tv Charlie Rose PBS October 24, 2012 11:00pm-12:00am PDT
>> rose: welcome to the program. we begin this evening looking at the global economy with john micklethwait, zanny minton beddoes and vijay vaitheeswaran from the "economist" magazine. >> i think there is an assumption-- particularly among some republicans-- that china is the same old china. that it's the china that is used to american presidential politics, is used to being bashed on the presidential trail and, you know, it will go through it and it will just sit there and it will be another president who's coming in, we'll take time and come back. i think china has fundamentally changed. i think china now sees its much more as a -- has read some of this stuff about being a g-2 worl and sees america somewhat closer to it and is less in the
mood to take ultimatums. >> rose: we continue with appreciation of christopher hitchens with his widow carol blue and his editor and friend gray don carter. >> a number of young people, people in their 20s, mid-20s who really attached themselves to christopher, he hit something in them that hunter thompson had done in a generation before. he was very much a standard bearer for a younger generation of, you know, sort of armchair fire bras and he was the real thing and i think they admired him for it and sort of worshipped him. >> i think he was very, very stoic and he never really complained. he must have been in excruciating pain after the proton radiation, which actually worked. because he would try to swallow or eat something and he would kind of cry out. and that tells me he was really in agony. but actually, eventually, that
captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. 6-. >> rose: tonight we continue our conversation about the global economy with a panel of distinguished guests from the "economist" magazine. here are some of the factors we will be looking at: the world looked to europe today as talks continued over the euro zone financial crisis.
european central bank president defended his bond-buying program in front of the bandenstag this afternoon. >> these actions are fully and foremost in compliance with our mandate of delivering price stability for the whole of the euro area in the medium term. >> rose: as germany demanded tight control over greek budgets some called austerity measures undemocrat. in the united states a debate at the fiscal responsibility is at the heart of the presidential election. >> if somebody game to you, governor, with a plan that said, here, i want to spend seven or eight trillion dollars and we're going to pay for it but we can't tell you until maybe after the election how we're going to do it, you wouldn't have taken such a sketchy deal >> we've gone from $10 trillon of national debt to $16 trillion in national debt. if the president were reelected we'd go to almost $20 trillion of national debt. this puts us on a road to
greece. >> rose: joining me now, distinguished editors from the "economist" magazine, john micklethwait is the editor-in-chief. zanny minton beddoes is economics editor and vijay vaitheeswaran is the china business editor. i am pleased to have all of them on this program. they're here in new york and washington talking about big economic issues with leading people in th economic arena. howid i don the pronunciation? >> we've assembled possibly the three most difficult names even by the sounds of the "economist." micklethwait is by far the easiest. >> rose: vijay, did i do okay? >> you did very well. >> rose: you were easy, zanny. so you asked me what do you want to talk about and i said to you what in the world is going on in the world? give me an insight. >> i think a moment in a sense you've got all the three big economies of the world going through something. you'ot t america -- we've got the american election, we've got the approaching fiscal cliff
you've got china where it's worth remembering there is a full-flooded transition going on now, xi jinping is about to take over. he's taking over a country where i think the economy is slowing down but where most of the issues are really on the social and political side. i don't think china can stay in the same group that it's in. >> rose: and it's less to who will make up the leadership in this country. >> exactly. and then you have europe where europe is heading in one of two directions. it seems to be heading -- i would still bet in on towards a sort of me federal structure and one where angela merkel becomes an ever more powerful figure. and this is -- that's a complicated world for whoever becomes the next american president. but the more immediate problems in europe are to do with the euro zone. >> rose: you would add to that? >> i would simply add that i think you have all of that against the backdrop of a slowing global economy. you have to global economy growing at the slowest pace since the great recession of 2009.
you've had disappointing economic outcom here and in europe, particularly and in china and, frankly, in the rest of the emerging world, too. >> rose: brazil or anywhere else. >> absolutely, brazil, india. and the big question, john is absolutely right, is the political uncertainty. huge political uncertainty here. what happens with the fiscal cliff could be a catastrophe if we go over it and stay over it. what happens in europe? we're actually slightly less -- is there political will? there we can get to this but i'm less pessimistic than i've been for a long time and china and what happens once this leadership transition is over. does the new chinese constellation have the capacity to put through the reforms that the next generation of reforms that that country needs? and i think these are real political uncertainties that have people in the market kind of saying you have to wait and see and that's hanging over the world economy now. >> rose: i want to say one thing before i come to china and you you see it. this is where the economy is now "cry the beloved country, south africa's sad decline." next week it will be china, the week after that -- am i giving
away secrets here? >> we will endorse somebody in the american election. >> rose: all right. china today. where is it going and how wl it change in the political leadership, change the economic outlook, if at all? >> i think that's as clear as it is america n america. one thing we know -- which is not at all. to be fair, we know who the leaders will be at the very top, but the composition of the bodies beneath them and also -- >> rose: even the standing committee. >> the standing committee is not yet known and there's last-minute infighting going on. there's a million rumors, of course. but the broad direction of china is not going to change. and the real question is, as zanny eluded to a moment ago, will there be the strength and the vigor in a new leadership to pursue the reforms that are need to take china through what will be a difficult few years. >> rose: what are those reforms? >> for example, china has gone through spectacular growth. we all know.
