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Jonathan Chait, Unplugged (The Encore Performance)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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Los Angeles Times columnist Jonathan Chait was back on my program yesterday to discuss his continuing Bush hatred (“Chaitred” according to my pals at Powerline) and his, well, insane column from Sunday’s Times in which Chait argued that President Bush may well do more damage to the United States than bin Laden.

The transcript is here.

At the end of the interview, Chait pronounced me a “nutty, but lovable crank,” and, far worse, more “unhinged” than Kosputin.  I think by that point he may have been a little punch drunk from exchanges like this one:

HH: Well, I mean, there might have been other terrorist attacks, but no bin Laden, no 9/11, Jonathan.

JC: Look, you can’t necessarily say if bin Laden was dead that they wouldn’t have carried that out, no. I don’t accept that premise.

HH: Why not?

JC: Well, how do you know that? It’s a counter-factual.

HH: Okay, we’ll come back to that. I’m glad you made that point. Let’s go this to this, then. Bin Laden is hiding somewhere in the mountains, and has no weapons of mass destruction. How do you know that, Jonathan?

JC: How do I know that? Who alleges that he does have weapons of mass destruction?

HH: Jonathan, that’s a counter-factual. How do you know that?

JC: How do I know that?

HH: That he has no weapons of mass destruction.

JC: Okay, well, do you think he has weapons of mass destruction?

HH: I didn’t write it. You wrote it.

JC: No one who I know, as far as I know, has any belief that he has any weapons of mass destruction, including any intelligence estimates or what not.

HH: Is it possible that he has weapons of mass destruction that we don’t know about?

JC: Is it possible?

HH: Have the Chechnians left, for example, dirty nukes in the middle of Moscow, unexploded?

JC: It’s…okay, it is remotely possible that he has weapons of mass destruction, although every intelligence estimate I know of believes he does not.

And this one:

HH: No, you wrote the article, and you asserted that “there are apparently very limited numbers of [ bin Laden] followers capable of striking at the U.S.” How do you know that?

JC: Because they haven’t had a successful strike at us since 9/11.

HH: And that is, in fact, evidence of what? That there are very few followers, or that we’re very good at blocking plots?

JC: Well, how many attacks have they had on us before 9/11?

HH: In the United States, ’93 and 2001. Outside, scores.

JC: That’s one every eight years.

HH: Yeah, but the Cole counts, and the Tanzanian and Kenyan Embassies counts, and the Khobar Towers count. And I could name other ones for you. They all count.

JC: Right.

HH: Striking at Madrid’s rail station counts, because it lost us an ally in the war. It counts to bomb London as an ally in the war. It counts to kill people in Bali. Don’t you believe that?

JC: Okay. Why don’t we short-cut this boring and legalistic inquisition by me stipulating that Osama bin Laden is a horrible, evil mass murderer. He has some number of followers who would dearly love to kill Americans, and he does represent a serious threat to the United States.

HH: You said very limited numbers of followers. I think he has tens of thousands, but we’ll come back.

JC: I don’t believe he has tens of thousands.

At another point Chait began to plead,  “Now again, I have to plead book leave on this one,” as an excuse for not knowing much about recent terror-related arrests, which makes you wonder why he is writing columns on terror for the Los Angeles Times.

Or not.

But because it was so entertaining, I will be replaying the interview today, at least in the first two segments of the second hour of the broadcast, and possibly the third hour as well.

Jonathan Chait is one the big new names in punditry on the left, but though an affable fellow, and not nutty, his analytical and reasoning skills –well, you be the judge.

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