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Perhaps you saw a senile old honky wander, confused, into a Tehran meeting room and insult the elected president of a sovereign nation this evening on television. The interview, on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” featured the self-righteous and condescending Mike Wallace in a cringe-fest interview with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Wallace has to be seen to be believed — he’s the over-rated professor emeritus you may have run across in college. He rolls his eyes, he shouts over his interviewee, he is dismissive when his questions are answered, and incredulous when his subject asks to be heard.

In the case of this interview, at a certain point President Ahmadinejad says he has to end the conversation, citing other important appointments. Wallace tells him to stay, and it goes a little bit like this:

Ahmadinejad: I’m afraid I must end the interview. I have other important appointments.

American Journalist: None more important this, sir, I assure you. None more important than this. (smile condescendingly)

Ahmadinejad: It’s time for prayers.

American Journalist: (without apologizing or in any other way acknowledging his rudeness) One more question. (then turning slowly to his crumpled page on his crumpled pad and slowly coming out with some tired reiteration of one of his previous questions.)

So, may we infer that Mike Wallace thinks his interviews are more important than a person’s religious beliefs?

At one point in the interview, Wallace asks the president to be concise in his answers. This plea on his behalf takes about one minute of the broadcast (why leave it in?). At another point, the president gives a typically political/evasive answer. Wallace pounces, saying it’s a yes-or-no answer (“how hard can it be?”). Ahmadinejad counters that a three-minute question might deserve longer than a one-word answer. Touché.

We watch Ahmadinejad, knowing that we disagree with his extremism. But he reminds us of the people who have been kind to us when we travel. His comfort in conversation reminds us of how some cultures savor the process of getting to an agreement. His stated hobbies, which include studying and reading, combined with his smile and at-ease style remind us of how it feels to have a president with intellectual ambition and charisma.

He’s likable. He reminds of Chavez and Castro, and his pleas for peaceful negotiation sound pretty good.

Is he naive? Probably. But he’s dangerous, too. And so are the people who back him. He wants to talk. I’m sure meeting him halfway is a bad idea. But I’d really like an articulate and intelligent person to explain why. Because right now, all I know is Mike Wallace is an embarassment and Ahmadinejad seems like a nice guy.

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2 Comments

  1. No such thing as a likeable terrorist.
    No negotiation with terrorists.
    The only good Iranian is a dead Iraninan.
    Nuke them before they nuke us.
    And by God, you WILL finish your cornflakes before you leave the table!

  2. Dear Jesus, I see where you’re coming from, but I guess I would’ve expected a little more forgiveness and understanding… I mean, I ate most of my cornflakes, but once you get to the last bit, they’re soggy, while I know this may seem odd, I think that makes them harder to eat without dripping milk down my chin. You’re in a position to wash away not only my trespasses but also the thin line of milk from my mouth to my chin. I might also suggest that we challenge our perceptions of Iran by going there together! Let’s go to Iran next summer, just to see if you’re right?


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