of an investment-led model of growth that's served its well, an export-led model. the leadership acknowledges that it has to make a transition to a different model of growth. we've already seen growth slowing down in china, something that is great by american standards but nevertheless a slowdown can they make a transition to a consumption model of growth. can they take on, for example, state-owned enterprises which often have monopoly positions, special peshgs, misdirecting capital so they can unleash the dynamism of their own private sector entrepreneurs? this is a huge challenge for china. it must be done but will the new leadership have the strength to do this? >> rose: at least they know it must be done. >> but there are many, many forces that fiht against it because many of these things are done behind closed doors and we did see very ugly in-fighting before and great scandal that made the news, one of the potential leaders, bo xilai fell
in a corruption scandal involving murder and intrigue. >> rose: is that story over? i hear stories about people rumbling about how to -- >> nothing is ever over in china. the implications of that is i think the leadership might well be cautious. i think we're likely to see certainly in the short term we're unlikely to see an aggressive embrace of reform would be i think the smart money. but how long can you last with an unstainablerowmode >> it also makes a difference to us because if romney comes in and declares china a currency manipulator on day one -- >> rose: trade war? >> i think that's dangerous. i think's an assumption particularly amongst republicans that china is the same old china that china is used to being a xwashed on the presidential trail and it will go through it and just it is there and think it's another president coming in who's bashed us, we'll just take time and come back. i think china has fundamentally changed. i think china now sees itself much more as inthe has read this stuff about being a g-2
world, and it's less if the mood to take ultimatums. so you can end up with two very practical people. i think romney is quite practical but you can see an element whereby if they give an ultimatum to the sort of people who vijay just described that could be very dangerous. >> rose: and it could spill over not just in terms of trade but in terms of the essen of the relationship and all the potential for working together on big problems. >> it's all -- a lot of these nationalistic qutions like the islands li the disputes with japan, on all these issues the leadership in some ways is more reticent than the people who are very angry about these things. you can see it on the internet and a lot of things. from those perspectives, if you were the new chinese leader and immediately you have an american slightly in your face then actually you'll be much less likely -- >> part of just the beginning of any new leadership-- and even more so in that kind of a system-- you have to stand tough. so i think john's right. that's a huge potential danger.
something that would be seen as a sortf outright provocation by the united states with china could quickly spiral. i think that's something that's not really sufficiently taken into account in the discussion here about china. it's clearly romney who's pushed that, but actually obama administration in trying to get votes in ohio everyone's trying to be outtough the other on china. >> >> i think there's also a general sense that i think america is in a different state with regard to china. you get asked much, much more about china here than you do in europe and there's a reason why. america is the top dog and suddenly you feel the dragon's breath onour oulder a y that america really hasn't for a very long time. so it touches not just economic issues, not just jobs and competition in the same way as japan did a long time ago but it touches things to do with national security, it touches things to do with the environment, it touches a whole variety of different issues. >> rose: interestingly about the president, he has consistently said we're interested in china's growth because we believe that's a positive thing yet when you go
to china and you talk to people and some influential people they are not quite convinced that america does not want to somehow contain them. >> i think that's rig. i was actually just in china, vijay and i live there, i was there about a month ago and had exactly that feeling. and i had also a sense of -- an amazing engagement in the american election campaign and a real sense of, you know, concern about what romney was saying. very, very kind of visceral reaction to that. don't these americans get it? why are they doing is this this? i think that -- put that in the context of a new leadership in china and you have something really quite tricky. i think separate to that you also have an uncertainty that comes few from where the chinese economy is going to go a, you ow, it's slowed and i think probably my best guess-- and i would suspect vijay's best guess-- is that the chinese are capable of having a 7% growth, maybe a little bit more. but we're not going back to the days of yore with double digit. and i worry about their capacity
to do the reforms necessary to sustain this transition for the simple reason that they will require attacking powerful vested interests within china. i mean, two free up the domestic capital market, which is what they need to do over time to get a serious price of capital that doesn't mean that state-owned enterprises hoover up all the capital at cheap rates. that requires taking on powerful interests, breaking up monopolies, taking on very powerful interests that have become even more powerful that are hoovering up large chunks of chinese wealth and i think it's a -- it's a very interesting parallel between what went on there and frankly what went on here 100 years ago. you had the same kind of -- it's robber barrens of a different sort but you have to take them on and if they're not taken on i think it's very hard to see how the chinese economy gets to the next stage where it needs to go. >> rose: do you see to you ow knwledge pple o have made -- achieved considerable wealth looking to take that wealth somewhere else? looking to get out of the country? >> absolutely.
