You gotta love Jimmy Carter. Not man enough to face Fidel Castro one on one, he drags Rosalynn along to their meetings. She's all the security he needs.
Currently Carter is happily undercutting Bush administration policy. But he's been playing this game since at least 1981, when, bitter about losing the presidency in 1980 (evidently convinced it was stolen from him), he set out to undermine the policy of his successor. As one reporter later described his activity:
More unpleasant still was a letter Carter wrote ... to members of his former cabinet and senior staff, which he made public. Carter accused Reagan of a "one-sided attitude of belligerence toward the Soviet Union" that would "severely damage our own reputation as a peaceloving people." The leaked letter was vintage Carter: blunt, self-righteous, determined, and treacherous. He would soon follow with more of the same...
But Carter did more than snipe at Reagan from his outpost in Plains, unusual enough for an ex-president. He undertook quasi-diplomatic missions without the consent of the U.S. government, indeed often in derogation of the sitting president. Whether or not one agrees with the policies of a particular president, this is reprehensible behavior. The 1798 Logan Act, in fact, expressly proscribes private citizens from negotiating with foreign nations. Carter added insult to injury, the record shows, by deceitfully manipulating both sides in such negotiations, including his own government, and lying to the press....
There's a lot more in the piece from which the above is taken, including insights into Carter's travels to North Korea or Syria, his cozying up to the Sandinistas, and, perhaps most infamously, his letters "to members of the U.N. Security Council, including the Soviet Union, urging them to vote against the U.S. position on the Persian Gulf war."
At last report, the author of the Carter story, David Brock, has not disowned this particular piece of work. Entitled "Jimmy Carter's Return," it ran in the December 1994 issue of The American Spectator. It was such an impressive investigation that Carter's own biographer Douglas Brinkley sent Brock a long, detailed, multi-paged nit-picking critique in response (which he brushed aside).
Later, Brinkley would make a jackass of himself by parading as a close confidant of John F. Kennedy, Jr. after Kennedy's death. As for Brock, he'd go on to behave not unlike the Jimmy Carter he'd described, and as such to become the target of well-deserved ridicule.
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. had the last word on Carter's presidency when in early 1981 he famously bade farewell to "the Wonderboy's now shrunken and anile figure [as it] departs 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue." Now comes Christopher Hitchens, with the last word on the current edition of David Brock, whose recent memoir left him wanting "to take an extra shower after trudging through this dismally written, pick-nose, spiteful and furtive little book." Has any writer ever concocted a more appropriate modifier than "pick-nose"?
A friend complained that Hitchens should have written his piece months ago. I disagree. Early on it would have been lost in the shuffle. Bruce Bawer's devastating review last March was easily counter-balanced by more favorable readings in lefty outlets. Hitchens's piece is effective in part because it appeared in one of those outlets, the Nation, thus causing huge consternation and scurrying among those who thought the Brock matter settled. Once Hitchens steps on an anthill, it doesn't get rebuilt.
Sure enough, the reaction of Brock's agents at MediaWhoresOnline.com to Hitchens was panicky. They urged readers to call for Hitchens' head in mass e-mailings to the Nation's editor and denounced him as a drunk and purported defender of Holocaust revisionism. To paraphrase one of Hitchens' choice observations, the defamation game is all that these creeps know.
More interestingly, Matt Drudge, who had understandably ignored Judas Brock's book until now, broke his silence by linking to Hitchens' piece. Good writing is always the best revenge.
For what Hitchens did was remind readers of the importance of literary imagination. Like Bawer, he saw right through Brock's posturings, mendacity, and flimsy arguments. So he let him have it. "Who is such a sap as to take the word of such a person?" he asks. "...Referring to the anti-Semitism of a famous conservative, [Brock] cites what might be a joke in poor taste and says it was 'one of her gentler remarks.' What, couldn't he have cited a more damning one?"
Hitchens is such a good writer that it's really not fair to quote him in anything shorter than full paragraphs. But sometimes we're also reminded that Hitchens has to write for a living. No doubt Vanity Fair, to which he contributes each month, pays him more than the Nation does. Which perhaps explains why the latest VW includes a piece under his byline that doesn't sound like Hitchens at all. The Hotline last week had a field day quoting from Hitchens puff to John Edwards, the North Carolina presidential hopeful. Could Hitchens of all people have really suggested that Edwards at his inauguration will tell Americans to "ask not what you country can do for you..."? The article pretty much reads like a press release from Edwards' office or from his friends at the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. It's as if Hitchens for the first time in his life wrote something without the help of his teeth:
"After only three years in the Senate, he is already one of his party's point men on both of these crucial and popular matters.... a better comparison might be to the southern world of John Grisham, where attorneys are not small-town crusaders but big-name players in their own right....By now my wife and I have seen a certain amount of the Edwardses....Elizabeth worries that the house isn't child-friendly enough, but it seem pretty child-friendly to me. I saw Emme Claire and John Atticus having their bath, and they are as cute and towheaded as could possibly be."
Is this the same Hitchens who once beheaded the Windsors? And is this the same Edwards who bombed the other week on "Meet the Press," talking out of four sides of his mouth and making it clear to all the world that he in no way can live up to his hype? The week before the New Yorker had done a profile as friendly as Hitchens's, and a lot less curious, with nary a detail about Edwards's Senate activity and no insight into his fabled trial-lawyer career.
About the only thing that made the New Yorker piece memorable was the sketch art on its opening page, in which the goofily grinning, toothy fellow in the drawing could easily be mistaken for ... Jimmy Carter.