address, comes from a cultured and capable people.
Not bad. The jury's out, for sure... But you had to have watched the entire performance... How many of us got that chance?
And at the end, he waited for his host (he had already made the point that in his, the Middle Eastern, culture - and as an academic who had invited speakers to his university - you didn't insult a guest: it was a very pointed point in view of his embarrassing reception by the Colombia staff) to walk across the stage and shake his hand. Alone and suddenly small, he waited. And finally, long tens of seconds after the announcement that he had to leave and couldn't take more questions (and yet stood on the stage, not going anywhere), he got a brief, grudging touch of palms.
Mahmoud 1 America 0. Let's see what tomorrow brings.