absolutely. it's very difficult to trace the amounts of money but there's no doubt. there are passports in foreign countries, australia, canada, the u.s. or u.k., families that are set up in these places, residences, money to hong kong and elsewhere. so these are the ways in which people prepare for a crackdown of some sort. part of the problem with the nature of state capitalism in china is because people don't know when the crackdown will come if, for example, the friends they think they have in government turn on them, they have every incentive to be very short-termist. it's really a corrosive influence, not just on -- just because of corruption or taking the money out of the country but in how you don't invest for the long term in your businesses, for example. so it's really a perverse kind of capitalism that we see, even in the private sector. >> you can look at anecdotal evidence that seems to suggest that whereas at the beginning it was the big cheeses getting their money out, now it's really prosperous well-to-do litt --
trying to get some money into handicap. hong kong is usually the way out. >> rose: before we turn to europe. how much are these economies dependent on each other? chinese economy has clearly needed the demand for europe to fuel its exports. and at the same time, that demand has -- with the european debt crisis has been reduced. >> it's one of those argument which is tends to go both ways in very savage amounts. one moment everybody thinks everything has to do with the internationa pictu and th next momt it's entirely domestic and the answer is it's a mixture of both. every chinese economy seems to have some push towards the outside world. it is a very export-led economy and as vijay said, that's one of those problems. but it goes the other way that people trying to make money in china at the moment are looking at the domestic market. you have a lot of consumers who are beginning to -- last time i was there i met somebody who was running a small web site-- quite
a big web site-- aime at selling cheap clothes to young chinese girls getting their jobs. i think it was five items with the average amount people bought each wall street for $20 total and these were cheap clothes but they're people that are spending a large amount of disposable income on getting this. >> the domestic market is enormous, charlie. think ally ban baah be online trading site. they predicts it will have more trading revenue than ebay and amazon combined. another company has a higher valuation in revenues than facebook. just a couple small examples. there's huge dynami and potential at home so the question is can -- the way that let's say u.s. policy made a pivot to china, can chinese companies themselves make a pivot to their own domestic markets? >> rose: to their own markets. >> domestic consumption has been growing very rapidly in china. the interesting linkage to me that john mentioned is the lingage with europe but the
interesting linkage between china and the rest of the world, a lot of supercharged economic growth in the emerging world over the last few years has been driven by demand for commodities from china, soaring commodity prices and commodity exporting countries, brazil, many others have seen the gains from that. and as the chinese economy shifts over time the different kinds of emerging economies are interesting and as it moves up the supply chain, the skill chain, the wage chain, what happens to the ones that are behind the vietnam, the cambodias and what happens to countries like mexico which have a huge geographic advantage here. those are linkages that are worth following. >> rose: hillary clinton famously today somebody overheard on an open mic, how d you admonish your bankers?" speaking of something she wanted to say to the chinese over there. does that banker creditor relationship have an impact on this relationship.
