Christopher Hitchens is a fine writer, and on rare occasions, a reflective thinker – when he avoids hurling words as weapons and distorting facts like the fascist he must be in his heart of hearts. Today, he managed to avoid his militant fascist thought in discussing John McCain’s temper:
One reason that I try never to wear a tie is the advantage that it so easily confers on anyone who goes berserk on you. There you are, with a ready-made noose already fastened around your neck. All the opponent needs to do is grab hold and haul. A quite senior Republican told me the other night that he’d often seen John McCain get attention on the Hill in just this way. Not necessarily hauling, you understand, but grabbing. Again, one hopes that the nominee has been doing this for emphasis rather than as a sign that he is out of his pram, has lost his rag, has gone ballistic, has reported into the post office that he’s feeling terminally disgruntled today. (Or, as P.G. Wodehouse immortally put it, if not quite disgruntled, not exactly gruntled, either.)
Thomas Jefferson used to note of mild George Washington that there were moments of passionate rage in which “he cannot govern himself.” We often forgive what we imagine, to use Orwell’s words about Charles Dickens, are the moments when someone is “generously angry.” Yet how are we to be sure that we can tell the hysterical tantrum from the decent man’s wrath? The answer ought to be that we cannot know in advance of a presidency what causes people to become choleric, so anger management is yet another name—and yet another reason—for the separation of powers.