Somehow I missed Emily Miller’s piece on Gore Vidal (on the Politics Daily site) back in September of ’09, in which Vidal excoriates President Obama.
I like Vidal (to the extent I “know” him) because he’s a great writer of historical novels, because he belongs to that era of TV in which you could listen to smart people disagree eloquently, and because he’s very funny. He knows how to couch political and social views in witty rhetoric, so one derives pleasure from the performance even when one disagrees. He practices the lost art of The Conversationalist.
When he was running for a U.S. Senate seat in California, he came to U.C. Davis, where I listened to him speak on the vast lawn known as the Quad. He opined that the Soviet Union was dying from inside and predicted its dissolution. He had no entourage, no handlers or advance-men–just a driver.
Here’s a sample from Miller’s piece:
“In general, [Vidal] thinks that the White House is failing because ‘Obama would have been better off focusing on educating the American people. His problem is being over-educated. He doesn’t realize how dim-witted and ignorant his audience is.’
He says that another of Obama’s mistakes is that he ‘believes the Republican Party is a party when in fact it’s a mindset, like Hitler Youth, based on hatred — religious hatred, racial hatred. When you foreigners hear the word ‘conservative,’ you think of kindly old men hunting foxes. They’re not — they’re fascists.’
In giving advice to President Obama, Vidal cites President Lincoln, who ‘wrote to one of his generals in the South after the Civil War” “I am President of the United States. I have full overall power and never forget it, because I will exercise it.” That’s what Obama needs — a bit of Lincoln’s chill.’
At 83 and in a wheelchair, Vidal’s bitterness seems to stem from his own unfulfilled political ambitions. ‘I would have liked to have been president, but I never had the money. I was a friend of the throne. The only time I envied Jack [Kennedy] was when Joe [Kennedy, his father] was buying him his Senate seat, then the presidency. He didn’t know how lucky he was.’
And here is a link to a youtube video of the infamous Buckley/Vidal spat on ABC: