Ezra Klein points to this bizarre grilling of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by CBS’ Scott Pelley:
PELLEY: What trait do you admire in President Bush?
AHMADINEJAD: Again, I have a very frank tone. I think that President Bush needs to correct his ways.
PELLEY: What do you admire about him?
AHMADINEJAD: He should respect the American people.
PELLEY: Is there anything? Any trait?
AHMADINEJAD: As an American citizen, tell me what trait do you admire?
PELLEY: Well, Mr. Bush is, without question, a very religious man, for example, as you are. I wonder if there’s anything that you’ve seen in President Bush that you admire.
AHMADINEJAD: Well, is Mr. Bush a religious man?
PELLEY: Very much so. As you are.
AHMADINEJAD: What religion, please tell me, tells you as a follower of that religion to occupy another country and kill its people? Please tell me. Does Christianity tell its followers to do that? Judaism, for that matter? Islam, for that matter? What prophet tells you to send 160,000 troops to another country, kill men, women, and children? You just can’t wear your religion on your sleeve or just go to church. You should be truthfully religious. Religion tells us all that you should respect the property, the life of different people. Respect human rights. Love your fellow man. And once you hear that a person has been killed, you should be saddened. You shouldn’t sit in a room, a dark room, and hatch plots. And because of your plots, many thousands of people are killed. Having said that, we respect the American people. And because of our respect for the American people, we respectfully talk with President Bush. We have a respectful tone. But having said that, I don’t think that that is a good definition of religion. Religion is love for your fellow man, brotherhood, telling the truth.
PELLEY: I take it you can’t think of anything you like about President Bush.
AHMADINEJAD: Well, I’m not familiar with the gentleman’s private life. Maybe in his private life he is very kind or a determined man. I’m not aware of that. I base my judgment on what I see in his public life. Having said that, I think that President Bush can behave much better. There were golden opportunities for President Bush. He should have used them better.
First, as Klein wonders, what most impresses Scott Pelley about Bush is that he’s “very religious”? Really? Is Pelley very religious himself, or did he not anticipate having his stupid query turned back on him, which forced him to spit out the first thing he could think of?
Second, say what you like about the messenger, but what in Ahmadinejad’s message is the least bit unreasonable? George W. Bush once told an interviewer that his favorite philosopher was Jesus Christ. (Hey, ask a stupid question…) Has Scott Pelley or any other American journalist demanded to know, in light of the events of the last five years, what exactly Bush admires about Jesus’ teachings? Because, as Ahmadinejad indicates, the answer is far from apparent.
And, just as an afterthought, please note that Ahmadinejad implies an ethical unity among Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Now perhaps he’s speaking with a forked tongue, but if he were really out to antagonize the West and score points among radical Muslims, what better time and place to rail against Jews and Crusaders? Hell, America’s faux-butch warbloggers lambasted Bush for calling Islam a “religion of peace” back in the day â€“ imagine what the al-Qaeda types must be saying about Ahmadinejad now.