The UN General Assembly, Part I: The President and Ahmadinejad

His was an odd speech for a President. He stood before the world and trashed the United States.

His was an odd speech for a President. He stood before the world and trashed the United States. “The blocks and neighborhoods of this great city tell the story of a difficult decade,” he said of New York, beginning with the attack on the World Trade Center and through the economic collapse that “devastated American families on Main Street.” And he worried that, “Underneath these challenges to our security and prosperity lie deeper fears: that ancient hatreds and religious divides are once again ascendant; that a world which has grown more interconnected has somehow slipped beyond our control.”

America has had a bad decade. We’re devastated. We may turn to ancient hatreds. The world is beyond our control. Is that what Barak Obama thinks of us?

We expected the president of Iran to start his speech with, “President Obama admits his country is on the skids.” He did. “The system of capitalism and the existing world order has proved to be unable to provide appropriate solution to the problems of societies, thus coming to an end.” He noted the horrors of Western colonialism and two World Wars. His take on the September 11th bombings it that there are three theories – all of which implicate the government of the United States.

• A terrorist group snookered American intelligence and security measures, meaning we are weak and stupid.
• Segments of the American government orchestrated the attack to help Israel.
• It was done by a terrorist group, but the American government supported and took advantage of it.

Ahmadinejad believes most people, including Americans, favor the second. The question isn’t who cares what he says, but who absorbed the message that the West is crushed, weak, angry, aggressive and incompetent – and that Iran, Islam and anti-Western forces are the answer. His audience wasn’t in New York, but in the Middle East, Asia and Africa where many people have limited or biased education and limited access to free media for informed understanding.

Delegations from Sweden, Australia, Belgium, Uruguay, Spain, and the United States walked out – correctly, but only adding to the impression that his words only upset the West.

President Obama tried to close his remarks on an up note – hope in the future and he even mentioned “multicultural” New York, where despite the turmoil of the past decade and the angst waiting to burst through, “we see living proof that opportunity can be accessed by all; that what unites us as human beings is far greater than what divides us; and that people from every part of this world can live together in peace.”

We do believe New York and its residents – and all of America and all Americans – are a beacon of hope for millions of people, Iranians among them, trying desperately to get out of there and into here. But juxtaposed against the President’s prior litany of woes, his paean to New York was oddly parochial and not at all comforting.

There is a case to make for America, for capitalism, for American leadership but even those who look to us for economic, security and political succor are unlikely to make a better case for American leadership in the world than Americans make.

The President didn’t make it. (See Part II)