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Christopher Hitchens analyzes the problems with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama

Wednesday, March 5, 2008
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HH: On the day after Super Tuesday, and she’s out of her box, the vampire got out of the dungeon before the light came up or the stake went through her heart, and Hillary Clinton is alive and taking to the wing. To talk about this ominous development, Christopher Hitchens, columnist for Vanity Fair, also writes at Slate and he knows the Clintons like few people. Christopher Hitchens, you must have been a little perturbed last night when Hillary got off of the ground and started gaining ground.

CH: I had, just for a minute, let my attention wander.

HH: (laughing)

CH: And I put my stake and my silver bullet back in the cupboard, because I thought that what I would have to do was going to be done for me by Senator Obama. And of course, I knew better. I knew better. When people have no shame and no embarrassment, and live only for ambition, you have to have two lots of stake wielders, and two lots of silver bullet…

HH: Christopher, you know, Rush Limbaugh, whom I admire greatly, and I don’t know if you do or not…

CH: No, I can’t say I do. I can’t listen to him at all. He bores me.

HH: Well, I find him to be wonderful at my medium, and the inventor of it.

CH: He makes me wish, he makes me miss, I should say, he makes me miss William Buckley even more.

HH: Oh, by the way, my hat’s off to you for a very fine remembrance at Weekly Standard, which I linked to when I was on vacation.

CH: Oh, that’s very handsome of you. Thank you.

HH: And I think you captured something a lot of people didn’t, in that he was so overprepared every time he conducted an interview. It’s a high standard that he always set, which made him very good.

CH: Yes, and he made you, me, 1) be terrified of going on without having done some homework.

HH: Oh, my goodness. I’ve never had to be interviewed by him.

CH: On the other hand, he never seemed to allow himself to relax. He was a very tortured guy, I’m forced to think. Often, you know, as we were wrapping up the show, I’d say well, do you want to go and just have a martini. And it wasn’t as if he abstained from martinis, but he…and I hope it wasn’t because he couldn’t stand the sight of me for another second, because it seemed to happen to everybody. No, he always had to be rushing off to do something else. There was never any down time, any kick back.

HH: No, he worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

CH: Well, I work pretty hard myself, and it used to make me worry, and I think he may have…Contents under pressure may have been the answer to that.

HH: Well, let’s go back to Hillary, though.

CH: Yes, yes.

HH: Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, they all urged Republicans to cross over and vote for her. I was on vacation last week, so I also left the walls at the wrong time. And they have no idea what they’ve unleashed, I don’t think. I think that she now will cudgel Obama. They will take him apart digit by digit. What do you think?

CH: Yeah, I think so, too. I mean, I think that if the vote had been held, say, last Thursday or Friday even, he might have kept up with the momentum. But in the…she made the most extraordinary use of the intervening time, and he made some mistakes that colluded with her. His press conference in Chicago about this corrupt and possibly Iraqi-connected…

HH: Rezko.

CH: Yes.

HH: Yes.

CH: Mr. Tony, Antoine, was contemptible, I thought, and very badly timed for him. But never mind the timing, this should have come up before, and would have done if the press wasn’t so lazy. The same about something I keep on mentioning, not just in my capacity as an atheist, but as a secularist, I don’t think the candidate to the presidency of the United States should go to ethnic based Churches with a sort of partly rock and roll liturgy and a partly pro-Qaddafi and pro-Farrakhan theology. I just think that ought to disqualify you. And I think it’s outrageous that it hasn’t been mentioned. I don’t like what I read about his wife in the profile in the New Yorker, which you perhaps haven’t had a chance to look at.

HH: No, I have not. I did read your commentary in Slate, though, where you talk about the emptiness of his rhetoric. In fact, of all the slogans out and about right now, but his is particularly without meaning.

CH: Well, given the extraordinary, drooling, adoring attention it’s been getting, it become a bit sinister. I should say that I would vote for him over Mrs. Clinton, and I think he’s a man who has developed as a personality in front of our eyes on the campaign, and I think has a core of seriousness. But he has to purge himself, and show he’s purged himself of what’s unserious and shady, both in his allegiances in Chicago’s, what should we call it, donor community, and also Chicago tin-roof, hate-based religion.

