Books by Gore Vidal
City and the Pillar /
Point to Point Navigation: A Memoir /
Lincoln: A Novel /
Burr: A Novel
Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace /
Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson
* * *
Gore Goes Off on Bush, Katrina, The War, and More
Gore Vidal Interview with Kam Williams
National Book Award
winner Gore Vidal was born in 1925 at the United States
Military Academy at West Point. His first novel,
Williwaw, written when he was just nineteen years old
and serving in the Army, appeared in the spring of 1946.
Since then he has written twenty-three novels, five
plays, short stories, well over two hundred essays, and
Vidal is also an
accomplished screenwriter, evidenced by his scripts for
Ben Hur, Caligula and Myra Breckenridge. A true
Renaissance Man, he has even found the time to act in a
dozen films, including Gattaca, and to found a political
party, the US Peace Party, and to run for Congress.
indomitable firebrand has been a thorn in the side of
the Establishment for so long, some might forget that he
actually is a very well-connected blueblood. On one side
of his family tree, he is related to former Vice
President Al Gore, on the other to Jacqueline Kennedy
Thus, it should come
as no surprise that Mr. Vidal might be interested in
conducting this interview on behalf of Marcy Winograd,
the anti-war, pro universal healthcare candidate who is
mounting a serious campaign to unseat pro-war, hack
incumbent Jane Harman in the upcoming, June 6th
Democratic primary to represent California’s 36th
District in Congress.
* * *
You have such an illustrious career I don’t know where
to begin. Why don’t I start with the present and ask you
why you’ve decided to endorse Marcy Winograd for
Well, it’s a Democratic primary, and I thought it would
be nice to endorse a Democrat against the incumbent, Ms.
Harman, who is sort of a Republican Bush-ite. That was
my first instinct, before I listened to Marcy and
watched her campaign. I thought she’s very well-suited
for this time and place. So, I’ve gone as all-out as I
Do you think she has a decent chance of unseating
Harman? The rate of re-election of incumbents is
Well, we all know about the safety for incumbents laws
that come out of gerrymandering and so on. I think that
Harman’s been around a little bit too long, to the
extent that her constituents really think about her at
all. She’s not been a Democrat in the progressive sense,
by which I simply mean she’s not been against the war.
Nor has she had much intelligent to say about
Intelligence, and she sits on the Intelligence
Committee. In other words, she’s pretty hollow while
Marcy’s alive! The living candidate usually wins.
What makes Marcy alive?
She’s organized the progressive Democrats across the
State of California, as opposed to the ones who pretend
to be Democrats and vote Republican, like her opponent.
So, it’s not as though she came wandering in on a whim.
She came marching in out of a sense of duty, and also
with a fire in the belly to get rid of the sort of
candidates like the incumbent.
Why are so passionate about a congressional election
in the House?
The House, you see, is the closest thing to the people
that we have. Every two years they have to go out for an
election. To the extent that we have any form of
democracy, it’s the House of Representatives.
My sense of American politics is that most of our
politicians are for sale, whether they are out and out
crooked, or simply beholden to corporate interests
because they’ve taken so much money from their
lobbyists. I believe that’s a big part of the problem.
Of course it is. It’s been like that for quite some
time. With Marcy, she’s not beholden to anybody, except
me and Susan Sarandon. She got a check from me, and I
think that’s not quite enough to buy her.
I reviewed your book Dreaming War in which you predicted
that Bush would attack Iraq. At the time, he had already
invaded Afghanistan, but people didn’t realize…
… that the target was also Iraq, and American mastery of
the entire Middle East which is what seems to be going
on now, as we head toward Iran.
How would you describe the State of the Union?
