Tony Karon in Time:
New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, had criticized Columbia for hosting Ahmadinejad, warning that “All he will do on that stage … is spew more hatred and more venom out there to the world.” Not quite. Despite the harsh words of his host, Bollinger, Ahmadinejad stayed on message, appearing relaxed, reasonable, open, even charismatic. Whether or not American TV audiences are seduced is beside the point, because Ahmadinejad’s primary audience is not American. The provocations of his New York visit are an integral part of his domestic political strategy, which depends on his ability to hold America’s national attention with an unapologetically nationalist message about Iran’s nuclear rights, lecturing them about God and their aim to run the world.
It was pure political ju-jitsu, using the momentum of your adversaries to your own advantage. The protestors got him on TV, and he used the platform to grandstand for the folks back home.
More here. [Thanks to Saifedean Ammous.]
Full transcript of talk:
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OF IRAN MAHMOUD AHMADINEJADMODERATOR: JOHN COATSWORTH, ACTING DEAN, SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, COLUMBIA, UNIVERSITY INTRODUCTION BY LEE BOLLINGER, PRESIDENT, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITYCOLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK1:50 P.M. EDT, MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2007(Note: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comments are through interpreter.)MR. BOLLINGER: I would like to begin by thanking Dean John Coatsworth and Professor Richard Bulliet for their work in organizing this event and for their commitment to the School of International and Public Affairs and its role — (interrupted by cheers, applause) — and for its role in training future leaders in world affairs. If today proves anything, it will be that there is an enormous amount of work ahead of us. This is just one of many events on Iran that will run throughout the academic year, all to help us better understand this critical and complex nation in today’s geopolitics.