Hitchens and Sullivan On CNN (Video)

Christopher Hitchens and Andrew Sullivan were on CNN’s “Situation Room” yesterday discussing the election, the war in Iraq, and other issues. Omri Ceren sets the scene nicely:

Within thirty seconds of the interview, Hitchens has corrected the interviewer twice. Within a minute and a half, he has used words and concepts that the interviewer patently does not understand. By the middle of the interview, Hitch and Sully more or less give up on the interviewer and start just having a conversation with each other

Heres’ the video:

Regardless of whether you agree with these men, they are superb debaters who articulate their ideas well. It’s a shame that the level of our political discourse so seldom rises to this level.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    That neither is a native-born American may have something to do with it. For some reason political discourse in this country seems to have become something that’s not done in polite company. Like discussing religion and for similar reasons.

  2. LaurenceB says:

    To Dave Schuler’s comment I would add that it seems to me that these kind of TV appearances are much, much better when they showcase non-affiliated pundits, as opposed to those that reliably spew Democratic or Republican talking points. Sullivan and Hitchens can both be reliably counted upon to speak what they see as the truth, regardless of party or ideology.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Dave: Could be. The British education system, at least at elite levels, seems to emphasize rhetoric a lot more than its American counterpart. And, of course, Hitchens and Sullivan are damned smart.

    Laurence: True that. Of course, it’s a hell of a lot harder to get booked on those shows if you’re not a reliable red meat hack.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    After listening to the discussion in full it’s clear (at least to me) that neither man has a visceral understanding that the President of the United States combines the role of Britain’s Prime Minister with that of Britain’s monarch and Americans’ attitudes towards the presidency is colored by that understanding.

    I think that Bush deserves plenty of criticism but I also think he’s terribly ill-served by his advisors and to a degree that’s intrinsic to the presidency.

  5. legion says:

    Gah. I’m at work now & can’t pull video through the firewall. Just who is this poorly-chosen interviewer, anyway?

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Paula Zahn.

  7. Andrew starts out by calling the president mentally incompetent, saying that this isn’t an election but an intervention. Perhaps Andrew’s ideas are articulated well, but they are still crap. I don’t particularly believe Andrew gets extra credit for polishing his turds. On the other hand, I do pay a great deal more attention to the criticism’s offered by Mr. Hitchens.

  8. Billy says:

    Best debate I’ve seen in a long time – perhaps the pundits should be required to actively dislike all sides of the political spectrum before they’re allowed on the air. At least then we get some honest discourse.

  9. Christopher says:

    “Hitchens and Sullivan are damned smart”?!? They are two of the biggest idiots I’ve ever seen. And BIG surprise! they are on CNN!! lol

    Hitchens is so full of himself I’m surprised they had a TV screen big enough for his head. When someone tells u they are not conservative or lib or have any ideology, run! Run away FAST! They are basically saying that in addition to being an idiot, they are spineless as well.

  10. Anderson says:

    For some reason political discourse in this country seems to have become something that’s not done in polite company.

    People have no clue how to argue or disagree. JJ is right to note the absence of instruction in rhetoric, which probably goes to the roots of the American character — we are supposed to be the naive woodsmen and farmers, innocent of rhetoric.

    I think that Bush deserves plenty of criticism but I also think [1] he’s terribly ill-served by his advisors and [2] to a degree that’s intrinsic to the presidency.

    The [1] part makes little sense to me — Bush could fire/ignore those advisors, but won’t, no matter how wrong they prove to be. Even I can bash Rumsfeld only for so long, before acknowledging that he evidently is doing what Bush wants him to do.

    As for [2], it seems the sentence lost a word somewhere — are you saying that being so ill-served by one’s advisors as Bush is, is intrinsic to the office of President in general?

  11. Wayne says:

    How can you call it a good debate when only one side is given?

    It seems like the same CNN Bush bashing group hug. Both even defended Kerry and his obvious military bashing statement.

  12. legion says:

    The problem with Bush’s advisors is a self-perpetuating cycle… when you have a senior executive who’s notorious for reacting poorly to bad news and even respectful disagreement, and a public policy that demands absolute lock-step agreement on all points, you run off anyone with the intellectual honesty to point out any missteps. Bush’s own gut reactions are immediately reinforced by smiling yes-men, without any new information ever entering the picture – is it any wonder he always looks so surprised when someone disagrees with him?

  13. legion says:

    And while I don’t have a lot of respect for either Hitch or Sully intellectually, putting Paula Zahn in to moderate those two is like sending Urkel in to referee an Ali-Frazier bout…

  14. Wayne says:

    Watch the military reception that Rumsfeild or Bush get anytime they pay the military a visit. Clinton never received such enthusiastic reception. The military knows who is doing a good job. Oh, I forgot we are too stupid to know better.