Jonah Goldberg

Among the proud recipients of Time magazine's fluffy end-of-year "People Who Mattered" feature, is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Here's how it begins: "He is an unlikely firebrand: the soft-spoken son of a blacksmith who still sometimes drives a 30-year-old Peugeot. But Iran's new president doesn't shrink from controversy. After winning a disputed election, he said. . . . " Now, before I finish that sentence, let's at least note that so far Time is using the same tone it might use to talk about John McCain, Joe Wilson, George Clooney or some other "soft-spoken" "unlikely firebrand" beloved by the media.

So, does Ahmadinejad have a wacky blog? Did he admit on "Larry King Live" that he voted for Ralph Nader in 2000? What makes him such a charming rogue?

Let's pick up that sentence where we left off and see: "After winning a disputed election," Time reports, "he said he would continue Iran's nuclear program, called the Holocaust a 'myth' and pledged to destroy Israel. Even some of the nation's ruling clerics are nervous about what he will do next." So even some of Iran's terrorism-supporting theocratic dictators are "nervous" about this guy.

What, one wonders, would it take for the editors to get really rough? Perhaps if Ahmadinejad offered a deeply negative review of "Brokeback Mountain"?

Time describes Pope Benedict XVI as perhaps "too polarizing a conservative." But for Ahmadinejad, who declared that a member nation of the U.N. should be "wiped off the map" and that the touchstone moral horror of modernity was nothing but a "myth" . . . well, let's make sure to bring up that he drives an old Peugeot. That's a crucial fact. If only we could find out what kind of tree he would be if he could be a tree. Maybe next year.

I know what you're thinking, but this isn't a jab at liberal media bias - though we can have that argument if you like. Rather, this points to something deeper: the resurgence of American isolationism.

Few issues are more shrouded in myth and misunderstanding than isolationism. Even as the "come home, America" chorus grows louder on the left, we're still told that isolationism is a right-wing phenomenon. This myth starts with the Republican Party's rejection of the Treaty of Versailles, which didn't really have much to do with isolationism. The Republican Party - the party of Teddy Roosevelt, after all - was full of interventionists and hawks. And the Democratic Party had plenty of isolationists and doves.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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