Henry Kissinger says what he means, whatever that means
Retired public servants often cut loose in interviews because they can finally say what they think. Their careers no longer depend on hedges, nitpicks, and caveats. But in his legacy-protection effort, Henry Kissinger is still complicating interviews with mind-numbingly tortuous answers, as a must-read New York magazine profile wonderfully shows. Here’s one of several tap ...
Retired public servants often cut loose in interviews because they can finally say what they think. Their careers no longer depend on hedges, nitpicks, and caveats. But in his legacy-protection effort, Henry Kissinger is still complicating interviews with mind-numbingly tortuous answers, as a must-read New York magazine profile wonderfully shows.
Here’s one of several tap dances reporter Joe Hagan is subjected to:
When I bring up a comment he made on CNN in 2004 remarking that “they want to believe that Iraq could be occupied in the same manner” as Germany and Japan during World War II, but it “turned out to be wrong,” Kissinger suddenly doesn’t recall who “they” are: “I have no idea,” he says. “That was a general view that one could read. You will not get me to talk about any individual.”
The profile follows up briefly on Bob Woodward’s reporting on Kissinger’s impact on the White House. (It gives us another opportunity to ponder a supposedly neocon president being a “big fan” of the super-realist Henry Kissinger, signaling that the ideological labels may need updating, or that the players aren’t who they are made out to be.)
Kissinger at first told Hagan that Woodward’s report that Kissinger told President Bush not to “give an inch” on Iraq was false, calling it “totally untrue.” Later in the piece, Hagan writes:
Weeks have passed since Kissinger and I first spoke, and he is still obsessing over Woodward’s “Don’t give an inch” quote. “To what is it I said we shouldn’t give an inch?” he asks. “To whom shouldn’t we give an inch?”
Reading the whole article is the right thing to do, but here’s one nugget that couldn’t go un-excerpted:
Four years ago, Barbara Walters, who calls Kissinger “the most loyal friend,” was entertaining Kissinger and his wife at a dinner party for a D.C. politician when ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, who died last year, suddenly piped up, “How does it feel to be a war criminal, Henry?”
Ouch. And of course, there’s a 2008 angle:
Unprompted, McCain, who has known Kissinger since 1973, says of their friendship, “I’m not at all embarrassed about it; I’m proud of it.” (But during the 2000 presidential race, his handlers opted not to have the two appear publicly together, fearing the legendary obfuscator would taint the image of the “Straight Talk Express.”)
Asked if he’ll support McCain if he runs for president in 2008, Kissinger says, “Very likely.” Then he corrects himself: “Almost certainly. I don’t have to qualify that.”
It’s the most unequivocal thing he’s said to me yet.
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