Hitchens & the Starr Wars
The mail is still pouring in on Christopher Hitchens's decision to submit an affidavit to the House managers contradicting Sidney Blumenthal's sworn denial that he passed misleading allegations to the press. There is the occasional admiring note--"He's a man of his convictions...courageous enough to walk the plank for the sake of truth," "a hero with plenty of integrity thrown in," "he has not only ethics but cojones." But most (about 95 percent) letter writers are furious. There are cancellations, threats ("if I see his byline again I will cancel") and demands that Hitchens be fired. Others suggest he move to National Review, People, Playgirl, the National Enquirer or stay at Vanity Fair. Some decry his "tawdry conduct" and "sensational self-promotion," while others call the affair "the saddest part of an awful story," "very troubling" or "no time to give the right-wing zealots a bone to chew on." McCarthy, HUAC and namers of names have been invoked, and readers compare Hitchens to Judas, Brutus, Elia Kazan, Matt Drudge, Jeffrey Dahmer... Many characterize him as the left's own Linda Tripp ("and his hairdo is not much better").
We also invited people to air their opinions in a forum on our Web site. There Hitchens had as many defenders as assailants, with an insistent minority urging us to move on to subjects of "more substance." There was the "just fire his butt" crowd and a comment that "if Joe McCarthy suddenly rises from his grave, I'll be sure to give him Hitchens's address," balanced by comments like "We need more whistleblowers" and "When someone...rises above crass self-interest and political expediency...the whole world goes crazy." A sampling follows.
What underlying motive could have prompted Christopher Hitchens, whose writing I have often admired, especially when he used his acerbic wit to gore many a sacred cow and deflate many a gasbag, to vacate his role as a journalist to become a player in the impeachment morality play? What public purpose will be served by tossing Sidney in the slammer?
Elkins Park, Pa.
I was astonished and saddened by Christopher Hitchens's action, which produces unfortunate echoes of the naming names days of the fifties. Anti-Clinton venom has induced a judgment-destroying fever in a number of otherwise sensible writers. But there's also the larger picture. History should have taught us that the left's contempt and animosity toward its moderate allies can have dire consequences. Hitchens has made himself a tragic figure. A very accomplished writer, an astute critic of the powerful, he has misused his talents with an attack on a man hardly more powerful than himself.
I must write to praise Christopher Hitchens for his remarkable act of courage and integrity. With his politics, he has few friends among conservatives in this country, and with this act, he will doubtlessly be pilloried by the other half of the nation, leaving him about as friendless as an irritated skunk.
New York City
Like Linda Tripp, Christopher Hitchens has willed himself into impeachment politics. Like Linda Tripp, he has traded a friend's confidences and offhand remarks for the ugly prominence that follows from making yourself useful to the repellent Kenneth Starr and his repellent investigations. Like Linda Tripp, the personal write-offs were a small price to pay for the glory of being a player on the impeachment stage.
And like Linda Tripp and Lucianne Goldberg, self-described as "two middle-aged broads who just couldn't take it anymore," Hitchens has sought to exonerate his rank opportunism by taking offense at the idea that presidential adviser Sidney Blumenthal was spreading gossip about Monica Lewinsky. This is a surprisingly delicate sensibility for the Hitchens who ghoulishly trashed Princess Diana upon her death.
I am sure The Nation seeks diversity in its writers, but it must not arrive at a state of tolerance cum political schizophrenia that would allow it to continue to offer its pages to Christopher Hitchens.
No matter the fallout of the Blumenthal affair, Christopher Hitchens is a brilliant writer and an unyielding critic of the politics of mediocrity that permeates DC.
At the very moment when Zippergate was near closing, it was especially distressing to learn that a Nation writer lags behind Henry Hyde and the Dixiecrat lynch mob with which Nixon infected the Republican Party in recognizing that few North American vertebrates give a damn what the President and an airhead bimbo did or did not do. I have reconsidered my initial decision to place my Nation subscription on hold until it, Hitchens or I expire. As a second-generation Nation subscriber, I shouldn't let Hitchens's inexplicable lapse deprive me of one of the few sources of independent, informed, in-depth analysis--including your attention to the forces propelling the overextended get-Clinton inquisition.
Being an immigrant from a country where years ago actions like Hitchens's resulted in prison, torture and death for valuable people, I am very affected by such issues. In my country they called people like Hitchens delators. And like Hitchens they always had some leftist-sounding explanation for helping the fascist repression, and when confronted they gave similar excuses ("I told them something that they already knew"). Are there any other delators among Nation writers?
A denouement to die for: The President, impeached on partisan grounds, is acquitted on partisan grounds; Kenneth Starr indicts Sidney Blumenthal for lying to Congress under oath; Christopher Hitchens, true to his affirmation on TV, refuses to testify against Blumenthal, who goes free; Starr does a Susan McDougal on Hitchens, who uses the time in prison to explain to the world why he has, since 1992, held Clinton in a contempt greater than that which he presumably has for the truly dangerous forces arrayed against the integrity of the electoral process.
Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! to Christopher Hitchens for upholding his principles and coming forth despite the slings and arrows that undoubtedly will accompany his actions. Clinton has fouled the office of President, which, thank God, he holds temporarily. The citizenry has been lulled into the belief that this is only about a private matter and that Clinton must remain in office to continue his good work. Clinton is about one thing: Bill Clinton at any cost! His bombings have reduced him to the basest of creatures, and the ghosts of those he destroyed should give him sleepless nights, as they did Richard III. The shroud of silence that covers those acts will eventually be lifted and history will show of what this man was made. Bill and Hillary Macbeth will live on in infamy. Again, my thanks for a breath of constitutional fresh air.
From our Web forum
I applaud Christopher Hitchens for sticking it to Bill Clinton's deluded apologists and their proxy, Sidney Blumenthal. Strangely, a significant portion of Nation readers seem to think that the progressive movement gains something by Clinton's presidency, when in fact, Bubba has routinely embraced legislation and policy that stands to the right of Richard Nixon--and, in some instances, even the "new world order" of George Bush.
And re this dubious debate about "journalistic ethics"--sorry, but there aren't any. While the "profession" has muscularly worked to concoct the illusion that reporters subscribe to some higher standard of ethics, any sane person knows that journalists simply reflect the class biases to which they--or their employers--subscribe. What the pros and their "sources" hate is the prospect that their real opinions and objectives may actually be exposed. That is exactly what Hitchens's actions have achieved, and I encourage him and every other self-respecting left journalist in this country to report aggressively every "off record" slur, bigoted private slip and nefarious effort to spin reality for mass consumption. Finally, let's get one thing straight. Progressives, minorities, the poor, women, gays, working people and organized labor do not need friends like Sidney Blumenthal--or Bubba. My only real beef with Hitchens is his choice of pals. If he's got any other cronies out there like Blumenthal, I hope he burns their butts, too.
From our Web forum
What seems to be at the heart of the matter is not that Hitchens spoke a truth he felt compelled to give but when and if he should have spoken it at all. I fall on the side of asserting your voice in the face of controversy and intimidation. I stand against those who consider the most important matter in speaking to be the fear of how it will be used. Getting lost in the speculative and comparative swirl of Hitchens's "motivation" falls away from the heart of the matter: purging the growing lump in your own throat. Most assuredly, he stands for this principle in everyone.
Stone Park, Ill.
Because of Hitchens's conduct, I gave the Nation credit card a two-week suspension.
(socialist for 70 years!)