When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeatedly threatened to wipe Israel off the face of the map, the world collectively yawned.

When he denied the Holocaust ever happened, few paid attention.

When he threatened to destroy the United States, few noticed.

When he was accused as an accomplice to murder of an Iranian dissident in Europe, no one cared.

When he openly embraced and supported terrorism, including the recruitment of thousands of suicide bombers, there was little protest.

When it was learned that he was actively involved in the holding of 52 American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Iran in 1979, few eyebrows were raised.

When he said he was determined to pursue nuclear power for his country no matter what Americans and Europeans thought, presidential candidate John Kerry suggested we supply the uranium for a pledge to use it for peaceful purposes only.

When he said he believed he had a special, personal role in ushering in the Shiite Mahdi – or 12th imam – a mystical messianic figure who will trigger a worldwide apocalypse, most people just shrugged it off.

When he said he would gladly sacrifice half of his nation’s population to destroy the Jewish state, most Americans chalked it up to rhetorical overkill.

When he accused President Bush of being a tool of Satan, no one in the United Nations audience lost any sleep.

But I think maybe now he has gone too far. He invited Ku Klux Klansman David Duke to speak at a conference in Iran.

It’s going to be awfully tough for Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Howard Dean, Jimmy Carter, Mike Wallace and others of their ilk to continue to pretend Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is really just a reasonable guy – somebody America can work with.

I mean, it’s one thing to threaten America and Israel with nuclear annihilation. It’s another to invite David Duke to dinner. Ahmadinejad may have overplayed his hand this time.

I am expecting that any day now, the same people who have ignored the Iran threat will be calling for sanctions – if not a pre-emptive nuclear strike.

To make matters worse, Ahmadinejad invited Duke to speak in Iran as an expert on free speech and history.

According to a transcript of Duke’s speech on his own website, the former Louisiana state lawmaker and Klan leader placed blame for the war in Iraq on those he calls Zionists, who he believes have controlling influence over the U.S. media and government.

“I love my country and my people, but I know that the Zionist extremists lead my country to catastrophe in the Mideast and elsewhere around the world,” he said. “I know that the Palestinian people, the Lebanese people, even the American people have been sacrificed on the altar of the Holocaust. It is the chronic media and government playing of the Holocaust that has blinded our eyes to new holocausts and new outrages.”

It’s comforting and touching to know how much Duke cares for Arabs.

This from the man who once said on his website: “What we really want to do is to be left alone. We don’t want Negroes around. We don’t need Negroes around. We’re not asking, you know, we don’t want to have them, you know, for our culture. We simply want our own country and our own society. That’s in no way exploitive at all. We want our own society, our own nation. …”

Duke said the conference in Iran focused on the “vital human right of freedom of speech” – this, by the way, under a regime that imprisons dissident bloggers and anyone else who dares criticize the mullah-run paradise on earth.

That’s got to be the last straw for Ahmadinejad. This time, I think he has really crossed the line of civilized behavior.

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