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There's something pitiful about the elation of many on the Right over the fact that Christopher Hitchens has made common cause with conservatives on several issues over the last few years (chiefly Clintongate and the war with Islamic terrorists).  Conservatives only diminish themselves when they sing hossanas to any Leftist who switches sides (like Norman Podhoretz in an earlier time), making it seem that in order to take themselves seriously they need a patina of approval from intellectual elites.  On the other hand, Mr. Hitchens is pretty much the poster child for the old saying : you'd rather have him in the tent whizzing out, than outside whizzing in.  Mr. Hitchens argues so forcefully and is published so widely (who else could possibly place essays in The Nation, The Guardian, National Review, and The Wall Street Journal), that there must be something comforting for any politico who finds himself, however temporarily, agreeing with Mr. Hitchens instead of opposing him.

Pity poor Bill Clinton then, who had the misfortune to play Emperor to Mr. Hitchens little boy, leading to an eight year gavotte in which Mr. Clinton hid behind a bevy of liberal flacks, willing to engage in misdirection, lying, and character assassination for him, while Mr. Hitchens, nearly alone on the Left, used every venue at his disposal to alert the world to the Emperor's lack of clothes.  All the President's men had little trouble portraying conservative critics as partisans, but Mr. Hitchens's attacks are not so easily dismissed.  Nor is the Hitchens thesis a terribly welcome one for the Right.  For what Mr. Hitchens argues, always vociferously and often compellingly, is that not only was Bill Clinton personally corrupt, he also governed as a Republican.  To Mr. Hitchens this is just one more reason to loathe him, but for many conservatives the thought is just too awful to contemplate.

The basic case that Mr. Hitchens builds on the legislative front includes the Clinton Administration's acquiescence in such Republican policies as Welfare Reform, balanced budgets, don't ask-don't tell, killing Health Care reform, etc.  He relates a story about writing an essay for Dissent in 1996 that referred to Clinton as the lesser of two evils (presumably less evil than Bob Dole), which led to the following exchange with the magazine's editor :

    ...Michael Walzer inquired plaintively : 'Why is it that some people on the Left seem to hate Bill Clinton!'  I thought then, and I
    think even more now, that they mystery lies elsewhere.  Why do so many people on the Right hate Bill Clinton?

Setting aside the fact, which Mr. Hitchens may genuinely not comprehend, that conservatives actually take character seriously, he does have a point as regards Mr. Clinton's general surrender on the core provisions of the Contract with America.  And assuming, as the media and the Democrats were so fond of telling us, that the Republican class of '94 was the most rabidly Right-wing gang of vandals ever to stride the halls of Congress, then the degree to which the President accepted their platform would tend to suggest that he should be viewed as a conservative figure himself.

At any rate, that's Mr. Hitchen's take on things, and freed of any political stake in Mr. Clinton's presidency and legacy, the author lays into him with obvious relish, mincing no words about the long record of sexual assaults and subsequent intimidation of the victims that trailed the President from Arkansas to the Oval Office.  It remains the most remarkable feature of that horrific record that neither Bill Clinton, nor any of his hatchet men and women, could ever even muster the intestinal fortitude to deny that he raped Juanita Broaddrick.  And it remains an indelible stain on the much splattered escutcheon of Congressional Democrats that not a single one of them ever examined the evidence gathered by the Independent Counsel's office.

The whole mess is ripe for attack (what the Pentagon would call a target rich environment) and Mr. Hitchens wades in with the zeal of a true believer and the gusto of a gifted polemicist.  The book is rather underwritten and contains some glaring errors (like reducing Jackie Robinson's career to three years), but there's genius in the way he's framed his argument, in that it requires those who defend Bill Clinton to face the way in which his lack of moral character, as evinced in his criminal behavior and duplicity, parallels his lack of public character,  enabling him to shuck off liberal campaign promises (and, theoretically, beliefs) and embrace conservative programs, so long as they furthered his own career.  The "Triangulation" of the subtitle is, of course, the strategy that Dick Morris came up with, whereby Mr. Clinton treated both Democrats and Republicans as partisan goons, with himself as the reasonable, caring, selfless servant of the public, stuck in the middle.  Mr. Hitchens is, rightly, appalled that the American Left, of which he is a leading member, allowed itself to be used in such a self-serving manner by Bill Clinton.  Of course, for us Right-wingers, it's just fun watching the internecine bloodshed.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (B)

