Ibish and Kurtz on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Hey, welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. I’m Joe Scarborough, live from the Windy City, Chicago.
Now we’re to a part of the show that we like to call…
There you go again.
SCARBOROUGH: And tonight we have another extreme example of university bias and your tax dollars at work. This afternoon, on Capitol Hill, members of Congress called a hearing to sort out why your tax dollars are being — are going to pay for what critics say are biased Middle East and African study programs at university programs across America. That’s right. Eighty-six million tax dollars support Title VI of the Higher Education Act, and it is intended for, “Establishing, strengthening, and operating a diverse network of undergraduate foreign language and area or international study centers and programs.”
But, here is the kicker. Critics claim the programs espouse biased, extremist views, and need to be changed to ensure diversity. And members of Congress are listening. With us now is Stanley Kurtz. And he testified before Congress today, and he’s been leading the charge to clean up the Title VI programs.
And Hussein Ibish, who’s communications director for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Gentlemen, thank you both for joining me tonight.
SCARBOROUGH: And for sticking me through that very long introduction. Stanley, let me go to you first. Summarize what you told our Congressmen on Capitol Hill today about these programs.
STANLEY KURTZ, HOOVER INSTITUTION: Well, Joe, I told Congress it’s been paying 10’s of millions of dollars to professors who are dead set against American foreign policy and who won’t really let a fair debate take place in their departments about American foreign policy.
SCARBOROUGH: Stanley, instead of speaking in generalities, give me specific
KURTZ: Well, for example, the theory that dominates area studies programs is called post-colonial theory, and post-colonial theory actually says that if you are a professor and you lend your knowledge of foreign languages or foreign cultures to the United States government, then you are an evil imperialist. And on top of that, these area studies professors have been leveling a boycott for a decade, now, against something called the National Security Education Program, which is a good program that actually would put people with knowledge of, say, Arabic, into our defense and intelligence agencies to decode the transmissions, say, from the September 11 hijackers that we weren’t able to decode because we didn’t have enough Arabic speakers. The same professors who are taking millions of dollars on grounds of national security are actually trying to destroy that program.
SCARBOROUGH: And getting in the way — being roadblocks to our national security. Hussein, I want you to, with me, take a look at some of the comments that have been made in some of these…
IBISH: Well, can I address what…
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on. Let me read these first and then you can respond. Here are some comments that Columbia University professor, Edward Said, a recipient of federal tax dollars, has made in the recent past.
IBISH: Well, actually, though, he isn’t…
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second. Hold on. Let me read through this.
IBISH: All right.
SCARBOROUGH: He called the United States a “stupid bully,” claiming the U.S. is “reducing whole peoples, counties, and even continents to ruin by nothing short of holocaust.” He said American leaders make war criminals like Slobodan Milosevic “look like a rank amateur in viciousness.” And he claimed the U.S. constitution was “written by wealthy, white, slave holding Anglophilic men.”
IBISH: Well, look…
SCARBOROUGH: Hussein, do you…
IBISH: Let’s start from the beginning.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, first of all, do you think American taxpayers have a reason to be offended for paying for that sort of research?
IBISH: Well, of course, they didn’t. They simply never did. I mean, that’s the point. You know, Mr. Kurtz got demolished at that hearing in Congress today. He got completely destroyed, because what he just has been saying, and what he’s been telling your audience is a complete fairy tale.
That Title VI money goes through the Department of Education to area study programs and to individual students. It doesn’t go to individual professors. Edward Said has never been the recipient of a grant of this kind. Individual or associations of scholars, some of whom have been critical in the past and currently of some of the government programs, don’t receive that money. This money goes to fund broad programs and it doesn’t go to anyone who engaged in a boycott. It’s a total fiction and a complete fraud. Let me tell you something else. Let me tell you something else.
SCARBOROUGH: But if these programs get the money, though — if these programs get the money, though, that money filters down to him, though, does it not?
