In the summer of 2012, a 22-year old woman named Sheherezad Jaafari declined acceptance to Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) on the grounds that she feared “harassment” at the hands of fellow students, many of whom had written newspaper articles and internet petitions declaring her unwelcome. It seems her gravest sin was to have worked for a few months as an unpaid intern for the Syrian government. She used this lofty post, SIPA students said, to support the Bashir al Assad regime through the unlikely means of email: one email helped facilitate a Barbara Walters interview with Assad; another called Assad “handsome”; and worst of all, one email to a colleague noted, “the American psyche can be easily manipulated.”
Leaving aside how Secretary of State John Kerry pathetically validated Jaafari’s latter observation by recently praising Assad’s cooperation in throwing away the fraction of chemical weapons that he was kind enough not to use on Syrians (“I think it’s a credit to the Assad regime,” Kerry said), would Jaafari have faced equal harassment had she been a heterosexual male who had never expressed physical attraction to Assad?
The more important question is whether, when it comes to aiding Assad, the interviewer is more morally complicit than the unpaid intern who coordinates the interview. Indeed, how fortunate Assad was last September to have Charlie Rose at the ready for a game-changing PR interview (in part thanks to Jaafari), allowing him to showcase his gentle English and give his self-pitying side of the mass murder story without having to even broach untidy topics such as his role in assassinating Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.
And yet, even allowing that Columbia students can be convinced to redirect their self-righteous indignation toward Charlie Rose (who gave himself “high marks” for what he called the biggest interview of his career), what to make of George Stephanopoulos’s involvement? He set out for Syria under the pretense that he was the one chosen to interview Assad, only to be informed in Beirut (by an unpaid communications intern, no doubt), that Assad had opted for Charlie instead. Could this aspiring PR satrap, with his connections to Jaafari’s successor in the unpaid intern cubicle in Damascus, really be the same Stephanopoulos who had been greeted with roars of approval by SIPA students at the 2013 commencement just months earlier?
A double standard of sorts, but what did Jaafari expect? SIPA students have long been selective in their moral indignation, and there’s no better example than their ignoble record of consenting to misogynistic commencement speakers. One cannot feign ignorance of Stephanopoulos’s key role in using his publicly-funded position as a political advisor to Bill Clinton in the 90s to suppress and discredit the “bimbo eruptions” of women sexually harassed by his boss.
Was there not one Gender Policy student at SIPA bothered that the 2013 commencement speaker was the same man who had, in 2000, publicly smeared a woman who was left emotionally devastated after Clinton allegedly paid her $200 in 1978 to abort his love-child? Is there not one SIPA student who knows the name of Juanita Broaddrick? Or is it that SIPA students have watched the interview in which Broaddrick heartbreakingly tears up as she describes how Clinton allegedly raped her, and they’ve concluded that it was not legitimate rape, and that in any case no explaining is required of the political advisor of an alleged rapist, so long as he is a Democrat.
But give the commencement speaker selection body its due. It had tested the waters with Tara Sonenshine in 2012, a Deputy Director of Communications in the Clinton White House, which is well known to have used its Communications Department as a proxy for circulating the message that Monica Lewinsky was a gold-digging hussy; and the only qualm of SIPA students had been that Sonenshine had not been more famous. And before Sonenshine it was Kofi Annan, whose best efforts to stifle the sexual harassment claims by a woman against Ruud Lubbers, a loyal friend, were reversed by the verdict of an internal UN investigation in 2005. So it should come as no surprise that in 2006 it was Aga Khan, whose transparent misogyny makes the unscrupulous welcoming he received from SIPA students all the more disturbing.
There is a sense of proportion missing here. Jaafari made coffee for a terrorist who Secretary Kerry is now praising for his cooperative, can-do attitude. Professor Kathy Boudin of the School for Social Work actually is a terrorist. If the left gets a pass on denigrating Sarah Palin (see Martin Bashir’s un-reprimanded comments) because she damages the feminist cause by making women look folksy and unlettered, where is the higher standard for Professor Boudin? Might she make women look like terrorists? SIPA, for its part, approached Hillary Clinton last spring for the top job. Might women be offended that the selection board had no qualms with Broaddrick’s claim that Hillary once threatened her to stay quiet about the rape?
Columbia is not alone in its war on women. Just last week President Obama used the term “tea-bagger” in a letter to a concerned citizen – which refers to a sexual act performed by men to degrade women. The left’s obsession with granting more tax benefits for married couples – whether gay or straight – comes mainly at the expense of single parent women, who are left with a larger share of the tax bill. And no one received a warmer applause at the 2012 Democrat National Convention than Bill Clinton himself. But if Columbia students are intent on joining this war, they ought to have the minimal decency to abandon their selective indignation, and leave women like Jaafari out of it.