The overall topic of the piece, interestingly enough, is McCain's legendary temper. Given Hitchens's own perpetually pissed-off persona, I suppose this is something he identifies with. And indeed, Hitchens does admit that there are some things to worry about.
One reason that I try never to wear a tie is the advantage that it so easily confers on anyone who goes berserk on you. There you are, with a ready-made noose already fastened around your neck. All the opponent needs to do is grab hold and haul. A quite senior Republican told me the other night that he'd often seen John McCain get attention on the Hill in just this way. Not necessarily hauling, you understand, but grabbing.Serious stuff, eh? McCain might get angry and
He does this in three ways: first, by defusing the portrait of McCain's temper with ironic detachment:
However, we are still obliged to ask ourselves whether the senior senator from Arizona is a brick short of a load or, as heartless people in England sometimes say, a sandwich or two short of a picnic.These comic euphemisms have the effect of making McCain's temper seem funny and therefore charming and harmless: more like Roderick Spode than an actual person, more of a comic sideshow than a potential problem in governance.
Again, one hopes that the nominee has been doing this for emphasis rather than as a sign that he is out of his pram, has lost his rag, has gone ballistic, has reported into the post office that he's feeling terminally disgruntled today. (Or, as P.G. Wodehouse immortally put it, if not quite disgruntled, not exactly gruntled, either.)
Second, he cherry-picks one particular witness to McCain's temper, and spends a lot of time mocking him:
[F]ormer Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., who opined that McCain's rage quotient "would place this country at risk in international affairs, and the world perhaps in danger." I once went on a TV panel with Smith and passed some green-room time with him, and I can assure you that premature detonations of any kind would certainly not be his problem. He combines the body of an ox with the brains of a gnat. Indeed, if his brains were made of gunpowder and were to accidentally explode, the resulting bang would not even be enough to disarrange his hair.No other witnesses are mentioned; no mention is made, for example, of the incident in which McCain called his wife a "cunt" in front of others (maybe Hitchens just thought that was funny).
And third, he assures us that, really, McCain's anger may be the anger of a righteous man -- possibly Washingtonian in its nobility -- and anyway, who are we to judge in the end?
About two decades ago, facing a group in his state GOP that resisted proclaiming a state holiday for Martin Luther King Jr., he shouted, "You will damn well do this" and rammed the idea home with other crisp and terse remarks.I particularly love the King state holiday story: it's a very clever way of ignoring the incident in which McCain was forced to apologize for opposing the King holiday at the federal level -- for doing, in other words, the very thing that Hitchens depicts him as passionately resisting.
Thomas Jefferson used to note of mild George Washington that there were moments of passionate rage in which "he cannot govern himself." We often forgive what we imagine, to use Orwell's words about Charles Dickens, are the moments when someone is "generously angry." Yet how are we to be sure that we can tell the hysterical tantrum from the decent man's wrath? The answer ought to be that we cannot know in advance of a presidency what causes people to become choleric, so anger management is yet another name—and yet another reason—for the separation of powers.
Now, let's just compare all of this to how Hitchens (who is not a conservative and we mustn't ever call him one) describes the two Democrats in the campaign. On Hillary Clinton:
Those of us who follow politics seriously rather than view it as a game show do not look at Hillary Clinton and simply think "first woman president." We think -- for example -- "first ex-co-president" or "first wife of a disbarred lawyer and impeached former incumbent" or "first person to use her daughter as photo-op protection during her husband's perjury rap."And,
Off to the side, snarling with barely concealed rage, are the Clinton machine-minders, who, having failed to ignite the same kind of identity excitement with an aging and resentful female, are perhaps wishing that they had made more of her errant husband having already been "our first black president."Odd how there's nothing funny or charming or noble about Clinton's alleged anger and that of her supporters, is there?
And, on Obama,
Obama wants us to transcend something at the same time he implicitly asks us to give that same something as a reason to vote for him. I must say that the lyricism with which he does this has double and triple the charm of Mrs. Clinton's heavily-scripted trudge through the landscape, but the irony is still the same.And,
What are we trying to "get over" here? We are trying to get over the hideous legacy of slavery and segregation. But Mr. Obama is not a part of this legacy.
Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois is the current beneficiary of a tsunami of drool.Rather cleverly, Hitchens manages to insinuate both "scary black man" and "Halfrican" without ever saying either one. But, naturally enough, he depicts Obama as a big hypocrite for allegedly being both of these things, and he especially sneers at liberals for being the real racists -- for acknowledging that race is still a reality.
And why is a man with a white mother considered to be "black," anyway?
Sen. Obama is a congregant of a church in Chicago called Trinity United Church of Christ. I recommend that you take a brisk tour of its Web site. Run by the sort of character that the press often guardedly describes as "flamboyant"—a man calling himself the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.—this bizarre outfit describes itself as "Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian" and speaks of "a chosen people" whose nature we are allowed to assume is "Afrocentric."
Of course, Hitchens has already made it pretty clear how he's going to vote this November:
I shall not vote for Sen. Obama and it will not be because he -- like me and like all of us -- carries African genes. And I shall not be voting for Mrs. Clinton, who has the gall to inform me after a career of overweening entitlement that there is "a double standard" at work for women in politics; and I assure you now that this decision of mine has only to do with the content of her character.So, I guess all this is no real surprise. But the man's hackery continues to impress.
I'd have more respect for him if he just came out and admitted he's now a Republican and a conservative (albeit a quirky one). But no. He's not a conservative and we mustn't ever call him one, even when he joins in the media praise of John McCain.