American politics is a speckled minefield of sensitivies and nuances, a danger zone where gestures and language can exact a high political toll. It's a lesson learned by Trent Lott, George Allen, Jessie Jackson, and, of course, Hillary Clinton whose cheek-smacking of Sura Arafat got her into deep hummus.
Curious, then, that the proximity of Ahmadinejad's Holocaust Denial Conference, clumsily cloaked as a gathering of such impressive free-speech advocates as David Duke and George Thiel, to the release of the Iraq Study Group report, hasn't unleashed more of a media firestorm.
Consider that one of Mr. Baker's internationalist recommendations was that the United States open a dialogue with free speech-loving Iran as part of his holistic (viz non-fruit salad) solution to resolving the Iraqi mess. Imagine the consequences if someone of Mr. Baker's stature suggested that we should talk to segregationists as part of the "way forward" to resolving racial tensions in America.
The war is an unmitigated mess. But anyone who thinks that Iran and Syria, with their repressive regimes, regional ambitions, and support of Hezbollah's terrorism can be honest brokers is grasping at reeds that are more than slender. Iran's decision to hold this conference at this moment is no accident. It is a clear screw-you, a freightedly symbolic gesture meant to demonstrate Ahmadinejad's uncowering strength and independence.
Bush's America-only thinking, and its pathetic Coalition of the Willing, has been disastrous. A knee-jerk internationalism that brings us to the table with a rogue's gallery of despots and murderers is an equally horrendous path. The president's rightful rejection of this strategy might be the only thing he does that actually wins the approval of human rights advocates. Not to mention Holocaust survivors.