Hitchens on I.F. Stone

In Vanity Fair, Hitchens reviews Myra MacPherson’s biography of the great I.F. Stone, All Governments Lie! The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I. F. Stone and the companion collection The Best of I. F. Stone.

Here is the kind of convention coverage you do not read anymore, will not read again, and have to be quite old even to remember. An unobtrusive freelancer, equipped only with hearing aid, notebook, and Coke-bottle glasses, was squinting and cupping his hand at the G.O.P.’s Nixonian cheerfest in Miami Beach in 1968:

“It was hard to listen to Goldwater and realize that a man could be half Jewish and yet sometimes appear to be twice as dense as the normal gentile. As for Agnew, even at a convention where every speech seemed to outdo the other in wholesome clichés and delicious anticlimaxes, his speech putting Nixon into nomination topped all the rest. If the race that produced Isaiah is down to Goldwater and the race that produced Pericles is down to Agnew, the time has come to give the country back to the WASPs.”

This could have been H. L. Mencken or Murray Kempton on his best day, but it was written by the great Isador Feinstein, always called “Izzy” but in 1937 amending his byline to I. F. Stone. This unusual American humanist didn’t really believe in “race” at all, could easily have quoted at length from both Isaiah and Pericles, sometimes in the original, and, as you readily see, could in a wry way make you laugh.

In the review, Hitchens makes a remarkable claim:

MacPherson makes the slightly glib assumption—as do the editors of the excellent companion volume, The Best of I. F. Stone—that, if he were around today, Izzy would be as staunchly anti-war and anti-Bush as she is. Having known him a bit, I am not so absolutely sure. That he would have found the president excruciating is a certainty. But he had a real horror of sadistic dictators, and would not have confused Slobodan Milosevic or Saddam Hussein with the Vietcong…Finally, I think he would have waited for some more documents to surface, and helped unearth them himself, before making any conclusive judgments about weapons programs or terror connections in Iraq.