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An easy label for Christopher Hitchens? Careful, it could be a fighting word

"He's a crackpot!" Hitchens roars. The woman stammers something about filming a documentary on Lane, but Hitchens is on a roll. "Pure and simple nut bag," he says. "He's a garden-variety loon. You're too young to be doing this."

Later, the woman comes over to deliver her contact information, revealing herself to be Pauley Perrette, an actress who stars on the hit television show "NCIS." Hitch doesn't recognize her. He almost never watches television.

I want to know if Hitchens, this eviscerator of debate opponents, has ever come across someone he considers a truly worthy opponent. He ponders this for a moment, and comes up, surprisingly, with Gore Vidal. But his feud with Vidal is moldering, a thing of the past, and it's now religion, those irrepressible questions of atheism and faith, that affords him an ample field of battle.

"They've never succeeded in squelching me," he says, workshopping his position.

Short pause.

"I won't say I've lost -- it's never been said. You can look it up yourself, don't take my word for it."

Short pause.

"I don't claim to have won or lost."

Short pause.

"Let's say I haven't been defeated."


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