I suppose that if you have a weblog, you can’t spend all evening with Christopher Hitchens, the political journalist and author, and not write about it. So I’m going to go ahead and write about it, since Hitchens has generated so much interest lately with his harshly negative review of Fahrenheit 9/11 in Slate.
Hitchens was passing through St. Louis and was having dinner with three friends of mine. I was a last-minute tagalong. Even so, the evening lasted about ten hours, which gave us plenty of time for conversation, most of it about the war in Iraq. There were also detours for these topics: atheism, anti-theism, Gore Vidal, Michael Moore, Fahrenheit 9/11, documentary film-making, Iraqi dissidents, and much more.
Hitchens has a powerful mind and if you are talking about things he knows about, such as politics, he’s not afraid to tell you in a very strong way that you’re wrong even if you happen to be his host. I’d describe most of the group as opposed to the war in Iraq, and the conversation grew very heated at times. (Hitchens, a defender of Ahmad Chalabi, supports the war; his views on this point are a matter of public record.) Hitchens seemed to greatly enjoy the frenzied debate; meanwhile, I enjoyed his wit. His idea of a concession was to say, “That’s nearly half right.” When one of my friends angrily scolded him for calling one of his arguments “moronic,” Hitchens calmly replied, “Even if I had had such a thought, I would never have expressed it that way.” It made the rest of us laugh, including the target of the jab.
There wasn’t any talk about law or lawyers or law-related issues like tort reform—it was almost exclusively about the politics of the Iraq war—so Hitchens had the benefit of being on his own territory the entire night. We spent a little time talking about literature, the arts, and writing, in which Hitchens is also well-versed, and I would have greatly enjoyed more of that, but my friends in their bullying way were always bringing the conversation back to Iraq. It seemed to me that we were repeatedly covering the same ground, but hey, that's what conversation with my friends is like. And they're still my friends.
At the beginning of the evening, Hitchens made a request that we break from our drinking on the patio at 10 p.m. to watch the convention speeches by John Edwards and his family. But he had his time zones mixed up, and no one corrected him, and when we went to the TV at ten, we’d missed the event. After that, we went to dinner.
We didn't wrap things up until 3 a.m. All that time with Christopher Hitchens, and I forgot to ask him to be a guest blogger on Legal Underground.