Published on November 7th, 2016 | by Padraic Coffey0
Was Christopher Hitchens wrong about Hillary Clinton?
“A woman who has proved over and over that she cares nothing for their [liberals’] cherished ‘causes’ but will risk anything, say anything, pay any price, bear any burden, to get her family a big house and secure herself a high-profile job.”
This is what Christopher Hitchens wrote about Hillary Clinton in the second edition of his excoriating critique of her and her husband, No One Left to Lie To, published in 2000. The first edition of the book carried the subtitled The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton, and was primarily an indictment of the man who had occupied the White House for two terms, having defeated George H.W. Bush in 1992. However, in transitioning to paperback, and on the cusp of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s ascension to the position of Senator for New York (though being a native of Illinois), Hitchens broadened his scope of vision to include the First Lady’s complicity in what were seen as Bill Clinton’s endless catalogue of crimes.
Hitchens’ hatred – or, in his own words, “bottomless contempt” – for Bill Clinton is well documented, not only in No One Left to Lie To, but in his many media appearances both in the United States and in his native United Kingdom, where a documentary on his tour promoting No One Left to Lie To was broadcast in 2000. He took issue with Clinton’s ostensibly exploitative and predatory attitude to women, including the nursing home manager Juanita Broaddrick, who claimed to have been raped by the then-Governor of Arkansas in 1979, an act which Clinton himself has never publicly denied, aside from a carefully (or carelessly) worded statement from his lawyer, in which his name was not mentioned, only ‘the President… more than twenty years ago’. Hitchens, perhaps somewhat conspiratorially, suggests that ‘the President’ at that time was Jimmy Carter, who certainly hadn’t assaulted Broaddrick – or Hickey, as was her married name at the time.
Other condemnable offences of Clinton’s, in Hitchens’ eyes, were his bombing of a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, his personally supervised execution of a lobotomised black man, convicted of murder, and his many dalliances with Dick Morris, the spin doctor behind such race-baiting advertisements as those of North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms. One infamous Helms commercial claimed white workers were more qualified for certain jobs than ‘minorities’, but that affirmative action had made “the colour of your skin more important than your qualifications”, failing to note that it is possible both to be qualified for a job and a visible minority. Clinton eventually severed ties with Morris, but a great deal of No One Left to Lie To focuses on their reciprocal friendship, from which both benefited.
Nonetheless, in 2016, what would Hitchens have made of the US presidential election? We cannot know, and to pretend that we can is to betray a person’s own ignorance. We do know, however, that Hitchens’ was no fan of Donald Trump, describing him in 2000 as “a ludicrous figure… [who’s] worked out how to cover 90 per cent of his skull with 30 per cent of his hair.” Hitchens was the master of economically-worded put-downs, as when he wrote that the eyes of George W. Bush were “so close together he could get buy with a monocle”, something expressed before the 9/11 attacks and his subsequent support for the Bush administration and their interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. But what of Trump’s opponent? Would Hitchens’ have held his nose and voted for her, to avoid the election of a man who described the war in Iraq as “a catastrophe, nothing less”?
Let us examine again the points discussed in No One Left to Lie To concerning Hillary Clinton, to whom far fewer words are dedicated than her then-ubiquitous spouse. In the first edition of the book, Hitchens noted Hillary’s dismissal of former friend Dr. Lani Guinier, nominated head of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department before Bill Clinton removed her from that position for her allegedly ‘divisive’ writing on proportional representation. Guinier had been labelled as anti-white by the Republican party, despite her having suggested that the white minority in South Africa were in need of electoral protection after the end of apartheid. Hillary walked passed Guinier in the corridors of the White House, as Guinier’s public scapegoating was occurring, telling her that she was “half an hour late for a luncheon”. Neither of the Clintons came to Guinier’s defence at the time of her misrepresentation.
