John McCain was booed, heckled and mocked as he gave the commencement address at the New School in New York today. Some faculty members behaved as childishly as students:
[D]ozens of faculty members and students turned their backs and raised signs in protest and a distinguished student speaker pointedly mocked him as he sat silently nearby. [ . . . ]
Some 1,200 students and faculty [had] signed petitions asking the university president, former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, to rescind the invitation. Petitioners said McCain’s support for the Iraq war and opposition to gay rights and legal abortion do not keep with the prevailing views on campus.
Right, college is about never hearing an idea you disagree with.
Kerrey, a Democrat who served in the Senate with McCain and, like McCain, is a decorated Vietnam War veteran, addressed the controversy almost immediately after the 2,700 graduates and thousands of other parents and friends filed into Madison Square Garden for the ceremony.
“Sen. McCain, you have much to teach us,” Kerrey said to a smattering of boos and hisses. He urged students to exercise the open-mindedness he said was at the heart of the university’s progressive history.
A senior class speaker said she’d thrown away her prepared remarks to declare that “The senator does not reflect the ideals upon which this university was founded.” After her speech and McCain’s, Kerrey praised them both for the courage to express their convictions in words instead of catcalls.
McCain’s speech — essentially the same one he gave at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University last Saturday — was a call for Americans to disagree passionately yet civilly — with respect. Maybe that’s easier to say graciously, condescendingly, from a position of power than from a position of helpless rage. Yet even when you’re down and out, there’s a compelling power to civility that tantrums and taunting sacrifice.
UPDATE: Althouse has more links and details. Ann thinks McCain was more or less asking for it, and that he blew an opportunity to be cool and spontaneous and funny, as one of her commenters saw the pre-9/11 Dubya do at Yale. It sounds as if McCain’s feelings were genuinely hurt! Man, a politician needs a thicker skin than that! But another Althouse commenter makes my point:
[O]ne has to wonder if the morons in the crowd who heckled him realized that they (a) just made John McCain even more palatable to moderates and (b) just strengthened his bona fides amongst conservatives while (c) making the Left look like a bunch of jackasses.