September 24th, 2007
04:19 PM ET
15 years ago

Candidates question university's invitation to Iran president

Watch Clinton discuss Ahmadinejad's visit Monday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates Monday questioned Columbia University's decision to invite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at it's New York campus.

In his speech at Columbia University that touched a number of emotionally-charged topics, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defended his controversial remarks over the Holocaust and Israel, saying he is an academic who had just posed questions.

He also said his country's nuclear program is intended solely for peaceful purposes, which it has the right to pursue.

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Related: Giuliani, Romney slam Ahmadinejad visit

Filed under: Iran • Presidential Candidates
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Wesner, Miami Beach, Fl

    Obama got my vote...

    Enough is enough!! If the world had engage itself to more dialogues among foes and friends, this world could have been a better place for everyone. On the other hand anyone who is against any dialogue with someone that they don't like is a fool because of fear thinking that its going to make you less of a person "Aucontraire mon frere" is quite the oposite.

    Bottom line is, we have to learn on how to respect first ourself, then other people and their ideas, and beliefs. Then and only then, we will find a common groung to better understand one another. Its a small world people, we're going to have to learn one-way another on how to better understand one another.

    If my statement make sense, please!! let us vote for a new change and for hope in our goverment. Let us put aside our ignorance and let us bring unity in 08 elction.

    Make the right choice and that is Obama!!

    Thank you all!!

    September 25, 2007 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  2. Bob, Johnstown PA

    With respect to the visit of Mahmoud Abedinejad and his speech at Columbia, the US agreed (wanted) to be steward of the UN on its soil. Just because it doesn't agree with everyone who addresses that body doesn't mean that their participation there implies a US invitation to visit America. It is simply carrying out a responsibility. As for the speech, I say hurrah to Columbia and hurrah that somebody remembers that we have free speech in this country. We have an arrogant press and an arrogant (and paranoid)set of politicians, and it is better that we just put this guy in a strong public light and let the people see and hear for themselves. The only fear is that we might learn something that isn't filtered through the media. As for Guiliani and Romney, neither has enough foriegn policy experience to make any comment on the subject.

    September 25, 2007 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  3. Tom - Dedham, Mass

    Tom Dedham, what are you talking about? Iran is a Democracy, elections are next spring, and Ahmadinejad will be out. Iran is a Republic, not some Authoritarian socialist country like the USSR.

    Posted By Jordan Baribeau, Winnipeg, MB : September 24, 2007 10:45 pm

    A Democracy doesn't kill, maim or jail people for having a differing opinions, being gay, hold women to the lowest of esteem and bury them up to their necks and publicly stone them for wanting to marry someone else.

    Are you aware of how many countries hold "democratic" elections, even though the whole world knows that they are fixed going in?

    These are just a few parts of their "democracy" in action, sounds fun, ay?

    September 25, 2007 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  4. Jordan Baribeau, Winnipeg, MB

    Tom, you didn't just describe Iran there, you described Sharia Law, which is incorporated through the Islamic world. Iran is by no means a Liberal Democracy, however there are many aspects in the politcal culture that show it to be a Republic. Such as rights to vote, regular elections, active civil society and so on. It may not respect Human Rights, like America, and it may also have biased media, like every country I can think of. I'm not here to defend Iran, I for one am against his contraversial remarks... However as I mentioned earlier, it's not some Authoritarin socialistic government like the USSR.

    September 25, 2007 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  5. dawn -- Gaithersburg, MD.

    Actually Tom in Dedham:

    A pure democracy can do just that. Democracy simply means "rule of the many." Ancient Athenians (I think), long given credit for originating the concept, owned slaves, placed women in a very debased social position, murdered Socrates ... I could go on.
    Furthermore, our society, for a lot of its history followed pretty much suit - hands clean on the Socrates thing, I'm bound to admit. Furthermore, plenty of early 20th-Century Socialists were jailed for their differing opinions, as well as scads of gay people (for sodomy) pre-Bowers.
    What protects freedom of speech and thought in this country, as well as many minority rights, and even some women's rights, is not democracy, but the Constitution, which is, in many places, including the very important, Bill of Rights, a specifically anti-democratic document.
    This comment doesn't address your point about Ahmadinejad: I just thought you may have forgotten these fine points.

    September 25, 2007 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  6. Tom - Dedham, Mass

    The term democracy indicates a form of government where all the state's decisions are exercised directly or indirectly by a majority of its citizenry through a fair elective process.

    So their Democracy is the same as ours? Maybe the part where they have "fair" elections, wink, wink, but as part of a Democracy such as ours, is freedom of speech, and the right to not be jailed or killed for exercizing that speech.

    Do you both think that all the "states decisions" in Iran are FAIRLY made by the majority or by this guy with his heavy, shall we say "influence"?

    They may have what they call Democratic elections, but that is where the similarity with us ends.

    Dawn, just curious, did you agree or disagree with me on Iran's leader being given the chance to speak?

    September 25, 2007 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  7. dawn -- Gaithersburg, MD.


    If I read your comment right, I agree with your conclusion. Ahmadinejad's words reveal his errors, as do mine and yours.
    However, as you imply, if the majority of citizens "through a fair elective process," decided to abolish free speech, that WOULD be a democratic decision. Preventing the majority from abolishing unpopular speech, as our First Amendment does is therefore anti-democratic. Trying to elide the issue by referring to a "Democracy such as ours," doesn't advance your argument because it is perfectly possible to have a democracy without protecting minority speech. (Your whole statement should read, "in a democracy such as ours, which is partly anti-democratic.) In fact, such a state would be MORE democratic than ours.
    You could argue that Ahmadinejad and the Iranian state are suppressing "majority" speech, which would be anti-democratic, but that's an empirical question and probably difficult to answer. You could also argue that protecting minority speech is actually also protective of democracy in the long run, i.e., by giving the minority an avenue to change the majority's opinion on some question of importance. But you can't argue that "free speech" in and of itself clearly defines democracy when the way WE protect speech actually intentionally frustrates the will of the majority.

    September 25, 2007 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
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