Over at The Corner Stanley Kurtz astutely notes that A'jad's speech finally forced the left to confront what it consistently evades or outright denies when it comes to the Iranian threat, to the extent that they acknowledge a threat at all. And that opening up of an honest left-right dialogue among ourselves is the positive that came out of this whole affair. Emphasis mine
The reality of Iran–the threat it poses and the despicable nature of its policies–is something that the American left would prefer not to emphasize. But having proffered an ill-conceived invitation, and then having been widely challenged on his bad judgement, Bollinger was forced to speak out loud many of the truths that the left in this country would rather avoid. That is indeed a most fortunate outcome. The reality of the Iranian regime and its threat have been thrust into the foreground, and a prominent spokesman for the American left has acknowledged this reality on record, in a way that no respectable player can now deny.
It shouldn’t have been necessary to invite Ahmadinejad to Columbia to get the left half of America’s political spectrum speaking more honestly about the challenge we face in Iran. The evidence to justify Bollinger’s remarks was available well before Ahmadinejad spoke, and Bollinger himself pointedly predicted that there would be little in the way of a serious or substantive reply forthcoming. Yet the unfortunate fact is that it took a naive invitation from the academic left, followed by biting criticism from the right, to finally elicit an honest acknowledgment of the truth. Dialogue and debate really do work, but the dialogue that counted most was our own–not the shadow-play with Ahmadinejad.
It’s true that Ahmadinejad’s own blundering and ridiculous talk added to the outrage at his policies. Yet Ahmadinejad’s capacity to spout nonsense was well known before hand. After all, Bollinger’s opening remarks were based on Ahmadinejad’s offensive track-record. Again, the novelty yesterday was not anything Ahmadinejad said, but the fact that umbrage on the right finally prompted eyes to open on the left. In effect, public outrage over Bollinger’s invitation allowed the media to force a left-right dialogue onto a university that usually avoids precisely that sort of exchange. If thoughtful representatives of a broad spectrum of opinion had been available at Columbia all along, however, it wouldn’t have required the Ahmadinejad circus to make such a breakthrough.