  

Websites:

See also:

Christopher Hitchens (2 books reviewed)
Politics
Presidents (Clinton)
Christopher Hitchens Links:

    -REVIEW ESSAY: Reactionary Prophet: Edmund Burke understood before anyone else that revolutions devour their youngÑand turn into their opposites: a review of Reflections On The Revolution In France: Edmund Burke, edited by Frank M. Turner (Christopher Hitchens, April 2004, The Atlantic Monthly)
    -ESSAY: The Rat That Roared: Jacques Chirac has a lot of Gaul. (CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, February 8, 2003, Wall Street Journal)
    EuropeÍs Status Quo Left: a review of Language, Politics, and Writing: Stolentelling in Western Europe By Patrick McCarthy (Christopher Hitchens , Foreign Policy)
    -INTERVIEW: The Power of Facing: Christopher Hitchens, the author of Why Orwell Matters, depicts George Orwell as a nonconformist who resolutely faced up to unpleasant truths ( Atlantic Unbound | October 23, 2002)
    -PROFILE: The Preacher: Christopher Hitchens (Ludovic Hunter-Tilney, June 6 2003, Financial Times)
    -ESSAY: Letter to an Ex-Contrarian (KATHA POLLITT, November 7, 2002, The Nation)
    -REVIEW: of On the Natural History of Destruction by W. G. Sebald (Christopher Hitchens, Atlantic Monthly)
    -REVIEW: of 'Captives' by Linda Colley and 'In Churchill's Shadow' by David Cannadine (Christopher Hitchens, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Byron: Life and Legend by Fiona McCarthy (Christopher Hitchens, October 2002, The Atlantic Monthly)
    Orwell and Us: The battle over George Orwell's legacy. : A review of Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens (David Brooks, 09/23/2002, Weekly Standard)
    -REVIEW: of Why Orwell Matters' by Christopher Hitchens (George Scialabba, Washington Post)
   