This is an Empire gone berserk. You’ve got a President
who had every intention of militarizing the economy and
militarizing the society. This had nothing to do with
governance. He was mostly smearing people who pointed
out his shortcomings. Now we don’t have the money
anymore… We don’t have the will… People are disgusted…
Katrina has turned off half a nation… And there’s all
the nonsense about borders… and so on… This is the worst
period that I’ve ever seen for the United States. And
Marcy Winograd, at least, is a good candidate who is
Given your WASPy, blue-blood background, where did you
find the strength to buck the system?
If you study the Gores, and you don’t really have to
study Albert who’s a worthy person who does good work,
the Gores were the founders of the party of the people
at the end of the late 19th Century. They represented
the people who’d been wrecked by the Civil War and by
Reconstruction, people who’d lost their farms. And they
made common cause with the city machines, which turned
out to be a big mistake. Like in New Jersey, which is
how we got Woodrow Wilson as President. But the whole
family has been, from the very beginning, totally
aligned with the people against “The Interests” as they
used to call them back in the 19th Century. So, it just
comes to me naturally.
I suspected something was funny about the 2000
Presidential election when, instead of conceding, Bush’s
confidently responded to all the networks projecting
Gore as the winner in Florida with, “That’s not what my
brother tells me.”
I think that tells it all. They already knew about the
Diebold voting machines, and how an election like that
could absolutely be switched around. In other words, you
could beat them and beat them and beat them in the
popular vote, but it will not be recorded, as long as
these machines are out there.
The same thing happened in Ohio in 2004.
Congressman John Conyers, as you know, went up there and
did a very thorough analysis with a lot of first-rate
detectives to determine who had stolen that election,
starting with Mr. Blackwell [J. Kenneth Blackwell],
Ohio’s Secretary of State, who was also in charge of the
Bush campaign. The whole thing was shocking beyond
belief. To have two Presidential elections stolen in a
row means that you have no republic.
I’ve called it a post-democracy.
To use the word “democracy” is nonsense. And here we go
again. This coming November, we’re going to have the
same machines with no paper trail.
And besides manipulating machines, they’ve used a
variety of other tactics to disenfranchise black
Oh yeah, it was well thought out. After 2000, I
said, “Watch out for 2004. They’ll have four years to
perfect that one.” After 2004, you know I wrote the
preface to Congressman Conyers’ book [What Went Wrong in
Ohio: The Conyers Report on the 2004 Presidential
Election], thinking that might help get it off the
ground. But it wasn’t reviewed by The New York Times,
The Washington Post, or any daily paper in the United
States, after this highly-respected Congressman and
ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee had taken
the time and gone to all the personal expense to do the
book. When nobody would even mention it, that sounded to
me like the end of the republic.
What do you think was Bush’s agenda for this Presidency
he wanted by any means necessary?
To give his corporate friends jobs and tax cuts,
from the oil people to General Electric. To make sure
Halliburton wouldn’t have to bid on its contracts to
rebuild a country we first knocked-down with our tax
By deliberately ruining Iraq so war profiteers could
rebuild its infrastructure, he ended up ruining this
country in the process, given the record federal
deficit, which is why so much of the Gulf Region looks
the same as the day after Hurricane Katrina hit. I
wonder whether Bush has a sense of the irony about that.
He has no sense at all. That’s the problem. I don’t
think he deliberately set out to wreck the United
States, but he has. It’ll take two generations to get
this country back, if we can ever get it back.
Why aren’t the people up in arms?
Acquiescence. What used to be called citizens are now
just a bunch of consumers waiting to be told what to do
next, and automatically voting, even though they know
the machinery is going to reverse their vote. We’ve lost
too much in the way of the Bill of Rights.
How do you think Bush feels about his disastrous
I don’t think he cares. There are so many different
kinds of stupidity. In American politics, you get to
meet every kind. But he’s a little exceptional. Very few
politicians who got to be president are as ignorant as
he is. Usually, they knew something about economics,
something about how the world works. I would say even
some of them have a bit of conscience, not much, not
much, and talk about impossible dreams. Aside from
ambition, they do have an idea that they’re going to
serve a certain group.
