So, in the end, Monday the Iranian wild man Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got a dressing down from the man who had invited him -- in the name of free speech, you understand -- to speak at Columbia University.
Likely, by time for the speech, Columbia President Lee Bollinger had no choice other than to perfume himself against the stench from a statesman who proposes to exterminate Israel, presides over one of the world's least free regimes and may, to boot, have a secret nuclear weapons program going.
Bollinger had been getting unshirted hell from reasonable people displeased -- as why wouldn't they be -- that Columbia would extend hospitality to such as Ahmadinejad. Among whose achievements, according to intelligence, is providing Iraqi terrorists with some of the most formidable explosives in play against U.S. military vehicles.
Columbia's president protested that, in presenting Ahmadinejad, he was acting within a "longstanding [Columbia] tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate." The kind of debate that would land the ordinary Iranian in the clink.
By the time all was said and done, Bollinger had clawed his way back to semi-respectability in polite society by insulting his guest -- not the usual practice in polite society, but consider the depth of the hole Bollinger had dug for himself by insisting on being a good academic liberal. It's the kind of thing academics do all the time -- dig moral and intellectual holes.
Something else they do is pretend the Reserve Officers Training Corps is an instrument of fascism, the Confederate Underground, or whatever; which perception excuses them from allowing ROTC to recruit on campus. Sen. John McCain, appraising the day's events, noted that Columbia has declared itself off limits to ROTC and its vital role in providing for the national defense.
The liberal academic establishment is something, all right. And has been, mostly, since the '60s, when Young America, or a significant portion of its alleged intellectual elite, decided the way to deal with "Fascist-Pig Amerika" was to burn draft cards and take over deans' offices. What with the demonstrators now running the campuses they demonstrated against, one isn't completely surprised to find Columbia hosting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- and a portion of the Stanford community campaigning not to host Donald Rumsfeld.
Stanford's Hoover Institution, a prestigious and exemplary center "for the study of War, Revolution and Peace," has engaged the former Defense secretary as a distinguished visiting fellow, in which capacity he's to advise a task force on ideology and terrorism.