President Ahmadinejad's press conference was a massive affair, spilling over with international reporters, intimidated, yet hoping to be called. They approached the microphone tentatively when addressing this pompous man. Even Christiane Amanpour, CNN's bold International Correspondent, was uncomfortable. Her head covered obediently in an aqua shawl, she showed measured deference when questioning this newly influential man.
It took little time for journalists to learn they were fodder for the President. He humiliated them at will. His arrogance was unbearable but they remained reverential to the end. Those who asked multiple questions were admonished. To one reporter the President jeered, "You've asked three and a half questions. That's three questions and one half." He then imposed a one question limit and made derogatory remarks about news services he didn't like. He selected reporters based on their employers and was particularly hard on the television press. He embarrassed reporters at will, singling out physical characteristics to pick on. He chided one very large, soft-spoken man, by saying, "You're a big boy. Why don't you speak louder?"
Sound familiar? The performance of this arrogant President is discomfortingly reminiscent of another. Also similar are the circumstances that brought him to power and the way he acted once he got there...
To counter criticism of his inexperience, the President boasted of his managerial skills. Prior to his election to the Presidency, an unusually brazen reporter questioned his skills at diplomacy, to which the new President smugly replied, "The art of a Presidency is good management." It was as simple as that. Good management. Achieving victory was equally simple. Victory would happen because the President declared that it would, absent any method or well defined plan.
Even more familiar....
Immediately upon taking office, the new President made changes. He altered long standing treaties without negotiation. His unilateral approach rattled allies who viewed him as provocative and cavalier. Rather than acknowledge other leaders' concerns and coalesce for the common good, the new President responded in a dangerously childish way. He used the might of his nation to engender fear. The more nations he angered, the more he became cavalier.
Of further concern was the President's religion. His religious zealotry frightened the secular populace of his nation who feared the intrusion of religion in their government and their lives. But the new President ignored them. They weren't worthy of consideration. He held the loyalty of the like-minded disciples who chose him. To maintain them, he need only declare his dedication to god from whose dictates he promised to govern.
It takes no great genius to appreciate the likenesses between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and American President George W. Bush. Both are brash, egotistical and in love with their power. Unfortunately the likenesses between these two arrogant men hold little hope for future cooperation between them. There's no room in any pond for two egos this big.
Historically George W. Bush has disliked leaders with egos as large as his own. Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Cuba's Fidel Castro, North Korea's Kim Jong Il, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. And now Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has joined the same club.
One might wonder if Mr. Bush has witnessed his own swagger or seen his own smirk. One might question whether Mr. Bush has heard himself ridicule others, or dismiss all opposition as irrelevant. Does he notice how much he loves power? How he can't get enough? How he wants more and more?
Interesting how we like even less in others that which we dislike the most in ourselves.....
Linda Milazzo is a Los Angeles based writer, educator and activist.