>> i would counter the secretary's insight with perhaps the other one which is when you owe the bank a million dollars it's your problem, when you owe them a trillion it's their problem. i think this is a very interactive, locked together there are questions about the u.s. fiscal outlook and china is a sort of separate part of that. i don't think that's part of the -- >> rose: you're optimistic about sglurp >> well, i'm less pessimistic. when we've spoken in the past i've always been the most pessimistic person in the room and i went into -- earlier this summer i was deeply, deeply pessimistic because i thought that -- and i've never thought the pessimism/optimism should be about economics, it's always about the politics in europe and i was very pessimist that i can germany in particular but others in europe really had the political will to keep this thing gichblgt over e summer i ink t profound things have happened. one is that in a clear decision in germany that they don't want to kick greece out, that they do want to keep this show on the
road and they absolutely don't want the euro or anything to do with the euro to be an issue in their election next year so they want peace and quiet for the next year and i think you've seen that in the support at the e.c.b. and his bold action. you've seen in the a changing stance on greece and i think the driving force within germany now is we want to have presidential campaign, we want to have o elections, we're going to de with big decisions after that and we just want to hold things together. so in a short term -- on a short-term horizon i'm more optimistic than i was because i see you have the tools to hold things together, particularly the's bees new ability to have the transactions. i think you've got some greater willingness to be flexible with countries like greece, slightly less nutty fiscal policy in the sense that they're not ramming down greater fiscal proliferation. they're huge challenges. thehrinking, the recession is
deep. and i'm not clear that they know where they want to go. huge, huge challenge. but compared to where we were i'm less pessimistic. >> i've always been a tiny bit more optimistic. like always these things. i always claim i'm right in the long term but if you take what she just said, there's reasons to be pessimistic because, yes, the germans are saying we want peace and quiet but you look at the things the euro zone needs to do, there has to be movement. yo take the most basicne, you came up with the sort of most -- the simplest one is just the banking union. the germans have suddenly begun to roll back on that for some of the reasons annie's just said. he went out and bought them time the moment that went through has slightly slowed down. >> that's the story of europe. e.c.b. buys time and they any problem solved, we don't have to do anything.
you're completely right. let's not overdo my optimism but it's more from wheher where i w -- ihinkearlier this summer-- and you saw in the spreads on spanish and italian debt-- people were worried, really worried, about imminent katz trophy. and i think you can either say they bought time again, european central banks bought time, but i think the buying of time has come in tandem with a greater desire, a sense of urgency is keeping the thing together. >> rose: the american expression is kicking the can down the road. so how do you see this in china? >> china has been courted several times by european leaders -- >> rose: with fervent hope. >> and people look at the amount of money china has in reserves and the chinese have wisely decided not to bail europe out. >> my experience with chinese leadership is any idea of political correctness when it comes to describing the southern europeans or people like that, they talk about siesta breaks, they have an almost
stereotypical view of people not doing anything at all. >> rose: similar to the german view? >> probably even harsher, i think. >> the germans are lazy. (laughter) the chinese real have -- >> rose: how do they view the americans? >> well, i've talked to a number of companies that have tried to get into the u.s. for example and some have managed despite the problems, the technology companies. there are others that have divisions and very innovative medical device devices companies said we have engineers in shenzhen in south china, we have a division in california. when we have a big project to work on with a big deadline the engineers in china work through the night, sleep under their desk, i don't have to ask them to do that. the guys in california, they g home at 5:00 t be home with their families. that's the difference between my country and america. >> rose: so what -- >> and i think as an american i see that there's a country that's very hungry and with a lot of technical talent, great desire to succeed, population
that invests in education, science, technology, math. so i think that should be a wakeup call in america for us to remember the virtues that got us here but let's not over do it i always say. china has an innovation powerhouse that leaves a lot to be desired. we're barely at the end of cheap china that is being a sweatshop to the world. >> rose: barely at the end? >> barely at the end. partly to deal with demography and rising wages. and good reasons. chinese families don't want environmental sludge dumped on their children, either. so they're demanding and getting environmental regulations. >> rose: you do see protests a bit now, don't you? >> you do. every week there are protests at the factories, at foxconn for example, that make the ipads and iphones that we love. but across the country and the power of the internet. >> ros and government is sensitive to it. >> absolutely. the number one the government is concerned about is social harmony and growth is merely a
-- if i was xi jinping there are worries about con suplgts and it's the numbers that worry me and not economic numbers. things like -- in terms of demography, five million people moved from the countryside to the cities in the first five years of this decade. the levels of -- sorry 20 million people. that's more -- that's more than across the atlanti in 100 years for 1920. there's democrat graphic change, there's inequality you look at the princelings are extremely rich and -- >> rose: so is the issue will there be jobs and opportunity when they get to the urban area and will they be able to sustain the economic growth to provide that and if they can't does it unleash a kind of social conflict that will consume -- >> it's both. there are some political reforms you need do with it. you need the issues of taking on thevest interess.