-REVIEW: of Why Orwell Matters (Cheryl Miller, Policy Review)
    -REVIEW: of Why Orwell Matters (Preston Jones, Books & Culture)
    -REVIEW: of Why Orwell Matters ( JOHN GIUFFO, Voice Literary Supplement)
   -REVIEW: of Why Orwell Matters (Luciano D'Orazio, Flak Magazine)     -BOOK SITE : No One Left to Lie To (Verso)
    -BOOK SITE : The Trial of Henry Kissinger
    -ARCHIVES : Salon.com Directory | Christopher Hitchens : A complete listing of Salon articles on Christopher Hitchens (Salon)
    -ARCHIVES : hitchens (Mother Jones)
    -ARCHIVES : Christopher Hitchens (Front Page)
    -ARCHIVES : "christopher hitchens" (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
    -ARCHIVES : "christopher hitchens" (Find Articles)
     -ARCHIVES : Christopher Hitchens (The Nation)
    -ARCHIVES : Christopher Hitchens (The Guardian)
    -ARCHIVES : Christopher Hitchens (NY Review of Books)
    -The Christopher Hitchens Web
    -AFFADAVIT : Hitchens Affidavit on Blumenthal Saturday, February 6, 1999
    -EXCERPT : from  No One Left to Lie To : War Dog
    -EXCERPT : Why has he got away with it? : Henry Kissinger is revered as a statesman, cosseted guest, star of the lecture circuit. He is also the one-time US Secretary of State who oversaw the destruction of civilian populations, the assassination of politicians and the kidnapping of those who got in his way - from Indochina to Cyprus, East Timor and, here, Chile. Christopher Hitchens lays the charges (February 24, 2001, The Guardian)
    -EXCERPT : The case against Henry Kissinger
    -EXCERPT : from Letters to a young contrarian : The spirit of 1968 may be a distant memory, but a new generation of radicals live in hope of making the world a better place. Christopher Hitchens offers them the wisdom of a seasoned campaigner (Christopher Hitchens, November 10, 2001, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY : The Ends of War (Christopher Hitchens, 12/17/01, The Nation)
    -ESSAY : Images in a Rearview Mirror (Christopher Hitchens, December 3, 2001, The Nation) Ý
    -ESSAY : Guess what, the bombing worked like a charm : The antiwar hand-wringers kept warning us of its perils. But as the Taliban despots flee Afghan cities, and their citizens cheer, the air war's stunning efficacy is clear for all to see (Christopher Hitchens, 11/14/01, Salon)
    -ESSAY : In case anyone's forgotten: torture doesn't work (Christopher Hitchens, November 14 2001, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY : Ha ha ha to the pacifists (Christopher Hitchens, November 14 2001, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY : Le Pouvoir Est Dans La Rue? (Christopher Hitchens, 11/19/01, The Nation)
    -ESSAY : Blaming Bin Laden First (Christopher Hitchens, 10/22/01, The Nation)
    -ESSAY : Against Rationalization (Christopher Hitchens, 10/08/01, The Nation)
    -EXCHANGE : Rationalization & Reason : Christopher Hitchens's October 8 Nation magazine column provoked a spate of mail, both pro and con, which led to Hitchens's elaboration for the Nation website, in which he took many progressives to task, including Noam Chomsky, for being soft on what he calls "Islamic Fascism." Chomsky then replied, and a further exchange ensued (The Nation)
    -ESSAY : Why the suicide killers chose September 11 (Christopher Hitchens, October 3, 2001 The Guardian)
    -ESSAY : Murder was their only motive  (Christopher Hitchens, September 26 2001, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY : Let's not get too liberal  (Christopher Hitchens, September 21 2001, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY : So is this war? (Christopher Hitchens, September 13 2001, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY : Farewell to the Helmsman (Christopher Hitchens, September 2001, Foreign Policy)
    -ESSAY : The Car: Mercedes SLK 320. The Address: Atherton, CA 94027. The Obligatory Proto-Capitalist Worldview: Ayn Rand
: Why so many high-tech executives have declared allegiance to Randian objectivism. (Christopher Hitchens, August 2001, Business 2.0)
    -ESSAY : Israel Shahak,  1933-2001(Christopher Hitchens, 23 July 2001, The Nation)
