Mary Katharine Ham

Different decade, same idiots, just as useful as ever. Why is it that at our vaunted Ivy League schools, being Ivy-League-smart precludes the ability to recognize scum when you see it?

As the History News Network put it wryly this week:

Columbia University has invited a representative of the world’s most antisemitic regime to speak on its campus. This week’s news? Try 1933.

That’s right. The Ivy League tradition of coddling dictators and despots is long and storied. Back in 1933, Columbia was playing host to Nazi Germany’s ambassador to the United States, Hans Luther. Luther should have been received with “the greatest courtesy and respect,” said then-Columbia president Nicholas Butler. Luckily, a national backlash and wall-to-wall press coverage encouraged a somewhat less hospitable reception from present Columbia President Lee Bollinger when he introduced Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, and Bryn Mawr all either continued exchanges with Nazi Germany’s universities—purged of Jews, of course—or lent the Reich legitimacy by praising and participating in its pageantry well into the late 1930s.

Little has changed, apparently. Dean John Coatsworth of Columbia, this week: “If Adolf Hitler were willing to engage in a debate and a discussion, to be challenged by Columbia students and faculty, we would certainly invite him.”

You really shouldn’t count on a Yale professor if you’re trying to predict the next great genocidal threat to the world.

But the Ivy League’s legacy of stupidity didn’t end with the Nazis, as we saw this week. And, in between Adolph and Mahdi, there’s a treasure trove of enabling from the country’s most enlightened.

In 1958, Harvard invited a distinguished speaker with a martial presence, international influence, and a penchant for having political enemies shot by firing squad. Since his speech in Cambridge, Fidel Castro has been responsible for the deaths and imprisonment of thousands upon thousands of Cubans.

As Mona Charen documents in her book “Useful Idiots,” Columbia University had eloquence to offer on the feisty leader in fatigues. “C. Wright Mills of Columbia University extended unqualified support to Castro declaring, ‘I am for the Cuban revolution. I do not worry about it. I worry for it and with it.’”

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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