>> what you're finding is that there's a war for talent in chinese. difficult for people to stay and work for you. the younger generation in terms of the rural migration, they are not as satisfied as their parents were coming in off the farms and working in a sweatshop. they demand better jobs and so you might say this is a good sweatshop job, it's good as being an indigent labor in the countryside. they're saying no, they can see people with ipads. there's a generational shift in expectations that'seally fectin manucturers and employers. >> there's also been a spectacular change in government social provisions. the chinese are building the basics of a welfare state at a pace the leaves us 100 years ago 50 years ago in the dust. they put -- they've rural pensions to the people in the past few years than are on social security. it's just a magnitude we find hard to comprehend.
they've got basic health insurance for millions and millions of millions of people. so i think they are very cognizant of the challees that you lay out and i think they know full well growth is not the only thing. in fact, they've said it quite clearly. it's a shift to harmonious society was the old slogan. part of that is yes t basics of a welfare stay state. the demographics means that they are aging before they are rich so they have to be very careful about what kind of welfare state what kind of pension provision and public health care they build so it doesn't become completely unaffordable. but there's remarkable progress being made there. where the less progress has been ma isn this sort of breaking up of the vested domestic interest. that's essential not just for reasons of inequality-- and you're absolutely right, john, chinese care less about inequality than americans. if you look at surveys they're rather like americans, they think opportunity is what matters and they're much less egalitarian than europeans but
on some measures society is less mobile in china even than the u.s.. what your father did is more likely to influence what a son does and his relative position in society and the u.s. the worry is that you're creating a society that is entrenched rather than one that's competitive and mobile. >> rose: how do you see the u.s. election both in terms of the quality of the debate and the consequences of the choice? >> i think if you look at the u.s. election in the moment, the rest of the world is suddenly much more interested than before. there was a bit where they drifted off during the summer. suddenly the fact that romney could become president has woken up the rest of the world. i think in terms of quality of the choice the americans ve, it's difficult one because the most -- there are very ardent democrats that barack obama was being disappointing on other issues. on the other hand, off challenger who is very difficult to pin down exactly what he believes and that is in essence the difficulty that --
>> rose: and that's the way it's been defined here, too. often if you are disappointed with the president you have to if you decide to vote against him for the opponent what are you getting with the opponent. unless you can satisfy that that is an acceptableresident. then you're not going to make that choice. at least you know what you have gotten in the last four years. you may be unhappy with it but at a time like this you're scared and you have to be reassured or somebody has to convince you and one of those things is what happened in the first debate. there was a level of "he's not what i thought." >> you can take the romney from the first debate and the romney who ran massachusetts, that is an attractive figure, a much more attractive than it was. on the other hand, if you take lot of other romneys, mh less. i think obama could regret quite severely that he ran such a negative campaign and didn't really lay out exactly what he
was going to do next >> i'm depressed by the whole thing because we hear constantly that this is a defining election it's incredibly important, about the whole role of the state. but i think the quality of the debate during this campaign has been really appallingly low. and i think that both sidesave caricature it had other side's position. but knee ther side has grappled with what i think of as serious issues. >> rose: the biggest thing people want and haven't received is what are the next four years going to be about? >> exactly. and if you think about the biggest challenges facing america, yes, how you deal with entitlements overall is a huge issue, tax reform huge issue. how do you deal with stagnant median wages? how do you deal with widening income gaps in a time of slow grwth? how do you make thisecony a
dynamic economy again? have we had a proper conversation about that? i don't think so. >> rose: thank you, great to see you. thank you. >> rose: back in a moment. stay with us. >> rose: christopher hitchens died in december of last year in his prime the british author and journalist came to this table many times to share his views. >> it's not for everybody, not everyone wants to always be an awkward cuss or against the stream but if you deal do feel the consensus doesn't speak for you, if there's something about you that makes you feel that it would be worth being unpopular or marginal for the chance to lead your own life and have a life instead of a career or job then i can promise you it's worthwhile, yes to discover that after it's shaken out that the american revolution still has life and purpose and meat and
muscle is a rather inspiring thing to someone of my age. i don't think i'd have another chance to take the revolution and now in fact the united states is involved in conduct that is jeffersonian. >> it was non-existent entities. the attempt to derive morality from supernatural, all of that is more, i think, than mistaken or irritating. it's becoming actually very menacing now. the people who think they have permission of that sort from the heavens trying to kill us. >> while he was being treated for the cancer which would kill him i interviewed him in s apartment waington. >>t's useful thing to have and that's why i begin my book with it. you should know that your time is very limited and that you're lucky to live in a time and place where you can be healthy until you're 60 as i was. most people in history have never had a chance even to hope for a thing like that.
so i think it's good to have a sober feeling of the presence of death. >> rose: did you only get it when you got to 59 and 80 >> wll,ou rlize you've seen more sunsets than you're going to see. you're about to feel more retrospective. you also -- the worst thing about it is is the feeling that i'm boring and i can't muster really because it's necessary. it would be terrible if people did not people have to die in large numbers everyday so as to make room. i'm leaving the party earlier than i'd like, much earlier than i'd like it looks as if i might have the exact and not only that but the party will go on without me. so why should i be enraged at that? that would be spiteful. >> rose: hitch wrote about his ill nns a series for "vanity fair."
