Gore Vidal On America, Obama, Homosexuality, and Timothy McVeigh

Johann Hari has an interview with Gore Vidal, in which Vidal expresses some wild opinions. First Hari’s rundown of Vidal’s one of a kind biography:

At 83, he has lived through one third of the lifespan of the United States. If anyone incarnates the American century that has ended, it is him. He was America’s greatest essayist, one of its best-selling novelists and the wit at every party. He holidayed with the Kennedys, cruised for men with Tennessee Williams, was urged to run for Congress by Eleanor Roosevelt, co-wrote some of the most iconic Hollywood films, damned US foreign policy from within, sued Truman Capote, got fellated by Jack Kerouac, watched his cousin Al Gore get elected President and still lose the White House, and – finally, bizarrely – befriended and championed the Oklahoma bomber, Timothy McVeigh.

Yet now, he says, it is clear the American experiment has been “a failure”. It was all for nothing.

Vidal on Obama:

“I was like everyone else when Obama was elected – optimistic. Everything we had been saying about racial integration was vindicated,” he says, “but he’s incompetent. He will be defeated for re-election. It’s a pity because he’s the first intellectual president we’ve had in many years, but he can’t hack it. He’s not up to it. He’s overwhelmed. And who wouldn’t be? The United States is a madhouse. The country should be put away – and we’re being told to go away. Nothing makes any sense.” The President “wants to be liked by everybody, and he thought all he had to do was talk reason. But remember – the Republican Party is not a political party. It’s a mindset, like Hitler Youth. It’s full of hatred. You’re not going to get them aboard. Don’t even try. The only way to handle them is to terrify them. He’s too delicate for that.”

When he compares Obama to his old friend Jack Kennedy, he shakes his head. “He’s twice the intellectual that Jack was, but Jack knew the great world. Remember he spent a long time in the navy, losing ships. This kid [Obama] has never heard a gun fired in anger. He’s absolutely bowled over by generals, who tell him lies and he believes them. He hasn’t done anything. If you were faced with great problems in chemistry – to find the perfect gas, to gas a population – you won’t know for a long time whether it works. You have to go by what people tell you. He’s like that. He’s not ready for prime time and he’s getting a lot of prime time on his plate at once.”

Vidal on “gayness”:

Strangely, though, Vidal has always resisted the idea that he is a “gay” champion. “I never said I was gay, because I don’t think anyone is.” He says he finds “these restrictions tiresome. In the centuries of Rome’s great military and political success, there was no differentiation between same-sexers and other-sexers; there was also a lot of crossing back and forth. Of the first 12 Roman emperors, only one was exclusively heterosexual.” The US today is, for all the fussing, full of sodomy, he says. “Did you see [Colonel] Gaddafi [at the UN] complaining that American soldiers have been sodomising Arab boys? I thought, well that’s been the case since the very beginning of the republic. They blamed the sodomy on those great forests out there which they said made them horny. There was nothing else to do but bugger boys, they said.”

So homosexuality and heterosexuality are fictions? “Yes, of course.” He adopts a camp voice and adds: “But it makes a lot of girls happy.” Why do so many people believe it to be true about themselves if it’s false? “They believe in Jesus, and that’s a much bigger fiction, with more money spent on it. Prettier clothes too.”

Vidal on McVeigh:

McVeigh wrote to Vidal, saying he had been motivated, in part, by studying his work. He said he believed the US Constitution had been usurped by a National Security State that had to be defeated by force. Vidal wrote back – and they became friends. He started mounting passionate defences of the bomber in public. He says he was not crazy, but “too sane for his place and time”.

“He was a dedicated student of the American way, of the Constitution itself,” he says. “You should read his writings – they’re very good. Particularly on the Posse Comitatus Act of 1876, which forbids the Federal government ever to use its troops against the American people – but which they proceeded to do at Waco [a compound used by a religious cult that was attacked by federal troops in 1993]. They killed more people than he managed to kill when he blew up that building in Oklahoma City. He was a noble boy.”

Read much more.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://sendaianonymous.wordpress.com sendaianonymous

    If you were faced with great problems in chemistry – to find the perfect gas, to gas a population (…)

    I admit I snorted.

    In the centuries of Rome’s great military and political success, there was no differentiation between same-sexers and other-sexers; there was also a lot of crossing back and forth. Of the first 12 Roman emperors, only one was exclusively heterosexual.”

    Yeah no. Funny how he has no idea about Rome at all. What an average person thought about gays and lesbians can be gleaned from, for instance, Juvenal’s Satires, and most certainly not from the fact that the emperors weren’t, or were rumoured not to be straight.
    In fact, the emperors could have as well buggered animals, trees, and white stucco, precisely because *they were the emperors*. Also, crimen laesae maiestatis, DUH. Sometimes you could lose everything, including life, for saying as much as “the emperor has stupid hair”.
    And yet, some people did! Others did even more than that, like, for instance mentioning stuff like “LOL CAESAR IS THE KING OF BITHYNIA’S WHORE LOL*”.
    I’d expect a guy like Vidal to at least have read Suetonius >.>

    “But it makes a lot of girls happy.”

    Haha, way to be a mysoginistic arsehole.

    Not touching the stuff about McVeigh with a ten-foot pole, though o.O

    *In case you’re wondering, Suetonius said that Cicero said that about Caesar.

    • Ginger999

      Mysoginistic my arse. You lack Vidal’s wit. And he did know about Rome!

  • http://www.wayofthemind.org Pedro Timóteo

    Still, to paraphrase Kevin Smith, he was the bomb in Gattaca. :)

  • The Vicar

    There’s no point in criticizing or praising Gore Vidal as such. Like most other people, some of his ideas are good, some are bad — the only exceptions to the rule are the very rare people whose ideas are almost completely bad, and even they would admit the necessity of, say, breathing.

    Working on the basis of names instead of going idea by idea leads to the all-too-common situation where criticism of one of his ideas implies rejection of them all, and agreement with one of his ideas implies mindless acceptance of everything he says. It further makes people think they understand everything someone thought if they understand even a tiny bit of it. I say “Einstein”, and half the people in the (educated) world will think “E=mc^2″ and believe they have grasped the essentials.

    This problem is never intentional, but it still happens, and it obstructs discourse. (Look at the whole “criticism of any aspect of the nation of Israel is antisemitism” thing, for example. Or “atheists must be evil because they reject religion but church people are so nice”, that’s another one.) If you want to discuss Gore Vidal’s ideas, that’s fine, but for the sake of clear discourse, please please please split them up.


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