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Three Responses to Khatami’s Visa: Romney’s, Giuliani’s, and Twonsend’s

Thursday, September 7, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The MSM has left largely univestigated the decision to grant Iran’s former president a visa to visit the United States as well as the decisions by major universities to honor this man with a podium so that he can orate on such topics as “”The Ethics of Tolerance in An Age of Violence.”

On Tueday and Wednesday I was able to interview Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Assistant to the President for Homeland Security Frances Townsend on this subject.  Here are ket excerpts from their responses:



I think it’s an outrage that in this season of memory of those that lost their lives, that we would be inviting someone who is a terrorist to this country, and that in particular, this person would be invited to Harvard to come speak on the topic of tolerance. It’s outrageous, and for that reason, I have instructed our state agencies, and particularly our executive office of public safety not to provide any support whatsoever for his visit. And that means not to provide the escort and security personnel which would normally be associated with a person of interest of this nature. And it may well lead to them reassessing whether they want to come to Harvard. I certainly hope so. 


HH: There’s considerable controversy over the decision to issue a visa to the Ayatollah Khatami, the former president of Iran. He’ll be speaking at Columbia University. He’s speaking at my alma mater, Harvard. He’s speaking at the National Cathedral on this, the week of remembrance of 9/11. Does that decision upset you? Was it appropriate? Did we not hand our enemies in the Middle East a massive propaganda victory?

RG: Yeah, I think that we have such a committment to free speech, and we preach it in so many different parts of the world, that maybe what we’re afraid of is being attacked for being hypocritical. It is annoying. I mean, it really is upsetting, given their support for terrorism, most recently in Southern Lebanon. But I mean, we’re…I don’t know that I can criticize the State Department for not standing in the way of that, given some of the other things that they have to accomplish in other parts of the world.


HH: Frances Townsend, just a few more questions. I know your time is short. Yesterday, the President spoke bluntly, using blunt terms about the Islamic revolutionary regime in Iran. As far as you know, is that regime providing arms and training to the insurgents in Iraq attempting to kill Americans?

FT: We know from Secretary Rumsfeld’s analysis and statements that we do believe that there is Iranian support particularly to components of improvised explosive devices, and elements of the insurgent activity inside Iraq, and it’s very disturbing.

HH: Given that, and given just the understanding we have of Iran as a terrorist regime, the invitation to the Ayatollah Khatami to visit this country has surprised, and actually outraged a lot of people. Were you personally consulted on whether or not to issue a visa to Khatami?

FT: I was not, although I will tell you, regardless of Khatami’s statements, when you look at the statements of Ahamadinejead, you have to wonder whether or not, and how important Khatami’s statements are at all.

HH: Who made the decision to issue him a visa, Ms. Townsend?

FT: It was…my understanding is that it was part of…there was a national security review, and that the President’s National Security team made that judgment.

HH: Would that have included White House personnel?

FT: You know, to be honest, Hugh, I was not a part of the process, and so I’m not really the right person to ask who specifically was part of that decision.

HH: Have you been tracking the fallout from that decision, Ms. Townsend?

FT: Well, certainly, I have read with interest, as have others here, Khatami’s statements since he’s been there, and it causes us to really question whether or not there are fissures inside the Iranian government.

HH: Oh, so you suspect that there might be fissures?

FT: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, Ahmadinejead is talking about wiping Israel off the face of the map, and confronting the United States. And Khatami is suggesting, on the other hand, that having peace in Iraq is in Iran’s interest. So I think you’ve got to assume that there is some fissures within the leadership of Iran, and that’s a good thing as far as the United States is concerned.

HH: Last question. He will be speaking on September 10th, the eve of the 5th anniversary of the attack on America, Khatami will, at Harvard. And the address that he is giving is the ethics of tolerance in an age of violence. Is that ironic or simply disgusting?

FT: Well, it…certainly, it’s at a minimum ironic. Iran, which is a recognized and established state sponsor of the terrorist group Hezbollah, which has killed, prior to 9/11, more Americans than al Qaeda. I find it ironic at its best.

We have entered a time of profound moral confusion.  (See today’s University of Virginia student newspaper editorial: “If there were ever a place where someone like Khatami should be free to speak, it’s on the Grounds of Mr. Jefferson’s University.”) Khatami is here as an apologist for a regime at this moment attempting to kill American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.  It is not a celebration of free speech to welcome an enemy or allow the enemy enormous propaganda wins.  It is a symptom of a suicidal inability to see the world as it is, the very sort of blindness that led to 9/11.  Mark Steyn has termed this a sort of “societal Stockholm syndrome.”  He is right, as usual. We can only hope that like so many other intellectual fevers, this one is limited to elite campuses and State Department paper pushers.

The damage is done, but not the accounting.  Perhaps some “news organization” will actually rouse itself to dig into this procession of a terrorist across the campuses of America –how did it come about, exactly?  Who imagined it?  Who orchestrated it?  And who, in the government, approved it?

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