those writings along with some others have been collected into single volume called "mortality." joining me tonight is graydon carter editor of "vanity fair." one of his first acts was to hire christopher hitchens as a columnist in. he has written the forward to "morealty." and carol blue is a journalist andhristher hitchens' dow she wrote the afterward to mortality which ends "at any time i can pursue our library or his notes and rediscover and recover him what what i do, when i do i hear him and he has the last word." time after time christopher has the last word. i'm pleased to have carol and graydon here is it painful to see these kinds of things to read the brilliance of christopher and remind you of the glorious life you had together and this glorious man? >> it is hard.
it's also kind of exhilarating because there was -- there's nobody like him, was nobody like him. so it's a reminder of hauer you diet and charming and well spoken he was. and inciteful. but it's sad, it's hard to watch. i don't know if you felt that way, graydon. >> well, when you see clips of chistopher? his prime yo realized whehe was alive how alive he was when he was alive and there's very few people who command the moment the way christopher did who saw the world-- and i'm not just talking about the invasion of iraq but he grabbed a moment and crystal sized in a way that very few people have in the last century and i know for myself there's not a day go by when i don't almost instinctively pick up the phone to try to -- to speak to him about something, something that he might write forheagzine.
>>ose:hat wouldbe the conversation? i just reading? i just thought something? this might be great for you? >> well, he was up for almost anything. he was -- >> rose: even a makeover? >> a very serious makeover. there was a great report on that. and i'm not reminded of christopher i'm reminded of christopher in life not in death and he is -- you know, he was about as alive as any person i can remember. >> rose: that was about just the nature of a human being. he'd been shaped by an education. he'd been shaped by the nature of his parents and his experiences. what is it that made him the way he was beyond that? >> i think that some of it was he just -- he just was that way because he has a brother and they're quite different he just
-- i think he presented himself to the world in this fashn >> what was the best thing he did for "vanity fair"? was there a piece above all that defined him for you? >> well, actually, it's not an individual piece it's the sort of totality. the -- extraordinary range because he could write very seriously about serious issues and one of the great it withs about matters of society or a personal hi gene and he -- it was the breadth of his writing -- he com out of the oral education tradition of england and so he can -- he speaks in perfect sentences. speaks in perfect photographs and his writing flowed out like that so you didn't need an editor for christopher, you just needed somebody to take the copy and get it typeset and put hit
in the magazine. >> that's basically how it worked. >> rose: and you have seen him come home and to be a bit full of drink. >> yeah. although i have to say, you know he almost never seemed drunk. rose: b he cold drik. >> yeah, he could drink a lot. >> rose: and he could write while he was drinking and liked to write while he was drinking. >> he would come home, we'd go out to dinner with a number of people and invite them back to the house and he would disappear for a half hour and we'd serve coffee and drinks and everything and he'd rejoin the group and he would have written a column that appeared in the paper the next morning in england. >> rose: this is one of the things you've said. "off stage, my husband was an impossible act to follow. at home at one of the raucous joyous impromptu eight hour nners we often found oselves hosting where the table was so crammed with ambassadors, hacks, political dissidents, college students and children that elbows were colliding and it was hard to find a space to put down a glass of wine. my husband would rise to give a toast that could go on for a
staring, spell binding, hysterically funny 20 minutes of poetry writing. how good it to s to be us he would say in a perfect voice." >> yup, that's an accurate portrayal. >> and there's no one like him on the scene. >> uh-huh. >> nody exactly likeim. there's parts of him you see around and i -- writer francis wean did a story, eccentric magazine in london called the lady and if christopher would have been here it would revolve a lot of knowledge and wood house and christopher -- you know, a lot of people know woodhouse. 1:00 in the morning christopher would recite entire passages from one of -- woodhouse wrote 90 books, he could choose a book at random and recite a package. it was like a great card trick
that he could do at a bar. it was extraordinary. >> if he read the prose he somehow had memorize it had prose. >> rose: was "hitch 292" interesting for him to write? >> i think he wished he had spent more time and he could have enlarged the second half. but he enjoyed -- he loved writing. so -- he loved writing that as well. >> most people who love writing, the readers don't alys feel theame about it in christopher's case the readers loved it as well. >> that's a really good -- that's a very good point, graydon, and you must see a lot of it, right? >> rose: more than most. >> but he says it was recreational for him. >> rose: when did you learn he had cancer? >> really we -- he woke up the morning of basically the rollout of his memoir thinking he wa --
>> rose: "hitch 22"? >> yes, and he thought he was having a heart attack and after various tests they thought something looked funky on some x-ray they had done around the esophagus but they didn't know what it was but we were scared. the night that you introduced him at the y -- >> rose: i remember that. the 92nd street y. >> and we were backstage and i was talking to christopher and he looked ragged but it wasn't the first time i'd seen him looking ragged and a i asked anymore he had a case of cocktail flu. >> rose: (laughs) what >> i look back, what an unfortunate thing to say. so i introduced christopher and salman for this 92nd street y and they had just received some horrible news -- >> potentially horrible news. >> you would never know. it was like a show business trouper, he gave them -- they had a full auditorium and he was not going to disappoint them.