HH: How would you advise him to go after her?

CH: Oh, well, I mean, I would of course have done it exactly the opposite way from the way he did. There was a very significant moment, I thought, just to take one step back, I’m not dodging your point, in the Austin, Texas debate, where he said some very warm and positive and intelligent things about the surge in Iraq, leaving her looking stupid, because she said she had been for it before she was against it, all that. And so she didn’t dare say even a kind word about Petraeus, lest that remind people of what she thought was her mistake. He said look, that I was opposed to it from the beginning doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize that the forces from Texas have been kicking al Qaeda’s ass in Baghdad, and that’s a great thing. And there’s a difference between strategy and tactics. I thought now that’s a sign of someone who can think on his feet.

HH: Yup.

CH: But of course, his whole attack on her is essentially that she was for the liberation of Iraq, so he’d have to redo all this. But I do have the feeling that he would be responsive to an intelligent conversation about it, whereas with her, you can only imagine her being responsive to one thing, whether it’s Iraq, Iran, Iceland, Latvia, Australia, Argentina, what’s in it for me, and how can I franchise it for the people who financed my political career. She’s never thought about anything else in her entire life. And what you have to picture, I try this with every audience I get the chance with, look up the picture of the Rodham brothers. Why does this not come up more often? Look up the Rodham brothers, and what they got out of her, and what they got her to do, and ask if you want that back in your life. And that’s what motivates her.

HH: If he reaches for that arrow, and strings it up with his bow, he becomes other than what he presented himself to be, the new kind of politician. He built a box for himself.

CH: He’s got to stop with all this stuff about how we’re all in agreement, and we’re all post-partisan, or we’re all post…he’s got to say look, the next thing you’ll hear is complete drivel, like politics is all about unity. Politics, by definition, is all about division. By definition, it’s about separation, about distinction. It’s appalling. That’s what I was trying to say in my Slate column, that we use the term politics of division as if division was a bad idea, when it’s the necessary idea. He has to say this woman should not be president of anywhere, let alone of our great United States.

HH: And do so in…

CH: And her flotations with power in the past are not experience, they are what a prosecuting counsel would call her past form, her previous convictions, the reasons why she shouldn’t be given another chance to degrade our republic.

HH: Do you see any possibility of him doing that?

CH: No.

HH: I agree.

CH: I don’t think he’s got the guts for it.

HH: I agree.

CH: But there are some people around him, I think, who may say look, how long are you going to let this defamation go? And I’ve actually had an e-mail or two from some, I probably shouldn’t say African-American friends, but I just will, because that’s what they are, today, saying all right, that’s it, you were right, I should never have trusted the Clintons at all. People are really quite shocked by the lack of scruples of this terrible couple.

HH: And if they throw him overboard…I wrote about that this morning…

CH: What they want is for him to come out and show not just he can take a punch, but if he can give one.

HH: Right.

CH: And by the way, that’s what you want in a president.

HH: Yup, and if they throw him overboard, and he doesn’t fight back, A) he’s ruined, and B) I think they lose the African-American vote decisively, because these folks have been the accomplices of Democratic power for forty years, it’s been a wholly-bound constituency, their guy’s in line, and they’re being told no, because it’s the turn of the Clintons again to loot the office? That doesn’t fly well with these people.

CH: No, it doesn’t, and nor does something else that is very disagreeable to mention, perhaps, but I guess one may as well just come right out with it and say that many Hispanic-Americans don’t mind saying to pollsters, and anyone else who will listen, that they don’t want a black police chief in their town, or a black mayor, or a black Senator, a black Congressman, or let alone a black president.

HH: Well, that’s very real in California.

CH: And whereas that attitude among whites has declined to the point where it’s almost a fringe belief. It is not a fringe belief among Spanish-Americans. And unfortunately, it’s not a belief that Mrs. Clinton is beneath, or should I say above, what do I mean?

HH: Look, we’re on very thin ice here.

CH: Something she will forbid herself to play to.

