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Vanity Fair’s Christopher Hitchens on the election, the new Defense secretary nominee, and religious bigotry.

Thursday, November 9, 2006
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HH: Christopher Hitchens joins me here on the Hugh Hewitt Show. Mr. Hitchens, what happened last night?

CH: What happened? Well, it was a sort of mediocre Democratic surge, enough of one. I wouldn’t call it a triumph, given the odds in their favor, but it’s national, at any rate.

HH: Well, can you help me with the analogy? We’ve been messing around with this, because I think the wave analogy’s just hackneyed and not correct. It’s sort of like a series of events that could have gone the other way, but didn’t because of the circumstances, sort of like…I don’t know if this will make any sense to you at all, UCLA losing to Notre Dame, or Washington Generals losing to the Globetrotters.

CH: No, I don’t do sports.

HH: Well, I needed an analogy.

CH: And I don’t think wave’s much of an anology, either. But it is something that occurred in most areas, in roughly the same proportion, so it is, you can describe it as a punishment for the President, and for the Republican Party.

HH: Oh, agree, absolutely.

CH: But not as much of one as some people, including some conservatives, think they deserved. Now if the Democrats weren’t able to do this well in a midterm, under these circumstances, they really ought to be running in some other country.

HH: Now what do you think about Nancy Pelosi?

CH: I don’t really think about her. She doesn’t make one think, particularly.

HH: And so, what do you think of Harry Reid?

CH: Oh, God. I mean, I just don’t…where do we find such men?

HH: (laughing)

CH: A Mormon mediocrity, and extraordinary, sort of reactionary, nullity.

HH: Now isn’t that bigoted to say a Mormon mediocrity, Christopher Hitchens?

CH: No, no. I’m always in favor of pointing out which cult people belong to.

HH: You see, I think that is very, very harsh and offensive, but I will allow the Mormon listeners to call you on that.

CH: No, he’s a Smithite, for Heaven’s sake. I mean, he believes that some idiot found gold plates buried in the ground.

HH: But it is religious bigotry to call that out. And do you make similar comments…

CH: No, it’s not me who says he’s a Mormon. Excuse me, it’s he who says it.

HH: I know that, but I still think…

CH: I say that anyone who believes that stuff is an idiot.

HH: I know you believe that, but isn’t it sort of randomly bigoted to bring that out and throw it onto the table?

CH: Not at all, no. It’s essential to point out…

HH: I disagree.

CH: Especially at a time when people are always saying it’s the Republican Party that’s run by religious crackpots and nutbags. And it’s very important to point out these people have a big foothold in the Democratic Party, too.

HH: I think that’s terribly religiously bigoted. I think that is up there with, like, saying about Jesse Jackson that he’s African-American in the course of commenting on him.

CH: Well, I don’t really see how he could keep that a secret, how one could…

HH: Well, it’s not a secret that he’s a Mormon. It’s just sort of a random attack on a guy’s faith. I don’t like Reid at all, but…

CH: No, I think less of him because of the stupid cult of which he’s a member. I would say the same if he was a Scientologist.

HH: All right. I’m going to move on, but duly note, please, that I think that’s unnecessary and wrong. I want to go back to the country, and its ability to wage this war after last night. Has it been compromised?

CH: Very much by the appointment of Mr. Gates, I believe. I mean, I think that’s a disgrace. It was very lucky for Mr. Gates that he was able to escape prosecution during the Iran-Contra scandal. And before that, he was the man at the CIA who was in charge of the pro-Saddam Hussein policy of the mid-80’s, including giving, directly, important intelligence to Saddam Hussein in the war against Iran. He’s hopelessly compromised. I can’t think of a worse choice, really, and I hope he gets a real hard time at confirmation from Republicans.

HH: And that’s not going to happen from Republicans. Do you expect the Democrats…

CH: Well, if it doesn’t, it’s a national disgrace, because it means that someone has been appointed who, along with Zbigniew Brzezinsky and others, has been calling for capitulation on all fronts for some time. He’s heavily compromised by a pro-Saddam past, helped to subvert the Constitution during the 1980’s, supplying illegal weaponry to Iran, and violating the power of the purse, and is someone who was very lucky to be allowed to leave public life unpunished under the previous Bush administration, and shouldn’t be heard from again. It’s really appalling. And what it says is we don’t care about the war anymore. What we want to do is wrap it up, and put as brave a face on it as we can. It’s a surrender.

HH: You know, I’ve actually heard that from another source today, completely opposite of your political opinions, except on the war, so that’s very interesting.

CH: Well, look at the masochism of the President’s press conference. I was very impressed by this. I mean, in…obviously, one can’t say that Iraq wasn’t an issue in the campaign, because it clearly was. But as a referendum on the campaign, it’s a very hard one to read. I mean, Lieberman won easily, and the most anti-war Republican was thrown out, just for an example.

HH: Yes.

CH: But if the President says it’s a condemnation of his war policy, then he makes it true. I mean, you can’t…the Democrats don’t to say anymore after that.

HH: Well no, he…I understood him to say it is a rejection of the management of it recently. It was a factor, but not of the war policy. I think it’s…

CH: Well, that’s…we don’t need to comment on that, do we? I mean, certainly, he’s making a rod for his own back, and then he’s appointing someone who is a renowned cut and run artist…

HH: Why do you say that?

