Speaking with Gore Vidal

How do you balance your desire to unseat Bush with your desire to change what you describe as the “one party system?”

I don’t know that I’d connect them as concepts. If Bush is returned, which I think most unlikely, there might not be another election. You put two things together that don’t go together. Bush is an immediate danger. The two party system is something else again that has yet to be invented. Bush is up for reelection, and if he is, the conquest of the world’s oil supply, which is what this is clearly about…. There are no ambiguities except their denials. I think he is the most dangerous thing that has ever come along in the history of the country, so I think it’s very important that he be defeated. I think he will be, in the sense that he was defeated in the popular vote in 2000. The same thing will happen this time around, because word I’m getting from Pennsylvania and Ohio is that he’s running way behind, because they are suffering from depression. So I think he will go where he’s intended to go, except this gang will do anything to hang on. They’ve got too much invested in the conquest of the world’s oil supply. When Cheney came to Washington in 2001 as Vice President, he called for a commission that asked the geologists and so on, “How much longer is the oil and gas supply going to last for the human race?” And they said something like, “Well, certainly until the year 2020, and then after that, well…” With that, Junior starts talking about invading Iraq, he starts talking about war. Then comes 9/11, then comes the twin towers debacle, which should have been handed over to Interpol, as it was a criminal action and not a warlike action, because no country was involved. The urgency now is that he not be allowed to serve a second term, and we must make it so difficult that all of the forces that he can call to his aid get nullified. God knows it’s going to be a real Halloween, this subsequent election period.

You write that a lack of participation in elections has delegitimized the system. Do you think that there will be a higher voter turnout this coming election, and do you think this will serve to relegitimize the system?

I don’t know if that’s possible, but I certainly know that there’s going to be an extraordinary turnout. I’m in touch with the people that are trying to see to it, and they’re active all over the place, for which we have Howard Dean to thank. He touched the right buttons, which is the American people, particularly in the Midwest. People on the coasts don’t pay much attention to the Midwest, but that’s really where the weather starts. The entire Midwest has always been isolationist, which is a bad word that’s been criminalized along with the word liberal, but they are isolationists. They had to be dragged screaming into World War I, ditto into World War II. Crafty Eastern managers like Wilson and Roosevelt got them into the war, but they didn’t like it. Chicago’s their capital.

That was what Howard Dean knew, so he had a natural audience out there and started raising all that money on the Internet, started getting support, and he was doing fine, until they decided to kill him off with the famous scream. All that was done in the studio. Quite a deliberate act. He was talking in New Hampshire and he had just lost and his fans were all around him weeping and carrying on, and he’s trying to cheer them up. And he’s giving a kind of mock pep talk, and they’re shouting and carrying on and making a great deal of noise and he raises his voice to be heard. Well, what they did with the subsequent program is they cut the audio on the audience in front of him, so they seem to be silent, then they up the audio on him speaking, and he seems to be screaming. Then they played it, and played it, and played it, and played it, and that is how people are got. I could also remind you of how Jesse Jackson was done in, but it’s all thought ahead, and it’s sometimes terribly effective. It was in this case.

With the synergy between corporations and the media, where do you look for your information?

Well, I’m much of the year in Europe, where you have a free press.

Do you place much faith in the American alternative press?

Well I like some of it, and I don’t like some of it. After all, without The Nation and papers like that, we wouldn’t have any information, but it’s always been hard work. On the one hand, The Nation is horrified at the continuation of the Bush administration, but at the same time it’s been marvelous for their business, so there’s a conflict of interest there.

With the media preoccupation with Edwards’ hair and Kerry’s supposedly Gallic features, what are the biggest issues that are being overlooked by the mainstream media?