HH: We’re going to break through the time deadline here, so I want to keep you for a second segment if I can keep you for ten more minutes.

CH: Sure.

HH: I want to define terms. The people around Obama who are writing you e-mails, they’re the tough political operatives. And these people want him to play the race card. But can the African-American community be counted on to respond that way?

CH: Oh, well, these are not people…sorry if I gave you the wrong impression, Hugh. The people I’m getting e-mails from are not Obama operatives.

HH: Oh, okay.

CH: These are African-American academics and lawyers, just friends of mine who say…

HH: Oh.

CH: …I used to have an old argument, saying why do you guys think, and gals, that the Clintons are on your side, when they’re essentially exploiting you. I’m just getting people saying well now, I realize you were right. I mean, there’s nothing these people wouldn’t do, and I couldn’t vote for them again. That’s all.

HH: Okay.

– – – –

HH: When we were getting ready to close up the last segment, Christopher, you mentioned that Latinos in many major metropolitan areas simply do not want to share power with, and certainly do not want to be ruled over by African-Americans. That’s certainly been true in Southern California. There’s been a revolution in politics from the Tom Bradley era to the Antonio Villaraigosa era. Does the African-American community walk out on the Democratic Party if Barack Obama is not the nominee, because they view it as their turn, and it’s no longer…the general question from the specific one I asked last segment?

CH: No, I don’t think right away they will, not. But I think that the axiomatic shift of black Americans from what was once proud to call itself the party of Lincoln to the Democratic Party that took place, I suppose, roughly after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and after Nixon’s Southern strategy in response, It’s something you can’t take for granted in the rising generation. The people who were brought into politics, I think this is true, incidentally, of people of any…well, I don’t happen to believe the human race is divided into races. I mean, the species is divided into any one race. But let’s say all races, that none are going to have a big education from this election about who is and who is not playing race cards.

HH: Well put.

CH: And it will no longer be possible to say that it’s only right wingers who do so.

HH: What is John McCain’s best approach to the next, well, the Armageddon that is shaping up on the Democratic side? By the way, according to CNN, no one can win. They cannot win on the Democratic side without the superdelegates, which means it’s a brokered convention, because you never give up power until you get the deal sealed up. And Hillary’s got to cheat. She’s got to try and bring in Michigan and Florida.

CH: Ah, well, duly noted. I’ve been trying to get this on the air all day. Did you see her terrible speech in Ohio?

HH: Oh, yes. She said she’s going to cheat. That’s how…the short version.

CH: Well, she said we have won, she started by saying we’ve won already, and listed the states. She started with Florida. Play it to your audience. Five or six states, and then Michigan is thrown in. She has not won Florida or Michigan. Those delegates were quite rightly, and with her agreement, disallowed by the Democratic National Committee.

HH: Right, right.

CH: And what she was openly saying at the top of her voice is, ‘I am Harold Ickes. I know of no law except that of my own self interest.’ There’s no agreement, there’s no party deal, there’s no bending of the rules we won’t commit.

HH: Well…

CH: Get used to it. She’s already claiming the Florida and Michigan delegates in her column before she’s dared raise it with the DNC.

HH: I agree. It was nullification…

CH: This is like watching a putsch in progress.

HH: It was John Calhoun announcing that the Constitution did not matter, that he had reserved the right of nullification. And so they’re walking out. But that is cheating. There’s no other way to go about it. That is cheating.

CH: But it got recycled straight into every home by a media that’s suddenly deciding perhaps we’ve been unkind to her, doesn’t even dare to point out what is staring them in the face.

HH: Okay, so what does McCain do during this putsch, as you put it?

CH: Well, he would do well just to remain icy calm, I think, and to hope that people will get points without having to have them underlined for them.

HH: Oh, that’s a big…

CH: That’s a very, very difficult thing to do in politics, knowing when to do understatement.

HH: Barack Obama will inevitably be offered the second position, unless the Rezko thing is even worse than we think. If he’s drawn in…

CH: It got a lot worse, I think, since Mrs. Clinton so ineptly raised it the first time, because of the appearance on the scene of this very dubious Iraqi, Mr. Nadhmi Auchi…sorry, for your listeners who want to Google him, Auchi, first name Nadhmi. I’m doing a bit of work on him myself, but what can be found out by anyone is pretty shady. And he suddenly gives a huge trench of money across the Atlantic to the man who provided the Obama family’s mortgage.

