Tuesday, October 26, 2004

INSIDE CRICKET. Christopher Hitchens is a very smart man, but you don't see much of that intelligence turned toward the Bush cause in his ostensible endorsement -- it's really just a column-length nyah-nyah at his old comrades on the Left --
...I can't wait to see President Kerry discover which corporation, aside from Halliburton, should after all have got the contract to reconstruct Iraq's oil industry. I look forward to seeing him eat his Jesse Helms-like words, about the false antithesis between spending money abroad and "at home" (as if this war, sponsored from abroad, hadn't broken out "at home")... I assume that he has already discerned the difference between criticizing the absence of postwar planning and criticizing the presence of an anti-Saddam plan to begin with. I look forward, in other words, to the assumption of his responsibility...
It may at first seem odd that Hitchens has so meticulously envisioned the opposite result of his endorsement as -- very like the result he claims to prefer.
"Anybody But Bush"--and this from those who decry simple-mindedness--is now the only glue binding the radical left to the Democratic Party right. The amazing thing is the literalness with which the mantra is chanted. Anybody? Including Muqtada al-Sadr? The chilling answer is, quite often, yes. This is nihilism....
Why, yes, I suppose it would be. What then might we call an essay calling for the election of a President based on personal pique?

Marketing, I think. Endorsements are supposed to be about moving votes -- especially if there is a pretense of independence (as is routinely made by newspaper editorial boards in October) on the part of the giver; Daschle endorsing Kerry is a bore, but Zell Miller's nod is worth a trip to Madison Square Garden. Yet Hitchens, a well-advertised Own Man, seems thoroughly disinterested in any electoral effect his endorsement might have -- and keenly interested in its effect on his reputation as a maverick. "Myself, I have made my own escape from your self-imposed quandary," Hitchens taunts his old pals in closing. "Believe me when I say that once you have done it, there's no going back... I shall be meeting some of you again, I promise, and the fraternal paw will still be extended."

The set-up is painfully obvious. If Kerry wins, nothing much will change. If Bush wins, ditto. In either case Hitchens will be saying he told us so. A better way to go than in the tow of Tweedledee or that of Tweedledum is out of the question -- "that deep-breath third-party vote... of the sort that has tortured some Nation readers ever since they just couldn't take Humphrey over Nixon" is a sucker's bet, at least in the game Hitchens is playing.

I will say that this should do more for Hitchens' prospects than Andrew Sullivan's version of the outrider schtick will do for his. But like I said, Hitchens is a very smart man.

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