Ahmadinejad Plays NYC

Some people just know how to piss people off. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, will be in New York next week and he asked to visit Ground Zero. After a bit of confusion among the city officials, they turned down his request on the basis of security issues and that it's a construction site.
Mr. Ahmadinejad’s request came to light today in a discussion that [Police] Commissioner [Patrick] Kelly had with reporters from several news organizations.

Mr. Kelly, apparently relying on outdated information, said that Iranian officials had made a “formal request” that the police and Secret Service were discussing the matter with the Iranian Mission. The commissioner had said that the concerns had more to do with the logistics of dealing with the Iranian president’s large security detail than with his right, like any foreign visitor, to travel freely in the city. But Mr. Kelly had ruled out a trip into the pit. “Construction is in full swing, and it would not be possible for him to go where other people don’t go,” Mr. Kelly said.

A short while later, around 4:15 p.m., the Police Department’s spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said that Mr. Kelly misspoke and that police commanders had already decided that a visit to ground zero by Mr. Ahmadinejad was not feasible.
Of course this set off a ceaseless round of news releases from all the presidential candidates. Mitt Romney called it "shockingly audacious," Rudy Giuliani called it "outrageous," and Hillary Clinton said it was "unacceptable."

Well, duh. Ahmadinejad may be all of the things they say about him -- an anti-Semite, a Holocause denier, and not exactly wrapped too tight -- but he knows how to play to a crowd and just what to do to provoke the predictable responses from the Americans.

He knew going into it that he wouldn't be allowed to visit the site and yet he went ahead and requested it. Now the denial will be played up in the Tehran media as yet another slap at the dignity of Iran; Mr. Ahmadinejad's gesture will be portrayed as an olive branch of peace and reconciliation coldly rebuffed by the arrogant and decadent Americans.

He's not the first foreign leader who learned early on how to play the Americans. When Fidel Castro first came to New York in 1960 to address the UN, he eschewed the fancy digs of a mid-town hotel like the Waldorf Astoria and stayed in the Hotel Theresa in Harlem to prove that he was a man of the people...and score points against the uptight Eisenhower administration that was still trying to figure out whether or not Castro was a commie. More recently Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has provoked the Bush administration, calling President Bush el diablo (the devil) in a speech at the UN.

It's obvious that people like Ahmadinejad and Chavez know exactly what buttons to push, and they get a charge out of it -- it's like poking a stick at a caged animal. It's a win-win for them; they get sympathetic press from their supporters, and as long as they can get the predictable responses of outrage out of their targets, they'll continue to do it.

Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.

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