    -ESSAY : America's Dirty War on Drugs Ý(Christopher Hitchens, July 11, 2001, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY : Rogue Nation USA : Which country refuses to sign international treaties and ignores U.N. resolutions while demanding that everyone else play by the rules? You guessed it. (Christopher Hitchens May/June 2001, Mother Jones)
    -ESSAY : Leave No Child Behind? (Christopher Hitchens, May 28, 2001, The Nation)
    -ESSAY : THE CASE AGAINST HENRY KISSINGER (Christopher Hitchens, March 2001, Harper's)
    -ESSAY : Wiesel Words (Christopher Hitchens, 19 February 2001, The Nation)
    -ESSAY : Lots of Firsts : He showed us how low a president could go. (Christopher Hitchens, January 16, 2001, Wall Street Journal)
    -ESSAY  : The Great American Augie : Saul Bellow won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976, but the great novel that set him on the course for the prize had been published 23 years earlier, in 1953. The peripatetic hero of The Adventures of Augie March spoke in an idiom entirely new to American literature--an astonishing mix of the high-flown and the low-down. (Christopher Hitchens, Winter 2001, Wilson Quarterly)
    -ESSAY : Donít Blame Nader for Democratsí Problems (Christopher Hitchens, Wall Street Journal | November 15, 2000)
    -ESSAY : Why Dubya Can't Read (Christopher Hitchens, October 9, 2000, The Nation)
    -ESSAY : Is Hillary Clinton Eleanor Roosevelt? (Christopher Hitchens, American Enterprise, September 06 2000)
    -ESSAY : Good Bill? or Bill of Goods? : Two Left Takes on the Clinton Legacy (Mother Jones, September 01 2000 by Michael Kazin, Christopher Hitchens)
    -ESSAY : If Not Now... (Christopher Hitchens, July 2000, The Nation)
    -TRIBUTE : Joseph Heller (Christopher Hitchens, January 3, 2000, The Nation)
    -ESSAY :  Twisted v. Weird (Christopher Hitchens, 6 January 2000, London Review of Books)
    -ESSAY : You call this a free election? : The international community sends watchdogs to monitor foreign elections -- that's just what America needs in 2000. (Christopher Hitchens, Nov. 3, 1999, Salon)
    -ESSAY : Commentary's scurrilous attack on Edward Said : Enemies are calling him "the Palestinian Tawana Brawley," but Said's stories of displacement and diaspora are true. (Christopher Hitchens, Sept. 7, 1999, Salon)
    -ESSAY : Gov. Death : George W. Bush has presided over an execution in Texas almost every two weeks since his election. Why isn't that a campaign issue? (Christopher Hitchens, Aug. 7, 1999, Salon)
    -ESSAY : A good man, very fair, very witty, very loyal : While the world waits, Christopher Hitchens reflects on the life and career of John F. Kennedy Jr. (Christopher Hitchens, July 17, 1999, Salon)
    -ESSAY : "IT'S OUR TURN" : Swallowing the Lies of Bill Clinton (Christopher Hitchens, May 1999, American Enterprise)
    -ESSAY : Bloody blundering: Clinton's cluelessness is selling out Kosovo : If administration leaders really
expected NATO airstrikes to accelerate the carnage in Kosovo, they should be indicted for war crimes. (Christopher Hitchens, April 5, 1999 , Salon)
    -ESSAY : The question that won't go away : President Clinton's failure to address Juanita Broaddrick's charge of rape is indefensible. (Christopher Hitchens, 3/16/99, Salon)
    -EXCHANGE : Hitchens a Homophobe? : Mark Lilly and Christopher Hitchens on Hitchens and Homophobia--from the Letters colum of the London Review of Books: Letters: Volume 21 Number 4 (18 February 1999):
    -ESSAY : Clinton's Star Wars sequel : The president pays off the military by funding a notorious boondoggle. (Christopher Hitchens, 1/19/99, Salon)
    -ESSAY : Gentleman's agreement : A bipartisan agreement lets Clinton evade comment and action on the fate of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. By Christopher Hitchens, 12/09/98, Salon)
    -ESSAY : Monotheist Notes From All Over (Christopher Hitchens, October 19, 1998, The Nation)
    -ESSAY : Close but No Cigar Ý(Christopher Hitchens, October 5, 1998, The Nation)
    -ESSAY : Rushdie: Free at Last : Reason and decency have their occasional victories, too, and the lifting of the fatwah against the author of "The Satanic Verses" is one of them (Christopher Hitchens, 9/29/98, Salon)
    -ESSAY : From Niagra to Viagra : Man's greatest secret revealed! And with father's little helper, he's going to behave better from now on, right?   (Christopher Hitchens, 05/11/98, Salon)
