Mary Robinson now has her medal, but White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’s assertion that the president had no second thoughts about making the most controversial Medal of Freedom selection ever makes one question either his veracity or his sanity. I would have to imagine that the White House — which was clearly unprepared for the assault on Robinson, likely because it did an inadequate job vetting her — had to have had some second thoughts about whether the selection was worth the trouble it caused.
As for Robinson herself, CBS News ran an interview with her after she received the medal, and she gave a very unimpressive performance. In response to a series of questions about her role in the 2001 Durban “anti-racism” conference — a conference boycotted by the U.S. and Israel because it helped give rise to vile anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric — she continually fell back on the same series of talking points designed to make it appear as if her critics don’t understand what went on there. Robinson said that “there’s a wonderful story about Durban waiting to be told” and that she is waiting for an “objective” and “proper evaluation” of what happened at Durban by “someone who knows how the U.N. works.” I am not sure what she is getting at, as I would think that the less people looked into Durban, the better off she would be. As for the comment about finding “someone who knows how the U.N. works” to tell the story of Durban, that sounds to me like code for someone who shares the U.N. perspective on things, a perspective that is far more critical of liberal democracies than of autocratic nations. In short, it is the very perspective that ensured Durban would spin out of control.
In the one bit of interesting information she did share, Robinson noted that President and Mrs. Obama “couldn’t have been warmer,” which is kind of like saying that they have terrible taste in guests, but at least they are hospitable once you get there.
The best part of the piece was CBS’s interview with the Washington Post’s Charles Lane, who dismissed Robinson’s defense of Durban as the equivalent of saying “without me, this bad conference would have been worse.” He added that Mary Robinson doesn’t “measure up to the standards of past recipients” and “I don’t see what’s so special about Mary Robinson.” Perhaps Lane doesn’t, but the president does, and he has now diminished this nation’s highest civilian honor by sharing it with her.