Similarly, Hillary had presented herself as being a reformist when it came to US healthcare, telling attendees in a speech in 1993 that “it is time for you and for every American to stand up and say to the insurance industry: ‘Enough is enough’.” Nevertheless, Hillary and Bill’s plan for healthcare reform led to a dominance of the four largest insurance companies – Aetna, Prudential, Met Life, and Cigna – with smaller companies muscled out of the competition. Robert Dreyfuss of Physicians for a National Health Program said at the time that “the Clintons are getting away with murder by portraying themselves as opponents of the insurance industry.”
There are also the documented examples of Hillary Clinton receiving vast swathes of money for her Senate campaign, in exchange for diplomatic appearances from her, or visits from her husband. Bill Clinton, while visiting India, had made it clear he would not be visiting Pakistan during his trip. However, an event for Pak-Pac – a Pakistani-American lobby group – was brought forward, and a $50,000 donation made to Hillary’s campaign, for which a letter was written by the former-First Lady, expressing her hope that Bill would, in fact, make it to Pakistan, despite it being led by dictator General Pervez Musharraf at the time. The visit subsequently took place, and Hillary and Bill’s willingness to accept money in exchange for political favours seemed as transparent as ever.
Hitchens laid out many other instances of Hillary’s collaboration with Bill’s questionable activities – including the hiring of the aforementioned Dick Morris as an adviser, and her participation in the slander of women said to be ‘involved’ with Bill (either through infidelities or sexual assaults). Hillary also claimed that she would “crucify” Gennifer Flowers, the woman whom Clinton claimed not to have slept with, a position he changed under oath in 1998. All of this was written in 2000, before Hillary Clinton was announced to become Secretary of State in 2008, which Hitchens described as “a ludicrous disgrace”. Surely, eight years on from that, Hitchens would have remained steadfastly against Hillary’s campaign to occupy the White House?
We cannot know, but there is enough reasonable evidence to suggest that he would have. Nonetheless, to suggest that Hitchens would have come out in support of Donald Trump in order to prevent Hillary Clinton from becoming President is more than a stretch. As Hitchens himself said, when debating those who argued that a belief that the universe was created logically led to the belief in an interventionist God, “the attempt to build from one to the other is a conjuring trick of a very vulgar, I think, kind”. Sam Harris, one of the four ‘horsemen’ of the New Atheism movement which included Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins, was a personal friend of Hitchens’, and is also a supporter of Hillary Clinton for the 2016 US presidential race. Harris highlighted a video from 2005 in which Hitchens outlined the circumstances in which he would support Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House:
“I don’t care who is the occupant of the White House in 2008 as long as they have made a promise to draw the line and say that Bin Ladenism or its surrogates will never take power in Iraq or retake it in Afghanistan… It is possible that there could be a Democrat who would say that and it’s even possible that it would be my least favourite Democrat, Mrs. Clinton – it’s possible – and that she could be held to it. In that case I’d happily give her my vote.”
In September 2016, Hillary Clinton told Matt Lauer of NBC that “the decision to go to war in Iraq was a mistake. And I have said that my voting to give President Bush that authority was, from my perspective, my mistake”. It’s unlikely her backtracking on this issue would have meshed well with Hitchens. Nonetheless, Sam Harris pointed out when discussing the clip from 2005, “one thing that I think is absolutely clear: insofar as I knew Hitch, and insofar as what he would have thought matters at all, he would have thought Trump was an unlettered dunce, as I do, and I can’t imagine him voting for him.”
Again, all of this is speculative. Hitchens may have voted for a third party candidate, though the likelihood that he would have voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson seems small, given Johnson’s cluelessness about the Middle East (“What is Aleppo?”, Johnson asked of the war-torn Syrian city, when pressed on what his Presidential policy would be). Hitchens may even have abstained from voting, as he told Peter Slen in 2007, “People say ‘think of all the struggles, sacrifices [for the right to vote]’. These include my right to abstain.”
Regardless, the world of political journalism is certainly lesser for having lost Hitchens to esophageal cancer in 2011, and his always riveting literary and oratory skills would have been a boon when navigating the sludge of this year’s US presidential election.