Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney ranks high on my preference list for president in 2008. He did nothing to jeopardize that standing today when he ordered all Massachusetts state government agencies to decline support, if asked, for former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami’s September 10 visit to the Boston area.
Our readers probably recall that Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government saw fit to invite Khatami to speak during his upcoming visit to the U.S. He will deliver his speech on the eve of the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Romney’s directive means that that Khatami will be denied an official police escort and other VIP treatment when he is in town. However, the federal government will provide security through the U.S. State Department.
Romney explained his decision this way: “State taxpayers should not be providing special treatment to an individual who supports violent jihad and the destruction of Israel.” He added:
The U.S. State Department listed Khatami’s Iran as the number one state sponsor of terrorism. Within his own country, Khatami oversaw the torture and murder of dissidents who spoke out for freedom and democracy. For him to lecture Americans about tolerance and violence is propaganda, pure and simple.
On the subject of Khatemi as an Iranian moderate with whom the U.S. might build bridges, Romney once again was on target. After reviewing Khatemi’s record as president of Iran, the Governor concluded:
Khatami pretends to be a moderate, but he is not. My hope is that the United States will find and work with real voices of moderation inside Iran. But we will never make progress in the region if we deal with wolves in sheep’s clothing.
JOHN adds: Score one for Romney. Some will say, no doubt, that his is merely a symbolic gesture. True, of course, but then Khatami’s visit to Harvard is nothing but a symbolic gesture, either. Romney’s act will also be denouced as “political.” Right again! This is a democracy, and important issues of public policy are supposed to be “politicized”: that is, debated by and before the people and resolved by the people’s representatives. Carrying out symbolic actions that shine the spotlight on issues that need public debate is one of the important functions of a leader in a democracy.
So: way to go, Mitt!