HH: For three decades, Martin Peretz has been the editor in chief of the New Republic, one of the nation’s finest magazines from the center left. He’s also a lecturer at Harvard, and he has been a guest on this program before. Pleased to have you back, Mr. Peretz. Welcome.
MP: Thank you. Good evening, Hugh.
HH: Tell me, on Monday, Ahmadinejead compared the Jews to cattle, and threatened that America and England would be held accountable, and talked of his nuclear technology. Yesterday, the Ayatollah Khamenei talked about justice for America and Israel and England, and the clear value of jihad. And today, or yesterday, Ahmadinejead in Malaysia said the solution is the elimination of the Zionist regime. Is anyone paying attention, Martin Peretz, outside of a couple of writers at the New Republic, the Weekly Standard, and a few conservative op-eds around the country?
MP: Well, I think people have gone into a defensive mode by thinking to themselves, and persuading themselves that he’s not really serious. And forgive me the analogy, but that’s what people said about Hitler. And Hitler was dead serious, and the president of Iran is also dead serious. And he can make many countries’ lives miserable. The Russians, for example, have in their territories, Muslim populations. There’s nothing that can prevent, unless we act now and act decisively, the Russians included, there is nothing that will prevent Muslim fanatics and Muslim separatists from lobbing rockets and missiles into other people’s neighborhoods, cities, region, just as Hezbollah is doing now.
HH: The terrorist in chief of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, threatened today to bomb Tel Aviv with his long-range missiles. I take him at his word. I wonder if he has them. I would have thought he would have used them by now, but he’s not the exception, Martin Peretz. He’s the rule for the future.
MP: Well, I don’t think he’s quite the rule. You know, there are many Muslims who don’t want to live this way. But we haven’t heard from them a lot, and it’s five minutes before Midnight for them, too.
MP: Now of course, the Egyptian government, the Saudi Arabian government, the Jordanian government, actually thinks…those being Sunni Muslim governments, actually think, I believe, that Israel is doing God’s work for them in driving at these Shiia fanatics. But these are very arcane differences in religious ideology. I think they elude our grasp, but they are real.
HH: Given that they’re real, Martin Peretz, how can the Democratic Party be on the verge of purging Joe Lieberman, given his defense of Israel, and his understanding of the stakes. And you, by the way, I want my audience to understand, you’re a Democrat. You’re a big Al Gore guy, and you are…there’s nothing half-hearted about your support for Democrats in the past. What is going on in your party?
MP: Well, the party has been generally very good on the Lebanese war. Even Chris Dodd, of whom I don’t expect a lot, certainly Joe Biden, certainly Hillary Clinton, who I don’t like a lot, they’ve been…stand up behind Israel. There is a wing in the party, I wrote this week that it’s the Cynthia McKinney-(Dennis) Kucinich-Michael Moore wing of the party, that of course if very much anti-Israel. But someone wrote back to me, I think correctly, and said that makes it too marginal. But…
HH: Ned Lamont’s not very marginal at this moment, is he, Martin Peretz?
MP: Oh, my guess is…well, I mean, the polls say that he’s going to win. But I don’t think he has said anything that a good Zionist like me would object to.
HH: Have you seen the postings at the Daily Kos using anti-Semitic cartoons? Have you seen their silence about this war?
MP: Uh, their silence?
HH: About the Israel-Hezbollah war. It’s just not talked about on the left-wing blogs that made Ned Lamont.
MP: Uh, well, I suppose in a place like the Daily Kos, if they were to let themselves go free, they would say terrible things.
HH: Now let me ask you the key question. This is what really interests me. What do you think the impact on the Islamist fanatics running Iran would be of an American rapid withdrawal from Iraq, a cut and run strategy, a timetable that had us just leave, regardless of the readiness of the Iraq government?
MP: I think for all intents and purposes, Iran and Iraq would be one country with two governments.
HH: And what would that mean for us?
MP: It would mean lots and lots of trouble.
HH: Then why is the Democratic Party demanding, in essense, a cut and run strategy, Martin Peretz?
MP: Because…I don’t think it actually comes from an analysis of what’s going on in Iraq. I think it’s because they have demonized the President and his government. And they can’t see them as anything other than stupid and venal. And you know, when you think elected people are stupid and venal, you’re showing that you’re pretty stupid yourself.
HH: Well then, tell me. Given that you run a very influential magazine, that is part of the endless assault on Bush and his administration, doesn’t that put you on the side of the retreat and defeat crowd? Doesn’t that actually end up making you an accomplice to what could be a disastrous moment?
MP: Well, I think first of all, that’s unfair to us. We do have articles that are critical of the Iraq war. I, myself am critical of certain elements of certain aspects of the war.
HH: Well, that’s okay. But in our limited time, but you’re very pro-Democratic Party. And if the Democrats triumphed, we just concluded what will happen. Doesn’t that make you an accomplice, ultimately, to a disastrous policy for Israel if they get what they want?
MP: Well, I…my whole…I’m not sure who I’m for in two and a half years. We don’t know who the candidates will be.
HH: Do you want the Democrats to win majorities in the House or the Senate, Martin Peretz?
MP: I’m…I’m appalled by some of the people who would become head of Congressional committees.
HH: Is that a no?
MP: Uh, but I’m also appalled by some of the shenanigans…
HH: But is that…I’ve got five seconds. Is that a no, Martin Peretz?
MP: It’s a cowardly refusal to answer.
HH: (laughing) Okay. We’ll carry it on, later. Martin Peretz, thanks.
End of interview.