A disheveled Christopher Hitchens caused a flurry last night on MSNBC’s Hardball program, compered by Chris Matthews, by describing Richard Armitage, Colin Powell’s long-term aide at the Pentagon and State Department as “his bitch”. In homosexual argot, “bitch” is a somewhat contemptuous term for the “female” partner in a gay relationship. The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang defines this usage briskly as “a male homosexual who plays the female role in copulation”.
Viewers on Wednesday night first saw Matthews talking about Powell’s reservations about the war in Iraq, in the context of the possibility of an attack on Iran. Then the camera shifts to a trim-looking Evan Thomas:
Thomas: “He (Powell) wasn’t against the war. He was against doing the war right then. If you talk to Richard Armitage — his aide, they were ready to go to war — they just didn’t want to do it that year…”
From off camera came a slurred voice:
Hitchens: “his aid? (garbled) … his bitch you mean.”
The camera then turns to a seedy, corpulent figure with a five-day shadow and a shirt that had seen extended service. This heap of bohemian flotsam , it emerged, was Hitchens.
Matthews (startled): “His what?”
Hitchens (still slurred): “His bitch, why aren’t you, why are you calling Colin Powell a good soldier …”
In subsequent replays Matthews edited out Hitchens’ description.
It seems likely there will be a hiatus in MSNBC’s relationship with Hitchens. His description of Armitage’s role, as Powell’s assistant, had some metaphorical resonance, but even in these days of robust public name-calling the networks don’t care to have a former deputy secretary of state publicly identified as a catamite.
Of course it takes one to know one. Hitchens’ journalistic role these days is to act as Dick Cheney’s bitch with an energetic fervor that Armitage could only envy.
He probably does not dwell too lengthily on these aspects of his past in briefings with Cheney’s aides, but Hitchens in former times would dwell in detail on his own personal services to Tom Driberg, a British Labor MP of notoriously gay preferences, of whom Winston Churchill once said, “Driberg, Driberg, isn’t he the man bringing sodomy into disrepute?”