Christopher Hitchens deserves a blow-job and a handshake. He’s my favorite non-fiction writer by a good stretch, biting and insightful and funny. Not hurting my opinion of him: this past Monday, in an article for Slate, he endorsed Barack Obama for President of the United States.
His endorsement, like the one Obama picked up last week from Christopher Buckley, focuses more on the weaknesses of John McCain and Sarah Palin than on the strengths of Obama and Biden, though he has one or two complimentary things to say about the ticket he will be voting for toward the end: “Obama-Biden ticket is not a capitulationist one, even if it does accept the support of the surrender faction, and it does show some signs of being able and willing to profit from experience.”
A sensible endorsement, if not a ringing one.
Hitchens reserves his worst (that is, his best) for John McCain and his running mate. Of McCain, Hitchens writes:
Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear had to feel sorry for the old lion on his last outing and wish that he could be taken somewhere soothing and restful before the night was out. The train-wreck sentences, the whistlings in the pipes, the alarming and bewildered handhold phrases — “My friends” — to get him through the next 10 seconds. I haven’t felt such pity for anyone since the late Adm. James Stockdale humiliated himself as Ross Perot’s running mate. And I am sorry to have to say it, but Stockdale had also distinguished himself in America’s most disastrous and shameful war, and it didn't qualify him then and it doesn't qualify McCain now.
Ouchie. I find that a stinging passage. Despite turning his campaign over to Sean Hannity of late and indulging in attacks over Barack’s association with former domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, despite his present air of desperation, despite — worst of all — his selection of vice presidential nominee, I still want to like McCain. Hitchens tearing him up makes me wince more than smile.
For Governor Sarah Palin I hold no such affection. Hitchens’ paragraph about her ought to be framed.
The most insulting thing that a politician can do is to compel you to ask yourself: “What does he take me for?” Precisely this question is provoked by the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin. I wrote not long ago that it was not right to condescend to her just because of her provincial roots or her piety, let alone her slight flirtatiousness, but really her conduct since then has been a national disgrace. It turns out that none of her early claims to political courage was founded in fact, and it further turns out that some of the untested rumors about her — her vindictiveness in local quarrels, her bizarre religious and political affiliations — were very well-founded, indeed. Moreover, given the nasty and lowly task of stirring up the whack-job fringe of the party’s right wing and of recycling patent falsehoods about Obama’s position on Afghanistan, she has drawn upon the only talent that she apparently possesses.
Add this bit from a few paragraphs before to the frame, too, if there’s room:
[T]he only public events that have so far featured his absurd choice of running mate have shown her to be a deceiving and unscrupulous woman utterly unversed in any of the needful political discourses but easily trained to utter preposterous lies and to appeal to the basest element of her audience.
Suddenly my description of her as a Lonesome Rhodes-shaped marionette seems inadequate, and “glad-handing goddamn demagogue” sounds downright inartful.
Mr. Hitchens, I’m glad you crossed the pond and joined us as a naturalized American. We need your vote, and your voice. I’d love to shake your hand. I’m not so sure about the blow-job, on second thought.