Media Blog

Hitchens vs. Stewart Reconsidered

Christopher Hitchens has a widely discussed piece in the Weekly Standard reminding us why we’re in Iraq, and wondering why the President is struggling to convince the nation that Casey Sheehan did indeed give his life for a noble cause. There was a lot of gleeful chatter around the left-wing blogosphere about Hitchens interview with Jon Stewart, in which Stewart appeared to have scored a few points against Hitchens. But after watching the interview and reading Hitchens’ piece, it’s clear that the piece anticipated the arguments that Stewart made. For instance, Stewart apparently beat Hitchens in the following exchange:

Stewart: [President Bush] refuses to answer questions from adults as though we were adults and falls back upon platitudes and phrases and talking points that does a disservice to the goals that he himself shares with the very people needs to convince.
Hitchens: You want me to believe you’re really secretly on the side of the Bush administration?
Stewart: I secretly need to believe he’s on my side. He’s too important and powerful a man not to be.

But here’s Hitchens in the WS piece (which was written before the Stewart interview):

So deep and bitter is the split within official Washington, most especially between the Defense Department and the CIA, that any claim made by the former has been undermined by leaks from the latter…
There’s no cure for that illusion, but the resulting bureaucratic chaos and unease has cornered the president into his current fallback upon platitude and hollowness. [emphasis added]

So Stewart’s “booyah” moment doesn’t look so glorious after all. I agree with Hitchens and David Frum and others that the President needs to do a better job of countering Sheehan’s “insurgency at home” (Frank Rich’s words, not mine). But that doesn’t mean that the case can’t be made. A lot of Bush’s critics in the media (like Stewart) immediately jump to that conclusion. Hitchens’ article demonstrates otherwise.

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