Images in a Rearview Mirror

By Hitchens, Christopher | The Nation, December 3, 2001 | Go to article overview

Images in a Rearview Mirror


Hitchens, Christopher, The Nation


I so distrust the use of the word zeitgeist, with all its vague implications of Teutonic meta-theory. But on Veterans Day I had to work full time on myself in order to combat the feeling of an epochal shift, in which my own poor molecules were being realigned in some bizarre Hegelian synthesis. I should perhaps confess that on September 11 last, once I had experienced all the usual mammalian gamut of emotions, from rage to nausea, I also discovered that another sensation was contending for mastery. On examination, and to my own surprise and pleasure, it turned out be exhilaration. Here was the most frightful enemy--theocratic barbarism--in plain view. All my other foes, from the Christian Coalition to the Milosevic Left, were busy getting it wrong or giving it cover. Other and better people were gloomy at the prospect of confrontation. But I realized that if the battle went on until the last day of my life, I would never get bored in prosecuting it to the utmost.

In this spirit, with scenes of jubilation breaking out all over Afghanistan as the Taliban slavemasters made a run for it, I went to a wake for the late Barbara Olson. It took the form of a posthumous book party for her excellent study of the Clinton looting and pardoning, which is serendipitously titled The Final Days. Barbara's own final day had come on the eleventh of September, when a faith-based death squad seized her plane and flew it with its captive passengers into the Pentagon. She managed to make two very composed calls to her husband, Solicitor General Theodore Olson. She was asking for advice on what to tell the pilot to do. We cannot know, but I prefer to think that there was at least a small struggle, and I am certain that if there was, she would have been part of it.

Her husband was there, as was David Boies, so we had the two chief lawyerly protagonists of the Florida recount. That morning's newspapers had published an exhaustive "virtual recount," which split the tie very slightly more in Bush's favor. I could just about bear to think about it one more time before it disappeared into the rearview mirror. (Remind me, though; why should I wish that Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman were at the helm these days?) At the end of the evening Messrs. Boies and Olson disappeared together, practically arm in arm, to attend the same charity fundraiser. Bipartisanship.

Barbara's book is brilliant and remorseless about the details of Clintonian criminality, but very wobbly ideologically. The evidence plainly shows the Clintons to have been abject tools of the less adorable wing of the plutocracy; the book persists in implying that Mrs. Clinton is a hardened Marxist, recruited to Stalinism when she interned for Bob Treuhaft, husband of Jessica Mitford, in 1972. I could never unconvince Barbara of this: I knew and loved Bob and Decca (and also knew what they thought about Stalinism, as well as about the Clintons). Just before the party began, I read of the death of Bob Treuhaft in New York. A superb eighty-nine innings in the battle for justice, and brave and lucid to the end. Such a guy.

In other words, fortitude and stoicism count for something in themselves, aside from any consideration of party or allegiance. …

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