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December 06, 2006

Apparently Kissinger Will Answer Questions In Some Circumstances

In response to this story—about Peter Jennings asking Henry Kissinger "What's it like to be a war criminal?"—DM writes in with this:

I attended one of those fancy schmancy New England prep schools. Every year we'd honor some alumni or other. One year while I was a student it was a guy Strobe Talbot. He was some foriegn service guy with lots of interesting things and accomplishments on his resume (think Joe Wilson before the events of the last few years). For much of his career Henry Kissinger was his boss. And so Kissinger gave his introduction speech at the school's (attendence required) ceremony.

After, and in a departure from normal practice given the guest, Kissinger took audience questions for about an hour.

Before I relate the interesting bit, keep in mind we were between 14and 18 years old. Anyway, one girl stood to ask the following question phrased pretty much this way: "I was barely born during the end of the Nixon administration and so my knowledge of those events is thin and dominated by the Nixon-as-criminal storyline. Since you were a key member of the administration I was wondering if you could explain what you think happened, what is right and wrong about the popular history of the fall of Nixon and your take on the crimes committed. Thank you."

Seems simple not to mention obvious - how often does a normal person much less a high school student get to ask such a big historical figure such a question? And given that this was coming from a high school junior, I was stunned even then by how delicately and politely the question was asked.

Kissinger's response stunned the room into silence (there were very few questions after). He TORE into this poor girl yelling at her, calling her ignorant and stupid, calling her rude and disrespectful and on and on. It lasted for about 10 minutes. Midway through the poor girl ran from the auditorium in tears but Kissinger kept going after and even helped chase her from the room by screaming some version of "That's right, get the hell out of here!!"

I guess he's only willing to answer those questions when it's a little girl.

Posted at December 6, 2006 01:25 PM | TrackBack

I was listening to Kissinger on the radio once, he raised his voice and got angry about "second guessing". I surprised myself by the force with which I punched it off--my hand was bruised. The only opportunity I had to ask him any questions, I didn't have, because the professors brokering the event (former ABC execs) didn't call on me. We had to agree not to write about it. It was a deeply depressing experience on many levels. It still is.

Posted by: Saheli at December 6, 2006 02:52 PM

There are other stories like this about Kissinger, so it's believable. HOWEVER, Strobe Talbott was not a foreign service officer or like Joe Wilson. He was a Time magazine correspondent for many years, wrote books about Russia, and then became undersecretary of State in the Clinton administration. He never worked for Kissinger, though he covered him as a journalist. He's now the president of the Brookings Institution, which Nixon/Kissinger once planned to firebomb.

Posted by: Mark Schmitt at December 6, 2006 04:27 PM

Geez. I'm rethinking the whole torture thing. Maybe some people really DO need to have their testicles hooked up to car batteries.

Posted by: MarcLord at December 6, 2006 05:43 PM

That girl was lucky she didn't end up like the napalm girl. Remember her?

She, too, was given the Kissinger treatment.

The neat thing about tormenting little girls is that you end up with the Nobel Peace Prize!

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at December 6, 2006 09:37 PM

Yeah, man... Nobels are so overrated.

I mean, Cheney will probably share a Nobel in Physics with Bush for stunning advancements in extreme heat conduction thought metal frame buildings.

Posted by: Uncle Bob at December 7, 2006 04:50 AM

hitchens is a dick, but his description of a idea of kissinger's (i forget which, but clearly the description could apply broadly) as exhibiting a "fantastic, dreamland ruthlessness, that is, a stupid idea as well as an evil one" seems pretty apt here.

Posted by: snuh at December 7, 2006 10:40 PM

Many years ago, the Economist had a television advertisement in which a passenger on an aircraft is astounded to find himself sitting next to Henry Kissinger. Thanks to his reading the Economist, he is able to have an informed conversation about foreign affairs with the great man. Someone suggested that, were that to happen in real life, Kissinger would present his victim with a huge bill for consulting services. :)

Posted by: Gag Halfrunt at December 8, 2006 06:35 AM

too bad You Tube wasn't around when that happened... we might not be in the trouble we are in today.

Posted by: Susan at December 10, 2006 12:19 AM