The Jon Stewart-Christopher Hitchens dust-up from last Thursday has become something of a blogosphere cause celèbre, and plus Jon’s on vacation again so yes, we’re weighing in, albeit without our usual obsessive transcribing. Honey, sometimes we just can’t.
But also, sometimes we don’t want to; because, though it was a mesmerizing segment in which yes, Jon did kind of hand Hitchens his heinie, it nonetheless wasn’t the kind of segment I like to see. Why? Because it’s supposed to be a dialogue and Hitch and Jon kept talking over each other! It irrirtated me that Hitch was being all Mary Poppins-patronizing with long intros and quips, and irritated me that Jon wouldn’t let him speak, dammit – especially after imploring him to “help me understand why I am wrong about Iraq” – and then not letting him. Because Hitch had a lot to say, and Jon should have let him say it, even if it wasn’t what he wanted to hear.
But, you go to air with the debate you have (HA) and this was obviously a good one, even if it wasn’t conducted in accordance with the Robert’s Rules for which I yearn. And though Hitch was indeed very authoritative, particularly about pointing out that Iraq had legitimately satisfied the four possible justifiable conditions under which a state’s sovreignty may be challenged:
“One is repeated aggression against neighboring states. One is fooling around with a non-proliferation treaty. One is harboring gangsters and known international terrorists. And one is genocide, which if you signed the convention means you have to act (Ed. – not that it’s enforced in reality, obviously). Iraq had broken all four, more than once.”
…that is nonetheless a separate issue from what is going on now – and it was right that Jon addressed that. Because there’s why the war was started, and then there’s how it’s been executed. And it’s on this front that the administration loves to obfuscate and wave around September 11th so that we won’t see the tinfoil-plated humvees. Here’s a bit more transcript, from an unusually moved Wonkette:
Stewart: You hear people saying a lot of stupid [bleep]… But there are reasonable disagreements in this country about the way this war has been conducted, that has nothing to do with people believing we should cut and run from the terrorists, or we should show weakness in the face of terrorism, or that we believe that we have in some way brought this upon ourselves…[cuts Hitch off] They believe that this war is being conducted without transparency, without credibility, and without competence.
Hitch: I’m sorry, sunshine… I just watched you ridicule the president for saying he wouldn’t give –
Stewart: No. You misunderstood why… That’s not why I ridiculed the president. He 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.
Hitch: 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.
Hitch found out here that, at least when you’re on his set, it helps to have Jon on your side too. But I’d rather he be on my side and let me hear Hitch out so I could shoot him down myself. I know, I hold Jon up to ridiculously high standards. Is it my fault that he meets them so often?