Oh, everything. The bankruptcy of the United States. Indebtedness beyond what various central banks around the world will allow, not to mention prospective trade wars, the prospective quarantine of the United States — we nearly got hit in the face over steel recently. Everything that you could do wrong, this administration has done wrong, and in a savage spirit. In a normal country, they wouldn’t be allowed to stay in office, but this isn’t normal. This is a controlled press. The people have no information, they have no one to turn to that they trust, and they have no representation in Congress. Yes, there are two or three nice Congressmen, and a couple of good senators, and they’re pretty ineffective.

Assuming that Kerry wins the upcoming election, how do you envision the future? What do you think the next cause for hope or alarm is?

Well, probably the same sources. Kerry is extremely imperial minded, and he would’ve voted for the war, even without the weapons. That did it for me, but I’m not voting for him out of love, or even that I think there’s even going to be effective change. I think certain things will be stopped. I cannot imagine Bush/Cheney appointing a decent federal judge for any court in the land, much less the Supreme Court. So, it is for the judges who in the long run will determine the future of the country, whether we go into a permanent despotism with concentration camps like Guantanamo. That’s what’s ahead of us. During the War on Drugs, another ridiculous war which nobody wanted to win and nobody fought, they were already turning army camps into concentration camps for drug dealers. Also, they were talking about this was a plan to sequester people who took marijuana. All of this is sitting out there waiting to happen, and the reelection of Bush will make it happen. First of all, he’s not the president, Cheney’s the president, and Cheney’s pretty dumb. So, you have a very confident dumb-dumb, and then you have this flibbertigibbet squealing about how he’s a wartime president. He doesn’t even know what the phrase means, except that he has the right to lock up his opponents.

Your outspoken criticism of American imperialism has caused a lot of right-wingers to label you as unpatriotic. What does patriotism mean to you?

Well, it means the Constitution of the United States, among other things. That is our agreed upon document, or it was agreed upon until the right wing decided to get rid of it. Due process of law, that’s out. They’re hacking away at it, and the USA Patriot Act is a kind of summation of their attempts to destroy the Bill of Rights. I don’t find the defendants of the Bill of Rights all that lyric, but if they were, who would publish it? Well, Utne could, The Nation could, and so on, but The New York Times won’t touch it.

Who is your favorite patriot?

In different times, there are different kinds of patriotism. There’s not one to fit every period. I’d say at one point, John Quincy Adams in the 1820s, who said that Americans are not paladins to go to war for any cause other than American interests. Even though America would embark under the flag of freedom and liberty, “she might become the dictatress of the world. She would no longer be the ruler of her own spirit.” That was as wise advice as we got from anyone in the 1820s. These figures occur every now and then.

Where do you go when you need inspiration? Or do you ever want for inspiration?

I don’t think I particularly need inspiration. I need something to cool my temper.

Who is your favorite liar?

Oh, what a lovely prospect. If you’ve read me, you know that lying gets on my nerves more than almost anything. Americans are just addicted to it because we’re a consumer society. Consumers must sell their goods, and they invented advertising to sell them. Advertising is nothing but clever lies, and we applied that to politics, so everything is now without reality. There’s nothing tangible, everything is a kind of ghost, just said and done for the moment, and someone like Bush or Cheney can just get up and tell a lie and contradict themselves before they even take a deep breath. And nobody challenges them. That’s when I really think that the enemy is the media. They let them get away with it. In the old days, it wasn’t that easy to lie to the public. You had Congress there to question you.

I’m not a devotee of political parties, and in this I resemble the founders, who didn’t want parties. They detested factions, because they saw they’d be money machines, or eager beavers, as indeed they proved to be. But a political party cannot exist unless it is well rooted and based upon class interests. We have a country that has been hypnotized into thinking that everybody is middle class. These are very poor people who think they are middle class people, and if they’re not, well, then, next year they will be. They should have a political party of their own, and the Democrats during the thirties were the party of the working class. There was a class interest. There’s no class interest behind the Democratic party of today. You look at Kerry, and he’s an intelligent upper-class man. You have to determine what the class interests are, and what they want, other than gimme gimme gimme, which is understandable, since there are a lot of people with nothing who do want to be given something. Or take something.

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