    -ESSAY : The iron wall : Benjamin Netanyahu talks a lot about "security," but his actions show he's interested in no such thing (Christopher Hitchens, 04/13/98, Salon)
    -ESSAY : Remember Halabja :  If the U.S. really is concerned about Iraq's "Weapons of mass destruction," it has a funny way of showing it  (Christopher Hitchens, 03/02/98, Salon)
    -ESSAY : Telling a book by its cover :  Maybe someone's sex life is nobody business, but in President Clinton's case, it tells us what we need to know about the man  (Christopher Hitchens, 02/02/98, Salon)
    -ESSAY : Free at last? : Indonesia's economic crisis is good news. It may help end one of the worst ongoing cases of human rights abuses in the world: the repression of East Timor (Christopher Hitchens, 01/19/98, Salon)
    -ESSAY : They bomb pharmacies, don't they? : When Clinton really had to look "presidential" for a day, he simply launched cruise missiles against a sort of Arab version of Ken Starr (Christopher Hitchens, 9/23/98, Salon)
    -ESSAY : Bogus emotion and mass credulity : One year after Diana's death, people are finally beginning
to ask: What the hell was that all about? Ý(Christopher Hitchens, 8/31/98, Salon)
    -ESSAY : His material highness : Far from his holier-than-all image, the Dalai Lama supports such questionable causes as India's nuclear testing, sex with prostitutes and accepting donations from a Japanese terrorist cult (Christopher Hitchens, 7/13/98, Salon)
    -ESSAY : Brief Shining Moments : Donkey Business in the White House (Christopher Hitchens, 19 February 1998, London Review of Books)
    -ESSAY : p e n i s g a t e : OUR HIGHLY MORAL PRESIDENT IS BEING HOIST WITH HIS OWN JUST-SAY-NO PETARD. RAISE HIM HIGH! (Christopher Hitchens, 1/23/98, Salon)
    -ESSAY : The ayatollah who came in from the cold : Salman Rushdie has had it with Western writers who think it's his own fault that the Iranians are out to kill him. First up in the cross hairs: John Le Carré. (Christopher Hitchens, 12/04/97, Salon)
    -ESSAY : This land is our land : IRA HARDLINERS FACE TOUGH CHOICES (Christopher Hitchens, December 1997,
Salon)
    -ESSAY : Dick the Greek : Nixon was even worse than we thought (Christopher Hitchens, 11/10/97, Salon)
    -ESSAY : Oilman Roger Tamraz's testimony to the senate campaign finance committee was a lesson in how access and influence is purchased in president clinton's Washington. (Christopher Hitchens, 9/29/97, Salon)
    -ESSAY : Royals Flushed : Why Kitty Kelley's book on Britain's royal family has a lot of people upset. (Christopher Hitchens, 9/17/97, Salon)
    -ESSAY : THE HAUNTING OF THE HOUSE OF WINDSOR : In death, Diana will cause more problems for Britain's royal family than she ever did in life. (CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, 9/02/97, Salon)
    -ESSAY : Four Poems and a Funeral : From Elton John to William Blake, rhymes have been used -- and misused -- in the service of royalty. (Christopher Hitchens, September 1997, Salon)
    -ESSAY : Our American friend : Christopher Hitchens pays tribute to the late movie star James Stewart (7/11/97, Salon)
    -ESSAY : MEET THE NEW BOSS ... ... Same as the old boss? Or will Tony Blair be the man to drag Britain kicking and screaming into the modern world? (Christopher Hitchens, May 1997, Salon)
    -ESSAY : Hitler's Ghost (Christopher Hitchens, June 1996, Vanity Fair)
    -ESSAY : The Chorus and Cassandra (Christopher Hitchens, Autumn 1985, Grand Street)
    -ESSAY : Never Trust Imperialists (Especially When They Turn Pacifist) (Christopher Hitchens, December 1993/ January 1994 issue of Boston Review)
    -REVIEW : of A Republic, Not an Empire by Patrick J. Buchanan (Christopher Hitchens, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of Bellow: A Biography, by James Atlas (Christopher Hitchens, National Review)
    -REVIEW : of Ex-Friends by Norman Podhoretz (Christopher Hitchens, Harper's)

Book-related and General Links:

    -EDITORIAL : Fairness for Ken Starr (NY Times, April 5, 1998)
    -ESSAY : Starr Wars: The 21st Century (Michael Kelly, July 8, 1998, Washington Post)
    -ESSAY : The Glitterati Attack Ken Starr (Nat Hentoff, October 21, 1998, Village Voice)
    -ARCHIVES : Clinton Scandals (Front Page)

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