How has this played out with Bush?
So, if there’s a really difficult job, like running FEMA,
you pick the dumbest person you know, because he’s a
really good guy. To watch Bush do this time and time
again, I sit there and my jaw drops. Each time he does
it he’s in deeper trouble. He learns nothing.
What will be the Bush legacy?
If you remember, in one of my other books, I prophesied
at the time of his election in 2000, “He will leave
office the most hated President in our history.”
How’d you know?
I put it together just from things he was saying along
the way and from what I knew of his career in Texas.
What do you think of his War on Terrorism?
First of all, it’s a metaphor. Secondly, “terrorism” is
an abstract noun. It’s like having a war on dandruff.
It’s something from advertising, it’s meaningless. You
have to have a country for a war. Congress also has to
declare it. So, he has no declaration, and no countries
to fight, except the ones he chooses to attack. This is
against all the rules of the United Nations which we’ve
sworn to uphold, since we started the damn thing back in
Do you think he deserves to be impeached?
He’s totally illegal on every level, which is
impeachable. And that’s not partisan talk. That’s
patriotic talk, Constitutional talk. He’s got to go.
He’s got to be punished for what he’s done.
Your cousin, Al Gore, has a new movie out about
global warming entitled “An Inconvenient Truth.” Do you
think he’s going to run for the Presidency again?
I have no idea at all. I assume so, as he’s very much on
the scene. Politicians do that when they’re getting
ready to run. But I know nothing from the family about
what he’s up to. I know he’s had trouble raising money,
which I think is going to be a great barrier for him, if
he does decide to run.
How did you feel watching what unfolded in New Orleans
in the wake of Katrina?
That was wanton cruelty shown toward the native
inhabitants who were left there to die. But you might
say that someone was really very eager for the City to
go. Putting Brownie in charge had to be a slap in the
face of the people. I used to live there. Have you ever
No, and I had a friend there, Randy, who urged me come
visit every year, till he left town.
It was a wonderful city, but everybody who lived there
knew we were all living with danger. It is below sea
level, and those levees just looked like humped sand
castles on the beach. We all knew that they were
extremely fallible and probably couldn’t withstand a
major hurricane. But they hadn’t had a major hurricane
in quite some time. Then, Albert’s [Al Gore] predictions
all came true. The climate has changed and gave us
Yet Bush arrogantly lied after the fact, praising
Brownie and saying we had no idea such a disaster was
possible, when now we see videotapes of the National
Weather Service warning him.
He’d been warned. It was like 9-11, for God’s sake.
They’d been warned by President Putin of Russia. They’d
been warned by President Mubarak of Egypt. They’d been
warned by elements of Mossad. They’d been warned by our
own FBI out in the Midwest. There was a hell of a lot of
evidence that we were going to have unfriendly visitors
to our serene skies. Bush pretends he knew nothing about
it. Well, he probably didn’t read the reports. But you’d
think that at least somebody in the government would be
on top of it and say, “You’ve got to pull yourself
together, Mr. President. Otherwise, something terrible
might happen to us.” He did nothing.
How about his behavior on the morning of 9-11?
That famous shot of him reading the children’s book
about a goat to the school kids in Florida tells it all.
After the Secret Service agent whispers in his ear, his
eyes just go out of focus. You can see that he’s so
stunned he doesn’t know what to do, because there’s
nobody to tell him. Can you imagine the leader of any
country on Earth who would just sit there staring
straight ahead? We’d been hit. The Twin Towers were hit.
The Pentagon was hit. But he just sat there
And he actually continued reading the picture book
to the kids for a while.
He just wanted to prove that he could read. Finally,
somebody decided to race him across the country to find
bunker to put him in, so he wouldn’t get hurt, as if
that would’ve made any difference.
Former counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke, in his
book [Against All Enemies] made it clear that when he
warned the then National Security Advisor Condoleezza
Rice about bin Laden, her response was to cut his staff.
