The guest in question is retired Army general William Odom, whose conservative credentials are impeccable: he's a Yale professor and contemporary of Bush's father, a decorated veteran, a former director of the NSA (under Ronald Reagan, no less), a member of the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame, and a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute. He's also a fierce advocate of immediately withdrawing our troops from Iraq, and has convincingly argued recently that no conseqence of our leaving is going to be worse than the consequences of our staying.
Hooty Hoo disagrees with this, of course, but was, er, a tad underequipped to engage the general in conversation about issues about which he is woefully uninformed. The rigged nature of punditry and the gamed aspect of talk shows rarely give us the opportunity to see what happens when ideology runs head-first into a wall of actual expertise, but it happens here, and Hewitt emerges all accordioned out like when Wile E. Coyote has a boulder dropped on his head.
I haven't actually heard the show, only read the highlights (those who did hear it report it came off as even more of a drubbing than it appears), but those are plenty. Some high points:
- Hewitt trying to show up Gen. Odom by asking him about the details of obscure Islamist theology, while the general plows right on ahead talking about geopolitics and refusing to be sidelined by the belief that the foreign policy of the most powerful nation on Earth should be dictated by the deranged religious rhetoric of a handful of kooks
- Hewitt saying that we can't pull out of Iraq because we don't want another Cambodia, then immediately dropping the point when Odom notes that what happened in Cambodia was largely our fault and would have happened whether we'd pulled out of Vietnam or not
- Odom telling Hewitt that he'd flunk him out of a sophomore international studies class
- Hewitt inexplicably citing Indonesia as an example of a liberal constitutional democracy
- Odom openly scoffing at Hewitt's attempt to compare today's situation in Iran with the position of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, and responding to Hewitt's constant attempts to terrify him out of a realistic assessment of the regional outlook with scare quotes from right-wing authors and lunatic Islamists by saying "Look, I'm running out of time here"
- This quote: "A military commander that doesn’t know when to retire from one area so he can approach the conflict from another area is not a smart commander. And it seems to me you’re advocating a kind of policy where you have a President who jumps off the Empire State Building, and he goes by the 50th floor, and he says I’m on course. Well, I want a president who knows how to change course."
- This exchange, which is especially funny because despite Hewitt's ingratiating language he clearly hates General Odom by this point:
HH: Now General, you are a distinguished and long-serving member of the American military, in the Military Hall of Fame, you’re a Lt. General. I actually served alongside of you in the Reagan administration when you were running NSA. So I mean no disrespect by this next question.
WO: Yeah, you’re obviously going to call me a son of a bitch or something.
HH: No, I’m not. No, I’m not, General. I would never do that, because I esteem your service quite a lot, and I know your reputation as an intelligence professional, because I was the special assistant to Bill Smith running the FISA stuff, when you were over at NSA. So I know your credentials, and I esteem you.