HH: Rezko. Yes.

CH: I mean, I don’t like it.

HH: Well, sure. Three and a half million dollars, and then, did you notice the judge revoked bail the moment that money landed?

CH: Yup. Well, now…

HH: Riady.

CH: You cannot run as Mr. Clean if you’re doing this. You can’t run as the great, new clean breath of a new generation if you’re doing this kind of old trash in Chicago racketeering, deniable racketeering, and if you’re going to an ethnic-based hate Church, as simple as that, and a Church that endorses a man who even when he answered the question disowning him, you’ll notice Mr. Obama, Senator Obama I should say, refers to as Minister Farrakhan.

HH: Now I don’t know that it’s a hate Church. Have you done your work on this?

CH: Yes, it is. Look, a Church, I’m sorry, a Church that sells Creationist literature, that is essentially ethnic-based, is not…

HH: Well, Creationists don’t hate anybody.

CH: …that likes Farrakhan, who’s a fascist, and Qaddafi…

HH: And they have said that? They have said that? That’s fair.

CH: Yes, they’ve endorsed him…

HH: Liking dinosaurs is not hate.

CH: They’ve done business with Mr. Qaddafi, and they’re essentially, you know, they make it pretty clear, I daresay you and I could join the Church if we wanted to, but it’s pretty obvious that it’s not for everybody.

HH: All right. So…I’ve got three minutes left. This looks like…

CH: I’m sorry, I don’t like the Senator from Illinois referring to Minister Farrakhan. That is a term of respect, only used by people who think that Farrakhan’s church is on the level, which it’s not. It’s a racist group that helped to organize the murder of Malcolm X.

HH: Now one of the…

CH: Minister nothing, Mr. Farrakhan at best.

HH: One of the replies from Team Clinton, or from Team Obama, was how can the Clintons tell us that we’ve got a bad land deal? And of course, they’ve got Riady, they’ve got the international…

CH: Sure.

HH: What’s that bank? The Clintons have got more bad financier types and crooked swindlers around them than ten Obamas. Can they really bring this up and not have any…

CH: Well, no, and that’s why I said earlier that I mean, the story about Mr. Auchi and his associates had to be brought up by freelancers like me, because the Clintons brought it up very ineptly. They tried it on once, it didn’t seem to fly, and they dropped it. And they must have also had an awareness of living in a very crystal house.

HH: You know, Vanity Fair sent Dominick Dunne to the O.J. trial. They ought to send you to the Rezko trial, Christopher, and just have you report there day after day.

CH: Well, I’m getting, I’m beginning to be sent some information about the place, and I’ll be happy to share it.

HH: Oh, please do.

CH: Trust me.

HH: We are going to do Rezko updates every day, because there’s a, this is dirty, dirty, dirty. That land deal is dirty, dirty, dirty. There’s no way around it.

CH: No. Even in a very adoring profile of Mrs. Obama that’s in this week’s New Yorker, which by the way also raises a couple of other flags as you’ll see when you read it, can’t quite get over this point about the obviousness of taking a mortgage from someone who’s a donor, who might be interested in your vote in the Senate.

HH: Yeah.

CH: And it’s so old fashioned, it’s so old fashioned Chicago alderman stuff that you can’t believe that somebody who wanted to run as the candidate of purity could possibly have let it happen.

HH: 20 seconds, who’s going to be the next president of the United States?

CH: Hillary Clinton.

HH: Oh…because of yesterday?

CH: No, no, I’ve feared it for a long time, and there’s something horrible and undefeatable about people who have no life except the worship of power.

HH: The Mummy is back.

CH: …people who don’t want the meeting to end, the people who just are unstoppable, who only have one focus, no humanity, no character, nothing but the worship of money and power. They win in the end.

HH: Mordor. Christopher Hitchens, a pleasure. Thank you for joining us from Vanity Fair.

End of interview.

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