Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publicly challenged U.S. President Barack Obama to a face-to-face televised debate on solving the world’s problems. For understandable reasons, the White House quickly dismissed the invitation, just as President George W. Bush did with a similar offer in 2006. But Ahmadinejad’s gambit is a tantalizing opportunity to imagine how Obama’s rhetorical abilities might stand up in a direct competition with his Iranian counterpart.
Despite the popular perception in the United States that the Iranian president is an irrational and unstable character, the reality is that Ahmadinejad is a shrewd politician with a skillful command of debating tactics. His preferred method of debate is to masterfully spin out rhetorical questions, combative statements, ad hominem arguments, and sarcastic remarks in order to muddle the discussion to an extent that the original topic of conversation becomes indistinct to both his rivals and audience.