There's one Christopher Hitchens who is as brilliant a thinker as there is. The other Hitchens is a raving lunatic. The problem is, they occupy the same body.
I saw the latter Hitch on Joe Scarborough a year or so ago, and Scar said at the time he'd never have the hard-drinking Englishman back. I don't know if Joe kept his word, but after what I witnessed, I couldn't blame him for not wanting to worry about whether the thinker or the nut was going to appear each time.
I mention this because Hitchens has just shown his nuttier side in print, although I concede that it might be intentional this time since it involves George Bush's comparison of Iraq to Vietnam, and Hitchens may have seen that as an opportunity. But even if it was intentional on Hitchens part, it does him no good,
And of course, there are those who would argue that Hitchens can't be all that smart in the first place if he's a liberal. In my defense, I had never read one of his liberal arguments – that is until the one contained in this latest column in which he expresses disgust that Bush could have signed so many execution orders as Governor of Texas…. so now I join others in their skepticism – the "there" ain't there, at least some of the time.
But turning to Bush's Iraq-Vietnam comparison, it's not that it wasn't apt, it's that liberals feel they own that comparison and how dare a Republican turn the tables on them?!?
Since Hitchens has, for a decade, been severely out of touch with his ultra-liberal associates, first about Clinton's behavior (he was against it) and now about Bush's Iraq stance (he's for it), and with Bush's term coming to a close, Mr. Hitchens, somewhat understandably (if you excuse the preposterous ideology), might like to re-endear himself to his former compadres. And what better way to do it than to take a stand against Bush over something that's almost irrelevant, but which is very significant to those Mr. Hitchens would like to impress again?
In his commentary, Hitchens had to know that he was guilty of gross obfuscation if for no other reason than most of his points about why Vietnam differed from Iraq are ones in which he and the President would be in firm agreement. That's why Bush eschewed past Vietnam comparisons.
But Mr. Bush's recent comparison was very narrow and Hitchens had to know that – because he dismissed it in the course of his blusterous "refutation:"
"It is true that the collapse of the doomed American adventure in Indochina was followed by massive repression and reprisal, especially in Cambodia, and by the exile of huge numbers of talented Vietnamese. But even this grim total was small compared to the huge losses exacted by the war itself"
At least he characterized the aftermath properly, "massive repression and reprisal."
I know from personal experience how hard it is to be a man without a side, but Hitchens is smarter than I am, and he has to know that intellectual integrity is supremely important. If he doesn't, then he's not the man I thought he was.
And if he doesn't see how disingenuous his column is, Mr. Hitchens is not the man I thought he was.
And since it's already out there, he's, in fact, not the man I thought he was, and he's definitely not as smart as I thought he was. His column is disgraceful on several levels, and it conclusively and forever tarnishes his integrity and credibility across the board.
I just had a second look at the column, and the most interesting thing is that Hitchens has apparently failed to win back any support from those to whom his attempt at reconciliation was directed.