So far I’ve heard of two cases about what’s acceptable during Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York. First of all there’s the decision to prohibit him from laying a wreath at ground zero, which he has been prohibited from doing. Though the objective consequences of this decision will likely be slim, it is almost impossibly unreasonable. What could be a problem with him placing a wreath? Are we afraid that a conciliatory gesture would slow the run-up to war? (To my mind, it is actually strange that Ahmadinejad would make such a gesture, since he usually seems as bellicose as the Bush administration). Perhaps the thought is that Ahmadinejad might somehow himself be in danger, but that would not explain John McCain’s thuggish claim that “he should be physically restrained if necessary.” McCain inhabits a fantasy world in which Ahmadinejad would personally charge ground zero shoving heroic firefighters out of the way. McCain himself would be at the rim of ground zero, wrapped in an American flag and would tackle Ahmadinejad, finally preventing him from detonating his explosives into a big hole in the ground.
Back in the real world, there’s an interesting case involving Columbia, which has offered Ahmadinejad a chance to speak and answer student questions. I’m of two minds about this but (novel phrase for me approaching), I may actually agree with William Kristol that this is a bad decision. Columbia’s president plans to ask difficult questions before Ahmadinejad speaks, but one wonders what good it does to publicly challenge Ahmadinejad on the issue of whether the holocaust happened. Does it serve the purposes of Columbia as an educational institution to have a lively debate on the subject? I think not.