>> and what happened after that? didn't you go to dinner after that? >> then we went to a dinner hosted by his plish a there were various interesting and exciting people there and hitch was just whispering to me "i can't wait until this is over." but nobody noticed and he kind of carried the table along with salman and a few of the other more scintillating guests there. and then afterwards normally he would want to go on and have drinks and continue until late hour of the night but he kind of closed down the dinner about midnight sand we walked out of the restaurant, we decided to walk back toour hotel, which was maybe 30 blocks away and it was the most beautiful night, the most heart breakingly perfect early summer new york night where the air was electric and dry and sort of body temperature and we were having this walk through the city he adored having -- after he had
just rolled out his memoir and everything was sort of perfect except that it wasn't because there was this dark cloud hanging over us. >> rose: and how did you find out? >> i guess i found out a couple days lter and i really regretted that cocktail flu comment and then you know it's noneny because people -- there's been a period in new york of losing these great public intellectuals like christopher, nora ephron and bob hughes and you realize they don't make them like that now. >> yeah. >> there's new bloggers minted everyday and the odds of becoming a christopher are slim. >> rose: but is that -- why is that? is it because the -- >> i don'tnow. >> rose: the opportunity to develop is different? we're still producing a lot of smart, interesting people. >> christopher had a career that was hatched over a 40-year period and he had one of the most remarkable careers because it sort of ended just as high as
it possibly could go. it built in the last ten years rather than flat lined and it -- he got better at it. he started off good and got better. >> that's what's so amazing. it gets better and better and better. he wanted to write about proust. he wanted to turn his aention away from nitty-gritty everyday politics. >> rose: to write bigger things? >> and well proust was the subject he wanted to write about. >> rose: why proust? >> maybe it's something to do with the looking back? i don't know. >> rose: and how did he decide to address the illness? >> well, actually, graydon asked him to. in fairness to chris -- i don't think christopher was particularly thrilled at the prospect. but he would do pretty much anything you would ask him to >>the very f people who would write about this, i thought christopher would write about in the an unemotional way and he
was quite astringent in the way he wrote about his illness and the strange thing is i think he hit more people that way than in all of his other columns or books. in the introduction i mentioned the number of young people who -- people in their 20s, mid-20s who really attached themselves to christopher, he hit something in th th nter thompson had done in a generation before. he was very much a standard bearer for a younger generation of armchair fire brands and he was the real thing and i think they admired him for it and sort of worshipped him in -- >> rose: there's several interesting things about it. number one, he wanted because of what you had asked to write about the illness but he didn't want to be defined by the illness. >> very muchso, or bored by it.
>> rose: other thing was that he both on the one hand addressed the bigger questions of death and mortality and at the same time the specificity and the granular level of pain and suffering and being there. >> i think he was very, very stoic and he never really complained. he must have been in excruciating pain after the proton radiation, which actually worked because he would try to swallow or eat something and he would kind of cry out and that tells me he was really in agony. but actually, eventually that cleared and we had a wonderful 20 course meal at the waiverly inn with martin. >> rose: you would never know that christopher was ill at dinner other than maybe visually he would not talk about it at dinner. >> aside from the bald look that he sometimes had i don't think you'd know it, would you?
>> you would not. >> rose: he wrote "it's no fun to appreciate the full truth of the materialistic proposition that i don't hve a body, i am a body." what did he mean by that? >> well, you need this kind of corporal equipment to carry around your brain and your soul. it's pretty obvious, right? luckily there's the writing he left behind which has separated. >> other than proust, was there -- he obviously loved life so much that as he said in the interview with me that there was so much to be done, so much joy, so much opportunity, so much entertainment to be done. >> he was so easy to please. there was something nothing that occurred in even ordinary existence, daily life that he didn't love. he loved home life, he loved family life believe it or not. he loved -- >> rose: friends.
