Scott Pelley’s interview of Iranian president Ahmadinejad was a sad attempt at a propaganda victory for the Bush administration. What transpired showed that it was Emperor Bush who had no clothes.
It’s sort of a shame that CBS’s Scott Pelley declined to interview Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and instead popped off aggressive statements as if he were a White House press release with a cardiovascular system. I’m for the hostile interview here, but go stupidly overboard and you lose your credibility. And Pelley went so hostile that he let Ahmadinejad easily dance away. Plus: Did we really need to have this exchange?
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?
AHMADEINEJAD: 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.
AHMADEINEJAD: Well, is Mr. Bush a religious man?
PELLEY: Very much so. As you are.
AHMADEINEJAD: 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.
AHMADEINEJAD: 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.
What the hell sort of question is that? And Pelley’s answer is that Bush believes in God? This is the best we can do?
The NY Times rightly questions the focus on Ahmadinejad, who will probably be ousted in the next elections:
In demonizing Mr. Ahmadinejad, the West has served him well, elevating his status at home and in the region at a time when he is increasingly isolated politically because of his go-it-alone style and ineffective economic policies, according to Iranian politicians, officials and political experts.
Political analysts here say they are surprised at the degree to which the West focuses on their president, saying that it reflects a general misunderstanding of their system.
Unlike in the United States, in Iran the president is not the head of state nor the commander in chief. That status is held by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, whose role combines civil and religious authority. At the moment, this president’s power comes from two sources, they say: the unqualified support of the supreme leader, and the international condemnation he manages to generate when he speaks up.
“The United States pays too much attention to Ahmadinejad,” said an Iranian political scientist who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “He is not that consequential.”