IBISH: Well it doesn’t. No, but first of all I think those quotes are ridiculous. They’re ripped out of context. They’re not even complete sentences. All you have to do is read a good chunk of Edward Said’s work, not phrases in limbo, and you will see what a brilliant scholar he is, and also what a truly generous spirit he has. But I have to tell you something.
He’s professor of Comparative Literature at Columbia. No Title VI money ever goes to anything that he does. That is why this is all a fairy tale. It’s a fiction. It’s a fraud.
SCARBOROUGH: OK. Hold on a second. So you — Well, OK. Let me go back to you, Stanley, because you’ve — you just said that you — we just heard that you got demolished at the hearing at Capitol Hill today.
IBISH: He sure did.
SCARBOROUGH: And we also heard that Edward Said is just misunderstood, that these quotes have been ripped out of context.
IBISH: Absolutely.
KURTZ: They haven’t been ripped out of context. As I said, the basic thrust of Edward Said’s work is to say that for a professor to even be in favor of American foreign policy makes him into an evil imperialist.
IBISH: No, that is a preposterous caricature of Said’s call for intellectual independence.
KURTZ: And what happened, Joe, is…
IBISH: That is just so false, as usual.
KURTZ: … we had a course that was paid for by taxpayer dollars at the University California, Santa Barbara, that was teaching K through 12 teachers the answer to the question, why did they hate us. And Edward Said’s work was assigned, and the work of many other people like Arundhati Roy and Tariq Ali and Robert Fisk, all of whom have been characterized as anti-American with no…
IBISH: Characterized by you, because they don’t agree with you. KURTZ: No, not just characterized by me, characterized by liberal and even…
SCARBOROUGH: OK. Hold on, hold on, hold on. Come on. Let’s turn off the mics for a second. Turn off the mics for a second. Stanley, I want to go back specifically. We’ve got to wrap up. But again, we have been accused of taking Edward Said’s words out of context, and I hope our people can put these quotes back up very quickly on what Said said. And I’m going to ask you, yes or no, did he say these things? Hold on one second. They’re coming up right now. They’re coming up right now. There.
SCARBOROUGH: OK. The U.S. is a “stupid bully.” Did he say that? Yes or no.
KURTZ: You’re darn right he said it.
SCARBOROUGH: Did he say that we were “reducing whole peoples, countries and even continents to ruin by nothing short of a holocaust?” Did he say that? Yes or no.
KURTZ: You bet.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, let’s keep going. And did he also compare us to the Serbs and Slobodan Milosevic?
KURTZ: Yes. For sure.
SCARBOROUGH: OK. All right. And now let me go back to you, and we want to wrap up with you, Hussein.
IBISH: Thanks. Let me put it to you like this.
SCARBOROUGH: Just defend Said…
IBISH: Sure. With pleasure.
SCARBOROUGH: … you’ve said that these quotes are being ripped out of context…
IBISH: Absolutely.
SCARBOROUGH: … and he’s a wonderful man.
IBISH: Of course, and well, he’s been a critic of U.S. foreign policy, as many people have. That’s his academic freedom. The problem with what Mr. Kurtz is doing and his friends like the ridiculous Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer and others — what they are trying to do is intimidate people. This has nothing to do with Title VI, it’s an attack on academic freedom.
It’s not about protecting where taxpayer’s dollars go because they don’t go to Edward Said. This is a generalized attack that says, if you don’t agree with me and you don’t support the government’s policies then basically you should be silenced, and the entire structure of American academia should change. This is an ideological attack based on a fraud. If you read his article on…
SCARBOROUGH: OK. I’ve got to cut you off there, I’m very sorry, we’re out of time, Hussein. I appreciate you being on.
IBISH: Sure thing.
SCARBOROUGH: Stanley, I appreciate you being on the show tonight. And straight ahead on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, my guest, Grover Norquist, begs the government not to suspend MCI. He’ll have to convince me why after this very short break.

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