Burnt Rice

The BBC reports that the Pope refused an audience request from Condi Rice.

There are at least two reasons why Pope Benedict may have decided peremptorily against a private meeting with Ms Rice.

First, it was Ms Rice who just before the outbreak of the Iraq war in March 2003 made it clear to a special papal envoy sent from Rome, Cardinal Pio Laghi, that the Bush administration was not interested in the views of the late Pope on the immorality of launching its planned military offensive.

Secondly, the US has responded in a manner considered unacceptable at the Vatican to the protection of the rights of Iraqi Christians under the new Iraqi constitution. …

… Instead of meeting the Pope, Ms Rice had to make do with a telephone conversation with the Vatican’s number two, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was visiting the US during August on other business.

Asking for Trouble

This week Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was denied a visit to Ground Zero. Ahmadinejad asked that he be allowed to lay a wreath at the site while he visits New York next week. Today ABC News reports that Ahmadinejad may go anyway, permission or no permission, and has even announced when. I can see all kinds of ways this would turn out badly, and I hope someone talks some sense into Ahmadinejad before then.

But Ahmadinejad is not the only one who needs to chill. The ever irresponsible Michelle Malkin is fanning the flames and trying to organize a “welcoming party.” And if she incites enough rage and recklessness to get someone killed, she will be equally outraged if anyone says it is her fault.

When the Good Lord was handing out common sense, Malkin was out hunting down exclamation marks.

No sooner had word gotten out last week that New York City was considering the request than politicians of both parties went into spasms of outrage. There was such a piling on of outrage you’d have thought Ahmadinejad had proposed offering a human sacrifice or, worse, memorializing Muhammad Atta. As BooMan says, the piling on turned into a game of one-upmanship, with pols bragging that they were not only outraged, they were more outraged than their political opponents. (See also the Anonymous Liberal.)

At this point in the post I have to stop and declare how much I don’t like Ahmadinejad. And I really don’t, but I resent having to say it. I am, however, obliged to make it clear that I don’t like Ahmadinejad so that righties don’t show up and accuse me of being a Mahmoud lover. What I will not do is enter into a competition to prove how much I dislike Ahmadinejad or if my dislike is sufficient dislike, because insufficient dislike is tantamount to siding with the terrorists.

Please note: I dislike groupthink a lot more than I dislike Ahmadinejad.

Here’s where we go from dumb to dumber — Scott Johnson of Power Tools says that Ahmadinejad is in New York he will participate in a question and answer session with university faculty and students at Columbia University’s World Leaders Forum. Johnson thinks this is a disgrace.

Columbia and President Bollinger are a disgrace. They welcome to their campus a man who is a ringleader in the seizure of American hostages, a terrorist, the president of a terrorist regime, and the representative of a regime responsible at present for the deaths of American soldiers on the field of battle. Columbia’s prattle about free speech may be a tale told by an idiot, but it signifies something. And President Bollinger is a fool who is not excused from the dishonor he brings to his institution and his fellow citizens by the fact that he doesn’t know what he is doing.

It’s true America is plagued by people who don’t know what they’re doing. Most of the Bush Administration comes to mind. But Columbia U. President Bollinger makes it clear he’s not inviting the Iranian leader over for tea and cookies. Bollinger intends to challenge Ahmadinejad on matters of terrorism, nuclear weapons, Holocaust denial, women’s rights, and other thorny issues, which I would think would be educational.

See, Scott, this is a World Leaders Forum, which I assume includes world-leaders-in-training. What World Leaders normally do is deal with other World Leaders of all stripes, and it’s good to have some laboratory experience with such things before you go out and practice World Leadership for real. Among other things, real World Leaders are not cartoons and do not go about with “Good” or “Evil” stamped on their foreheads. Real World Leaders are complicated people who probably got to be World Leaders because they are very good at handling other people. Even evil World Leaders can be charming. Back in the 1930s lots of people — right wingers, mostly — thought Hitler was a reasonable fellow. I remember reading that the first time Harry Truman met Joseph Stalin, Truman thought Stalin was an OK guy. This World Leadership thing isn’t as easy as it looks.

But righties have always been advocates for premeditated ignorance. I recall back in the 1950s and 1960s American conservatives would, from time to time, erupt into outrage mode upon learning that American colleges required students to learn something about Communism. Since Communism was the major threat to the planet at the time, one would think knowing something about it would be useful. But no; teaching students about Communism is teaching Communism. And Communism was, apparently, so inherently evil that merely learning about it was corrupting. Better to stay ignorant.

And it’s better not to get too close to whackjob World Leaders, even in a classroom, so that when the time comes that you actually have to deal with whackjob World Leaders you won’t know what you are doing and will have no recourse but to bomb them.

See how that works?

But back to the Ground Zero visit — I’m reminded of a story. Back in 1959, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev toured America and expressed a desire to visit Disneyland. He was denied entrance to the Magic Kingdom, probably for security reasons, or maybe the Seven Dwarfs threatened a protest strike. In any event, Khrushchev’s disappointment became an international, big-bleeping-deal Issue with the bulk of global sympathy siding with Khrushchev. And some American editorialists suggested the experience might have taught the Communist dictator something about the superiority of capitalism and the American way of life.

Here I have to enter another disclaimer, that I am not comparing Ground Zero to a theme park. I was in lower Manhattan on 9/11 and am, therefore, better acquainted with what happened there than Michelle Malkin or anyone else who merely watched on television. I’ve seen Ground Zero many times since. It doesn’t look quite as sad as it used to, since they’ve finally started building stuff. Still, seeing the place might have given Ahmadinejad a sense of the scale of the disaster that photographs cannot provide. Maybe someone could fly him over the site in an unmarked helicopter. It might give him a glimmer of an idea why Americans are hostile about terrorism. Just don’t put out a press release this is happening, or some whackjob rightie will show up in Manhattan to shoot down helicopters.