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

Gore Vidal On America, Obama, Homosexuality, and Timothy McVeigh October 14, 2009

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.”

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