A gaggle of prominent scribes including Tina Brown, Harold Evans, and Politico’s Mike Allen got a scare Saturday night when they found themselves briefly trapped in an elevator struggling to climb seven floors to Slate’s star-studded party at the D.C. apartment of Christopher Hitchens. (“The big politician from Memphis got in,” Evans later explained, referring to Representative Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat. “And that was too much.”) Allen, talking to us and later writing in his daily Playbook, credited Evans and Michael Tomasky with prying open the doors “through sheer brawn.” But that night it was Hitchens himself, naturally, who got the most worked up.
Inside, Hitchens opined on whether the Obama administration should answers calls from the left to prosecute Bush administration officials for illegal interrogation of prisoners: “As long as it’s agreed that these steps were taken in response to public demand,” he began, only to be interrupted by Andrew Sullivan, who greeted him with a hug and a kiss. “I want tongue. Give me tongue,” Hitchens implored, to no avail. “No, I’m not giving you tongue,” Sullivan replied, feigning astonishment. “Let the record show: Sullivan wouldn’t give tongue,” Hitchens replied. (“He’s gayer than I am!” Sullivan later told us.)
Continuing his discourse on torture policy, Hitchens then claimed that the Bush administration’s commitment to harsh interrogation techniques, which he considers torture, derived from a desire among Americans for a more “ruthless” government. “It has to be admitted by every American that in the majority after the 9/11 Commission, people wanted an administration that was much more ruthless than the one they’d had on September the 10th,” he said.
“I know something for a sure thing,” Hitchens continued. “The demand for torture and other methods I would describe as illegal, the demand to go outside the Geneva conventions — all this came from below. What everyone wants to say is this came from a small clique around the vice-president. It’s not educational. It doesn’t enlighten anyone to behave as if that were true. This is our society wanting and demanding harsh measures.” Therefore, he went on, the demand for prosecution or other measures against Bush administration officials would likewise have to come from below, via the grassroots. “Otherwise it’s just vengeful, I suppose, and partisan.”
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