As cantakerous and opinionated as ever, Gore Vidal talks with The Times about the deteriorating state of the U.S., his disappointment in President Obama, and his disinterest in discussing his writing.
How does Vidal, who switched support from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama during the primaries, feel about the current President’s performance?
I was hopeful. He was the most intelligent person we’ve had in that position for a long time. But he’s inexperienced. He has a total inability to understand military matters. He’s acting as if Afghanistan is the magic talisman: solve that and you solve terrorism.
He couples Obama’s lack of military experience with his pandering to the religious right:
Obama 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.
And his suggestion for a brighter, more effective Obama administration?
Obama would have been better off focusing on educating the American people. His problem is being over-educated. He doesn’t realise how dim-witted and ignorant his audience is. Benjamin Franklin said that the system would fail because of the corruption of the people and that happened under Bush.
Also responding to questions about his biography, Vidal speaks briefly to The Times reporter about his childhood with the Kennedys and the perils of Hollywood screenwriting. Perhaps most interesting is his riff on the differences between heterosexual and homosexual relationships. “Don’t make the error that schoolteacher idiots make by thinking that gay men’s relationships are like heterosexual ones. They’re not.” Of course, Vidal was speaking about straight and gay relationships in the objective, as he has long rejected labels throughout his public life. Identity politics seemed the least of his wide-ranging interests.
Gore Vidal, still fearless in his opinions and opinion-making. PBS has a fairly comprehensive introduction to Vidal’s work, if you’re interested, including a timeline and video. One of the hidden treasures on the PBS site is filmed footage of a photo shoot with Vidal, Norman Mailer, and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.