My old friend Christopher Hitchens will be in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 15, for a debate at the Wiltern Theater. A few weeks ago, I engaged him in this e-mail banter after seeing some rather shocking quotes attributed to him in the Washington Post. "Id vote for Bush," read the quote. "The important thing is this: Is a candidate completely serious about prosecuting the war on theocratic terrorism to the fullest extent? Only Bush is." Could this really be Hitch speaking? I almost fell off my chair. Hitchens is, of course, the prolific, best-selling polemicist whose dramatic resignation from The Nation as its star columnist created such a media flap not long ago. Granted, Id become increasingly distressed by the bitterness of Hitchs ever-rising intemperate attacks on the undifferentiated "left," his former spiritual home, as a coddler of terrorism for opposing war in Iraq as if the "left" did not encompass many points of view, including a majority of visceral Democrats who find the sadistic Saddam Hussein revolting and who believe terrorist slaughter of the innocents is unjustifiable under any circumstances. But Hitchs declaration of support for Bushs re-election in an interview with an obscure right-wing quarterly called Doublethink (appropriate title under the circumstances) seemed to me to be a seismic shift on the part of my old chum. I e-mailed Hitch to see what was up, and there ensued an electronic exchange on the subject, relevant excerpts from which are published here with Christophers kind permission.
Hitch, did the Doublethink interview cited in todays WashPost quote you correctly? I can hardly believe it. As ever, Doug
Doug, No. I told them Id vote for Bush if the election was today, over any feasible Democrat, because of the war. And I was for Bush over Gore, though that didnt come up. I havent checked the mag, whatever it is, but though they made it sound a bit stark it wasnt that much out of context. Hope you thrive, fraternally, Hitch
Hitch, But did you really mean to say that the only issue that matters in deciding whether Bush should remain president is terrorism, as the right-wing rag reported? Regards, Doug
Doug, Roughly speaking, yes. I am single-issue as far as the war is concerned and have lived long enough not to credit the Democrats in any case where other "issues" might be held to trump this one. Much of what I know under the second heading, I might add unctuously, I learned from you. So if the vote were today I wouldnt think it even worth paying the removal expenses to transfer Lieberman or Kerry or any of them to 1600 Pennsylvania. Rather to the contrary. Yours for regime-change and revolution quand meme, Hitch
I appreciate your clarification of your views. You and I are two stubborn old mules, and neither will ever convince the other on these questions. I could suggest many reasons as to why supporting Bush seems to me deeply misguided from the dismantling of the federal work force (and setting up a new spoils system) to tax cuts (which will never be restored once passed, and will redound on the poor forever) to the ripping up of the Constitution, and a long, long list of other reasons. But Ill leave you with just one to mull over: You have always proclaimed and I am not aware it is a view you have renounced that you are an atheist, and Ive heard you over the years make some of the best arguments for godlessness one can proffer. But this administrations politics are riddled with theocracy, and the way in which Bush has now put the fight against AIDS and sex education into the hands of the right-wing Christers and condom opponents and the abstinence-only crowd is crippling AIDS-prevention efforts, both at home (where the CDC has just reported a dramatic upsurge in new HIV infections) and abroad.
By insisting that no fed dollars can be used for anything smacking of birth control or condoms, Bush has decimated AIDS education and prevention programs around the world. And the reorganization of foreign aid into the new Millennium Challenge program creates another layer of bureaucracy to get around the slightly more rational and reasonable diplomats at State, and puts the aid in hands of political appointees who will insist that recipients toe the line on globalization and on AIDS (no condoms, dont make or purchase cheap, generic versions of AIDS meds, etc.)
The effects of denying people access to condoms and science-based sex ed, not to mention the continuing efforts by the U.S. to blackmail countries on access to AIDS drugs and sabotage the WTO agreement at Doha that public-health crises take precedence over patents, means that millions and millions more will become infected and die between now and 2050, the earliest possible date by which the scientists now tell us we might reasonably begin to hope for an AIDS cure.