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Christopher Hitchens, like fellow Slater Michael Kinsley, runs through the remaining field of Democratic contenders, giving his estimates along the way.

On Howard Dean:

I claim no prescience for predicting the implosion of Howard Dean: He was obviously very lucky to get as far as the governorship of Vermont.

On John Kerry:

John Kerry should decide whether he's a moral hero for fighting in a futile and filthy war against the Vietnamese revolution, or for protesting against that war. Can I guess from his demeanor which of the two was his "noble cause"? No. Shouldn't I know by now? Yes, I should, since it's not evident at this relatively late date whether or not he's proud of voting to remove Saddam Hussein. As with most senior Democrats, Kerry's revolving-door record with lobbyists and donors is one to make Cheney and Bush look like amateurs: As with all Democratic primary seasons there is an agreement to forget this collectively in the interests of "change."

And he seems to like John Edwards the best:

A couple of years ago I wrote a profile of Sen. John Edwards for Vanity Fair and decided that he is a good man who is in politics for good reasons. He voted for the essential measures on Iraq, but has also made some trenchant criticisms of the Homeland Security farce. I'd add to this that he has since—unlike Joseph Lieberman, say—given up his very promising Senate career in order to run. I leave to you the calculations about his Southern roots, his trial-lawyer connections, and all the rest of it, except to say that he earned his money from fighting large and negligent corporations rather than from fawning on them.

Good last point...but Hitchens notes that Edwards "voted for the essential measures on Iraq". Presumably he means that Edwards voted correctly for the war. But Edwards voted against money for reconstruction, which was essential. I refuse to ignore this little switchback, because it's symptomatic of the Democratic field. Dean rode the polls high by criticizing the war, and both Edwards and Kerry have tried to distance themselves from actually voting for it by, oh, voting against money for reconstruction. I could at least have a certain amount of respect for their convictions if they'd voted against both, or even voting against the war, but approving the money to clean it up. But to vote for a war, but not its reconstruction? That's just strikes monumentally of political opportunism and moral decrepitude.

Oh, how I wish there were a decent, strong third party that were for abortion with restrictions, didn't care who got married to whom, wanted to outlaw handguns, wanted to keep illegal drugs illegal, was for a strong separation of church and state, had a sane public health policy, was for smaller government, was for fewer entitlements, actually talked about Social Security, was strong on defense, and took the war on terrorism seriously.

But there's not.

So I'm in the same camp as Hitchens this fall:

I'm a single-issue person at present, and the single issue in case you are wondering is the tenacious and unapologetic defense of civilized societies against the intensifying menace of clerical barbarism.

Yes. Nobody more clearly defines this conflict better than Hitchens. North Korea is huge problem, no doubt. But the greatest threat and widest conflict is the global struggle against fundamentalist fascism. Liberals, it seems to me, tend to treat 9/11 as an isolated criminal act, rather than what it was: the single bloodiest day in a long, difficult war.

We're fighting fascism cloaked in religiosity, and it is in many ways an amorphous conflict because the adversaries are not state-based, but loosely-knit, decentralized aggregates spread out across the world. They also have emotional, moral, and some financial support from a large number of people in countries ruled by corrupt autocracies. They are an outgrowth of a dysfunctional region of the world, and part of fighting terrorism is trying to actively deal with that dysfunction.

As Hitchens points out, Bush has a simple-minded message when it comes to Middle East policy: more freedom. You may disagree with the policy, or the means, but I would rather hear such platitudes, attempted with the blunt club of war, than stomach the squishy denial and incoherence of the rhetoric from the other side of the fence.

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