And even before 9-11, Bush was already more interested
in attacking Iraq than in tracking down Osama.
He should’ve at least pretended to be interested in
getting Osama bin Laden. But they wanted that war and
that oil. They want control. They want to knock things
down and to frighten the world. But Bush isn’t the
first. It goes straight back to Harry Truman who started
The Cold War because he wanted to frighten Stalin,
because he believed that the Russians were coming. The
Russians had just lost 20 million people in World War
II. They weren’t going anywhere.
What do you think of Truman ushering in the atomic age
by dropping the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
Did you know that every single major military officer
tried to get Truman not to drop the two atomic bombs?
Contrary to what our history books try to tells us,
Japan was already defeated. They had been defeated and
the Emperor was trying surrender, but Truman would not
respond, because he wanted to drop the bomb.
I never knew that.
These are all things American people ought to know, but
history was the first subject to be jettisoned when they
decided all they wanted was docile workers and loyal
consumers. Why educate them? You don’t want to tell them
I remember reading something scathing you wrote about
Harry Truman and Zionists.
Yeah, getting the bribe.
Did he really take two million dollars in return for
supporting for his support of Israel?
I don’t know whether it’s true, but I’ll tell you who
told me. It was Jack Kennedy. They did not like each
other, Truman and Jack.
Why would Kennedy divulge such a damning secret?
When Jack was running the first time, and Truman said he
wasn’t going to support him, Jack started telling this
story about how a suitcase with two million dollars was
delivered to Harry.
Do you believe it?
It sounds in character.
In the Fifties, you wrote a trio of murder mysteries
under the pseudonym Edgar Box. I use to be a big fan of
that genre until I read those three novels. They were
the best, nothing else ever measured up to them, not
Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, Raymond Chandler,
anybody. I’ve said that in print before, so don’t think
I’m just buttering you up.
Thank you. Well, I certainly enjoyed writing them. They
were a lot of fun.
What made you decide to adopt the sobriquet?
I did it, because I was then being blacklisted by The
New York Times. So, in order to make a living I wrote as
Edgar Box, and got wonderful reviews from The Times.
Eight of my books did not get reviewed.
And what got you blacklisted in the first place?
Homophobia over my novel
The City and the Pillar. They
were deeply into homophobia. The Times was really the
center of it in American culture, and didn’t give it up
until they were threatened in other directions. It’s a
very bad newspaper.
I agree. Even though I’m published regularly in over 100
publications around the U.S., Canada, England and the
Caribbean, and I email their editors every op-ed I
write, The Times has never seen fit to publish even one
of my pieces.
You don’t need The Times. Just keep getting them out
there in any form you can.
Thanks so much for such an informative and
forthcoming tete-a-tete. I didn’t mean to monopolize
your time, but there was just so much to talk about.
That’s okay. It was good to talk to you, too, though I
need to finish writing a preface I was working on.
posted 30 May 2006
* * *
* * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
* * *
A Wreath for Emmett Till
By Marilyn Nelson; Illustrated by
This memorial to
the lynched teen is in the Homeric
tradition of poet-as-historian. It is a
heroic crown of sonnets in Petrarchan
rhyme scheme and, as such, is quite
formal not only in form but in language.
There are 15 poems in the cycle, the
last line of one being the first line of
the next, and each of the first lines
makes up the entirety of the 15th. This
chosen formality brings distance and
reflection to readers, but also calls
attention to the horrifically ugly
events. The language is highly
figurative in one sonnet, cruelly
graphic in the next. The illustrations
echo the representative nature of the
poetry, using images from nature and
taking advantage of the emotional
quality of color. There is an
introduction by the author, a page about
Emmett Till, and literary and poetical
footnotes to the sonnets. The artist
also gives detailed reasoning behind his
choices. This underpinning information
makes this a full experience, eminently
teachable from several aspects,
including historical and literary—School
(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
12 January 2012