As for Ahmadinejad himself, I only watched about 20 minutes before I had to go teach my civil procedure class, but during most of the time he impressed me as oddly disconnected. Most of his prepared remarks seemed, well, unprepared. There were long rambling discussions of scripture, meaningless discursions on "science," and an occasional dig at the Bush Administration, the U.S. more broadly, and President Bollinger's hostile introduction. The transcript (available here) reveals a mind that is at the very least, disordered. Here's an example of the sort of gobbledeeguk that makes the Unabomber look like Thomas Paine:
If we accept that "science" means "illumination," then its scope supersedes the experimental sciences, and it includes every hidden and disclosed reality. One of the main harms inflicted against science is to limit it to experimental and physical sciences; this harm occurs even though it extends far beyond this scope. Realities of the world are not limited to physical realities. And the material is just a shadow of supreme realities, and physical creation is just one of the stories of the creation of the world. Human being is just an example of the creation that is a combination of the material and the spirit.Ahmadinejad did much better in answering questions. His answers were, of course, preposterous to anyone who knows or cares about the actual facts, but they had an internal coherence of the sort one associates with ideologues. He even had some good (if disgusting) rhetorical moves. E.g., he turned the extolling of academic freedom to his advantage by characterizing his Holocaust denial as merely "asking questions" in the spirit of science. Which is not to say he didn't occasionally display his delusional nature. E.g., "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country. (Laughter.) We don't have that in our country. (Booing.) In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have it. (Laughter.)"
Perhaps the only unexpected moment was Ahmadinejad's acceptance of Bollinger's challenge to permit a delegation of Columbia students and faculty go to Iranian universities and meet freely with students and faculty there. That's a tiny bit uncomfortable for me, however, because Bollinger's challenge was issued just after mentioning my own stint today on Voice of America (which he misidentified as Radio Free Europe). To wit:
And while my colleagues at the law school -- Michael Dorf, one of my colleagues, spoke to Radio Free Europe, viewers in Iran a short while ago on the tenets of freedom of speech in this country -- I propose further that you let me lead a delegation of students and faculty from Columbia to address your universities about free speech with the same freedom we afford you today.I fear that I'll be expected to pack my bags for Tehran, which was not really on my list of places I most wanted to go.