Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Pissedopher Hitchens, a couple weeks ago, very disappointed in the lack of civility, the crudeness, the total degradation zOMG:

[A]n obviously shocked Mr. Hari tried for a change of pace and asked Vidal if he felt like saying anything about his recently deceased rivals, John Updike, William F. Buckley Jr., and Norman Mailer. He didn’t manage to complete his question before being interrupted. “Updike was nothing. Buckley was nothing with a flair for publicity. Mailer was a flawed publicist, too, but at least there were signs every now and then of a working brain.” One sadly notices, as with the foregoing barking and effusions, the utter want of any grace or generosity, as well as the entire absence of any wit or profundity. Sarcastic, tired flippancy has stolen the place of the first, and lugubrious resentment has deposed the second. Oh, just in closing, then, since Vidal was in London, did he have a word to say about England? “This isn’t a country, it’s an American aircraft carrier.” Good grief.

Pissedopher Hitchens yesterday:

Al Haig was a neurotic narcissist with an unquenchable craving for power.... "Nobody has a higher opinion of General Alexander Haig than I do," I once wrote. "And I think he is a homicidal buffoon." ...Indeed, the bulk of Haig's awful political career was an example of banana-republic principles and the related phenomenon of an overambitious man in uniform who mastered the essential art of licking the derrières of those above him while simultaneously (see above) bullying and menacing those below.... His manically authoritarian personality frightened even many on the right... and his career was one of contempt for democracy at home and abroad. From his squalid life one can learn to detect the diseased symptoms of Caesarism and the urgency of combating it.

And here's Hitchens from a good while back:

The stupidity of Ronald Reagan.... I only saw him once up close, which happened to be when he got a question he didn't like. Was it true that his staff in the 1980 debates had stolen President Carter's briefing book? (They had.) The famously genial grin turned into a rictus of senile fury: I was looking at a cruel and stupid lizard.... Ronald Reagan was neither a fox nor a hedgehog. He was as dumb as a stump. He could have had anyone in the world to dinner, any night of the week, but took most of his meals on a White House TV tray. He had no friends, only cronies. His children didn't like him all that much. He met his second wife—the one that you remember—because she needed to get off a Hollywood blacklist and he was the man to see.

The only thing wrong with any of this -- a feast of crude truths -- is Hitchens's hypocrisy. And BTW, Vidal, age 85, was speaking impromptu; Hitchens, whose liver may be 85 but the rest of him is 60ish, took the time to craft his wonderfully graceless, ungenerous, snotty remarks on the recently deceased. Hitchens would like you to think he's disappointed in Vidal's tone, but it's a classic heads I win, tails you lose set-up. Had Vidal beautifully and baroquely slagged, say, Buckley, with purple flying all over the place, Hitchens would have concentrated on condemning the bitterness and florid mean-spiritedness in the older man's heart. Since Vidal insulted Buckley generically, Hitchens is free to play -- and does play -- the "bitter and witless" card.