CH: …as well as someone with a very shady past in the…

HH: Well, I’m rejecting your very shady past stuff, but why do you say he’s a cut and run artist?

CH: Well, you have to look up the Iran-Contra hearing evidence on that. It’s appalling. And, I stress, his very important role in the CIA’s pro-Saddam policy in the 1980’s.

HH: But that was in a time of the Soviet Union, when we were obliged to assist Saddam to retain some kind of presence in the Middle East when Jimmy Carter’s Iran had become quite the threat to regional stability.

CH: Yes, but remember, the policy of supporting Saddam Hussein went on after the Iran-Iraq war was over.

HH: Yeah, but that’s not Gates’ call, is it?

CH: Well, yes, I think it is. I mean, those people continued that policy, including supplying Saddam Hussein with the sinews of war to use domestically, long after the peace treaty had been signed with the Iranians. So it is really pretty scandalous. And then more recently, as you must have noticed, the article that Gates co-signed with Zbigniew Brzezinsky…

HH: No.

CH: …calling for us to make nice with the mullahs in Iran.

HH: I have missed that.

CH: So if he’s got to say okay, I supported Saddam because they were fighting the Ayatollah, well, he was fighting the Ayatollah, all right up to a point. It’s a shady argument, as I’ve shown.

HH: Do you see this as the return of Scowcroftism?

CH: …but now he says let’s make nice with the mullahs as well. So I mean, what other store is he planning to give away?

HH: Do you see this as a return of Scowcroftism and…

CH: Yes, I do. I absolutely do, because the CIA’s institutionally committed against regime change, has been for a long time, has been pretending to sabotage the policy from the very start, as you know, has been leaking against the President…

HH: Is it possible that it is necessary to reduce the foreign policy ambitions of the Bush doctrine because there is no political support for it in the Congress now?

CH: Well, I don’t think so, but I think that’s the way that the White House is now thinking. I think that’s right.

HH: That’s what I’m afraid they are thinking, and I agree with you that it is not necessary, and that this was not that referendum, because of the very thing you pointed out. Lieberman won and Chafee lost, and that’s hard to square up with a rejection of the Bush doctrine, although the management of the war is certainly on the minds of many American voters, if wrongfully so.

CH: Well, as it well should be. But I mean, it would be, I think, a very simple minded person who thought that the Democrats’ only object to the conduct of the war now.

HH: No, they will try and…

CH: I mean, to mention only Mr. Reid, whose religion you think is irrelevant to his general fatuity.

HH: No, no, I don’t think it’s irrelevant to who he is.

CH: Well, I mean, he’s openly said that the only reason al Qaeda is in Iraq is because we are there. I mean, that is, you know, complete moral capitulation. That says al Qaeda’s our fault.

HH: Gates said that?

CH: No, no. Mr. Reid.

HH: Oh, well that, I agree. That’s…

CH: The Mormon mediocrity from…

HH: Again, I…

CH: …Nevada.

HH: Christopher Hitchens, would you refer to someone as the Catholic mediocrity or the Jewish mediocrity?

CH: Certainly, yes.

HH: Well then, you’re bigoted in all directions.

CH: I gave as my reasons for not voting, not supporting Joseph Lieberman the fact that he said he wouldn’t, he would have to walk to work on Shabot.

HH: Well, see, I missed that.

CH: Yeah.

HH: So you’re an equal opportunity bigot.

CH: His religious prejudices biased me against him. His religious bigotries biased me against him, of course, yeah.

HH: But you’re equally bigoted towards all religions.

CH: And I think that as long as the Vatican is continuing to shelter the wanted Cardinal from Boston, who’s wanted in American courts, it’s right to point out that you Catholics have to decide which side they’re on in these things.

HH: Let me ask you. Were you born into a religious family?

CH: No, I was fortunate in that respect.

HH: And were any of your grandparents churchgoers?

CH: Oh, yeah. My father was a refugee from a very strict Calvanist upbringing, and my mother was a refugee from Judaism.

HH: Did you like your grandparents?

CH: My father’s father was a Calvanist bigot of the most revolting kind.

HH: And so you did not get along with him?

CH: Not terrifically, no. I learned…that was what I learned what anti-Semitism was, from him.

HH: Did he beat you?

CH: My grandfather? No. He wouldn’t lay a finger on me, nor my father.

HH: Okay, but you learned from him anti-…

CH: Oh, no. I’m not one of these people who’s been atrociously treated in a religious school. There are millions of such people, as you know, and it should be on the conscience of all Christians that there are so many damaged children laid to their charge. I’m not one of them. No, I just think religion is dangerous nonsense for intellectual reasons.

HH: I know you…I was just trying to figure out when that arrived in the make-up of Christopher Hitchens. We’re kind of far afield from the elections.

CH: Well, it’s a very, very difficult conclusion. It arises from observance of reality, excuse me, observation of reality.

HH: But when did that observation commence? At what age?

CH: Oh, well, I think I was about ten when my teacher, Mrs. Watts, a lovely old lady, who taught us nature as well as Divinity, said wasn’t it great and kind of God to have made vegetation green because it was the color most restful to our eyes, and I thought, I didn’t know anything about chlorophyl, or evolution, or natural selection, or any of these things. But I did know that was nonsense.

HH: Christopher Hitchens, we’ll continue to talk to you, and pray for you. And we’ll talk to you next week. You never know where you’re going with Christopher Hitchens.

End of interview.

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