Posted Tuesday, July 18, 2000

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The Eternal Dilemma

AT Conrad Black's (Canadian newspaper tycoon and owner of the Telegraph group that includes The Spectator) annual summer garden party for royals, politicians, writers and a few socialites, I spot James Rubin and his wife Christiane Amanpour. Rubin sticks out from the crowd because he's the only poseur present, a phony, a smiling wallet-lifter among the great and the good.

There is nothing quite like a soft summer London evening in an extraordinarily beautiful house with tens of liveried butlers serving champagne. There are beautiful young women like Allanah Weston and Nicola Formby and Katie Braine, and very wise and learned men like Sir John Keegan, Paul Johnson, Lord Thomas, Lord Rees-Mogg and so on. There is Sir Tom Stoppard, England's greatest playwright, and Lady Anne Somerset, a beautiful historian. There is the King of Greece and Lady Annunziata Asquith, and Princess Alexandra of Kent. There is Prince Andrew, thick as a plank, and responsible for the Fergie fiasco, but still a man who flew helicopter missions for his country during the Falklands War. There is Prince Michael of Kent, even thicker than his nephew, and his pushy and greedy wife, Marie-Christine.

There is Hans Coudenhove, introduced to me by David Pryce-Jones, the esteemed writer who is Jewish, as the youngest Panzer commander in the last great war. Coudenhove was in the Second Panzer Division, described by Pryce-Jones as, "the most gallant and cleanest division [of Nazi elements] in the Wehrmacht."

Website pictures: Christopher Hitchens (left), Blumenthal

Hitchens, BlumenthalDESPITE our host being a newspaper tycoon, there are very few journalists present. Unlike in America, in Blighty members of the Fourth Estate are considered only one step above child molesters and one down from pimps. This is why Rubin sticks out. He's got the TV talking-head look, the shameless gimmickry of false earnestness hiding the arrogance of the shallow. For a moment it crosses my mind to go over to tell him what I think of him (a liar on a par with Sid the Scumbag Blumenthal), but of course I do nothing of the sort. It is very bad manners to embarrass one's host, so I unburden myself to England's greatest brain, Paul Johnson, and leave it at that.

When I arrive home it is dawn, so I call up George Szamuely in New York and announce that I beat the shit out of Rubin. Szamuely is exultant, screaming with delight until I tell him the truth. He hangs up in despair and disappointment. It's the eternal dilemma. Should one act in a civilized manner toward people whose mendacity has no bounds?

Well, a certain candidate for senator for NewYork has lied throughout her life, and she's favored to win in November. The man who holds the highest office in the land has lied throughout his life, and the American people have elected him twice. The Clintons have made lying acceptable, just like swearing in public has been made acceptable by Hollywood's constant use of the F-word.

Rubin knew all along that what he was feeding us was one big lie, but he was only serving a bigger liar, Madeleine Albright, who, in turn, was serving the biggest liar of them all. Al Gore, needless to say, is a quick learner. He will follow the Clinton way, which is that there is no right or wrong, only spin.

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