>> well, friends, of course. there isn't a place. he had tried to set foot in and visit every one of the 50 united states. and while he was sick he crossed a couple off his list so he oly had one to go. north dakota i think, maybe. there isn't a place in the world i don't think he wouldn't have wanted to visit and explore and write about. >> he was very content. >> he was. >> he was vicious and -- in the literary sense but i want to read more, i want to write more but a content human being which is a lovely thing. >> rose: he knew he had done things and lived life to the fullest. >> he took pleasure and was happy and found something in everyday orny situationo love. if p.m.c. him at the podium when he's his most vicious and poe lem cal they might not realize how sweet and grateful for everything little thing he was.
>> rose: question that always came up certainly when people realize he had a terminal illness was will this change his attitude? (laughter) >> i don't think so! (laughter) >> rose: this is not going to be a fox hole conversion. >> exactly. >>nlike people who do what he does for a living, in any conversation with another person he made that person feel better about himself. >> exactly! >> people like christopher often make the other person feel crummy about themselves. even though he's much more knowledgeable and air you diet, somehow he went away feeling just a little better. er you diet. >> he was really generous with his time and conversation with any acolyte, young person and he did kind of make one better for having conversed with him. i noticed that time and time again. >> ro: this auall is a conversation done at this table after christopher's death with
friends. talking about coping with death. here it is. >> visiting him was -- we all went. it was not like visiting most others because he didn't want to talk about being ill. he wanted to talk about reading and what was going on and everything else and that he needed to sleep a lot and he liked to find you there when you woke up sohe de was if you went to visit hitch you should take some books and some work and wait a couple of hours until he came round, stir, empty his lungs disgustingly and then resume. he really did not want to die for all sorts of reasons but he really did hang on. >> that going on writing until the very end, one of the ways of resistance, it kept him going. >> i took a picture of him writing that la piece on drips
and -- when you think about it, it was painful to swallow, very difficult to breathe, his limbs ached, his arm hurt like crazy. and he was facing eternal oblivion and yet he needed to get these 3,000 words done. >> he was determined to make a good end. >> he was determined to die well. and it's very hard to do and how is it done and who was it to who said that it's very difficult for a sick man not to be a villain. and he was determin to buck that law >> not to be a villain or not to be weak? >> not to be -- not -- i mean, i -- i saw him so sick sometimes that i thought i would be wimpering with self-pity and he was determined not to go there. >> christopher and friendship. what kind of friend? how would friendship manifest itself? >> in one of the earlier clips
it said there was not a lot of anger left. he wasn't an angry person. i'd never seen him angry at anybody and he had a vry big hard. he -- you wish he would have gotten angry at certain people but he -- just that wasn't part of who he was >> but the idea of friendship, going back to martin was just central to him. because i'm interested in the subject. i used to talk about getting him together with all of them. >> yeah, that would have been great. because he said you don't choose your relatives but you can choose your friends and his friends became like his brothers to him. >> tom scanlon, the late great p.r. man said because i wish my friends well and that is the essence of in the a way that the people who are your friends wish you well and i'll tell you something, christopher didn't have a jealous bone in his body and he wished the people around him well and that is a big
thing. >> that's so true. he meant it, it wasn't just saying he -- he wanted other people to be happy to be successful. >> rose: it's the exact opposite of whoever said it's not just enough that i succee. >> i've had dinners with both of them. i think the two maps of -- two masks of tragedy and comedy. >> but actually in the years when they were chummy it was great to be with them together. >> and dangerous. like walking on coals. >> i want to show one last clip here and this is when i talked to christopher in that interview on august 13, 2010 about the life-style he had lived. nd , in fac, he ever thought about what might have been if he didn't love the life-style he did so much, that certainly includes smoking. if you had known that there was a possibility of getting cancer
you would have never smoked a cigarette, you would have never drank or consumed the amount of liquor you consumed? >> no, i think all the time i felt that life is a wager. and that i probably was getting more out of leaving a bow hemoian existence as a wrir than i would have if i didn't. so writing is what's important to me and it helps me do that or enhances and prolongs and deepens and sometimes intensifies argument and conversation. it's worth it to me, sure. so i was knowingly taking a risk. i wouldn't do it to others. >> rose: but you would do it again? >> i think i would. >> rose: that's the question. >> i had to reflect on this a lot he cently and trying to imagindoing my life fferntly and not ending up mortally sick. but it's impossible for me to imagine having my life without
going to those parties. without having those late nights. without -- >> rose: you can't imagine -- >> without that second bottle and the argument-- that that he would be drinking that much but amusing exchange of limericks with martin amos could go on for an hour. >> rose: we all had the pleasure you two much closerhan i di- to know thisan and ihank u for coming here. mortality is the book by christopher lichens. thank you for joining us. see you next time. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org