Ahmadinejad: "A Man of the People's Needs and Wants"
So reads a front-page headline in the June 3, 2006 edition of the Washington Post. Excerpt:
"'I actually wrote him two letters,' said Reza Karimi, 41. 'One was about the problems we have in this neighborhood. The other was about my problems.
"'Of course,' Karimi added with a wave of the hand, 'I do not expect him to answer me individually. But I believe he would at least solve the problem of the neighborhood.
"'I believe if he really could, he would help us.'
"That belief, far more than anything Ahmadinejad has said about nuclear power or the Holocaust, defines Iran's energetic president for the people who elected him almost a year ago, as well as the legions he appears to have won over since taking office in August. If his image in the West is that of a banty radical dangerously out of touch with reality -- 'a psychopath of the worst kind,' in the words of Israel's prime minister -- the prevailing impression in Iran is precisely the opposite.
"Here, ordinary people marvel at how their president comes across as someone in touch, as populist candidate turned caring incumbent. In speeches, 17-hour workdays and biweekly trips like the one that brought him here to Central Province, Ahmadinejad showcases a relentless preoccupation with the health, housing and, most of all, money problems that may barely register on the global agenda but represent the most clear and present danger for most in this nation of 70 million.
"'It's good to have a very kind person near you, caring about your problems,' said Akram Rashidi, 34, at the counter of a stationery store where the run on envelopes outpaced the supply of change. 'The important thing is that the president and important people are caring about the people.'"
Here is the last portion of the above article:
"'People have high expectations,' said Rashidi, at the stationery shop. Her look was introspective as she told of accompanying her sister to see Ahmadinejad when he was still Tehran's mayor, to appeal a zoning issue. There was no result, but what she remembered, years later, was having his attention.
"In Khomein, Zabihollah Sarlak asked Ahmadinejad to see that his mentally disabled son is looked after if he should die. 'He promised everybody, but he also said it'll take some time,' said Sarlak, 50. 'He said if you buy a kilo of meat at the market and take it home and cook it, it takes time.
"'But he'll do what he says.'"
The interviewees in the article appear to be social utopians, a failed doctrine if ever there was one. But the larger question might be this: Is Ahmadinejad also a Mahdi-utopian?