Campus Politics

by The New Republic Staff | September 22, 2006

David Sanger's informative piece in yesterday's New York Times (to which I linked yesterday) begins with a tiny mistake. The Bush administration thought that its policy of containing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would keep him in New York and at the United Nations. But, Sanger asserts correctly, the Iranian president had a different plan, plan B. He did have that, and he exercised his freedom to speak (that he terrorizes citizens of his country into not exercising) at a deflated Council of Foreign Relations session at the Intercontinental Hotel. So far correct. But before coming to New York, Ahmadinejad had already been to Cambridge to visit the JFK School of Government that is quickly making itself an accessory to the foul struggle against Israel. There is another venue that the administration didn't count on to invite America's least desired visitor in recent times. And that is Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. Which is to say, the Bushies didn't count on that school's long-time dean (ten years already), Lisa Anderson, who has a long record of abnormally undistinguished work in the field of Middle Eastern studies. In fact, for three years she was director of Columbia's Middle East Institute, an embarrassment even to some of the most tendentious academics on Arab matters, and she was president of the Middle East Studies Association, also a partisan cabal, but an institution altogether reflective of the field itself: propaganda as scholarship. As it happens, the president of Columbia, Lee Bollinger, also had no inkling of Anderson's intentions. And so, in a move that always makes university presidents deeply uncomfortable, Bollinger nixed the invite. He will now have brought upon himself a torrent of criticism for disinviting someone and therefore incurring the wrath of those who think that a refusal to host someone is a violation of the First Amendment. I knew Anderson years ago at Harvard, and I am not surprised by sneaky behavior. But Bollinger has forever been polishing her credentials, the last time by putting her on a faculty panel to weigh the complaints of Jewish and pro-Israel students that they were bullied by some of their professors. Actually, one could predict the attitudes of the designated panel academics ... and the predictions were right. In fact, I predicted the outcome. The students, said the panel, did not have justice on their side. Of course, Lisa Anderson would invite Ahmadinejad to Columbia. Deep inside her, I suspect, are some of his instincts ... about America and Israel.

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