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In the Shadow of Ahmadinejad's Hotel

Ahmadinejad himself, I was told -- caution, once again, I have no idea if this is accurate -- has plush quarters, but sleeps in the bathtub, surrounded by sandbags. Is that simply a joke among those tasked with ensuring the safety of this messianic tyrant? Or is it the truth? It's a strange vision, but less strange than a lot of the established facts.

The UN General Assembly opening is a weird scene at the best of times, a mix of political theater, gridlock, pomp, flags, and here and there the reports of dictators paying their six-figure bills with bagfuls of cash.

These are not at all the best of times. In midtown Manhattan, Iran's messianic and genocidally inclined head of state is tucked up --whether in bed or in the bathtub -- in his heavily guarded hotel. Courtesy of UN scheduling, he has just been showcased on the UN stage on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, scheduled to speak a day later, faces a UN gang that relentlessly seeks to marginalize and delegitimize Israel. What he needs is a clear show from the U.S. president that America really does have his back. But America's president doesn't even have time for a face-to-face. He's out of here. His main sit-down in New York consisted of campaigning as "eye candy" while bringing a picnic basket of White House napkins and beer to Barbara Walters on The View.

Where is this all going? Usually I like strolling down Sixth Avenue on a warm evening in early autumn. Wednesday night, when I left the area of the Warwick Hotel, I was full of unease. I had the sense of looking in on an unnerving sliver of history -- a UN gathering where the most memorable act of America's president was to hand out White House gift souvenirs on daytime TV, while Iran's messenger dispensed threats from the heart of Manhattan. It feels like a time of growing shadows. Churchill had a phrase for it: the gathering storm.


Image and thumbnail made courtesy image from Shutterstock / Andrey Armyagov