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Gore Vidal on The New York Times Magazine
June 15, 2008 1:17 PM   Subscribe

Gore Vidal on The New York Times Magazine. On McCain: "Who started this rumor that he was a war hero? Where does that come from, aside from himself? About his suffering in the prison war camp?". On WFB's death: "I thought hell is bound to be a livelier place, as he joins forever those whom he served in life, applauding their prejudices and fanning their hatred".

Ah, like a fine wine, some people do get better with age.
posted by falameufilho (118 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
NYT: Everyone knows he was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.
Gore Vidal: That’s what he tells us.

Gore Vidal is an asshole.
posted by dhammond at 1:23 PM on June 15, 2008 [8 favorites]


"I doubt that." Ahahahahaha!

What a crotchedy old fart.
posted by joannemerriam at 1:24 PM on June 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Gore Vidal tries so annoyingly hard for attention it's pathetic. not interesting.
posted by unpoppy at 1:25 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


He's become remarkably boring. Good work, profiling a wonder-less bore.
posted by xmutex at 1:27 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ah, like a fine wine, some people do get better with age.

or turn into an unpleasant combination of piss and vinegar
posted by pyramid termite at 1:33 PM on June 15, 2008 [6 favorites]


Boy, what a bunch of sniffy humorless MeFites! I thought the interview (which was edited, folks, probably to remove everything but P & V) was pretty funny.
but then i'm a crotchety old crank, too
posted by CCBC at 1:43 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


When the most high profile liberal writers lose all sense of decorum you know we've gone through the looking glass as a nation. Sounds similar to the Vonnegut interviews before his passing. These are the canaries in the coal mine right before the CO takes em. Instead of heeding their warnings we write them off as bitter curmudgeons so as not to interrupt our solipsistic existence.
posted by any major dude at 1:50 PM on June 15, 2008 [17 favorites]


He's smarter than the haters - who will never ever get it. The New York Times Magazine has been a joke for over a decade and he just owned them. Get it?
posted by Zambrano at 1:50 PM on June 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Not much of an interview, really. Seemed more like someone asking him questions as he was running to catch a bus or something. Considering his age and his girth, I imagine he was riding a Rascal to catch a bus.
posted by Dave Faris at 1:58 PM on June 15, 2008


When the most high profile liberal writers lose all sense of decorum you know we've gone through the looking glass as a nation. Sounds similar to the Vonnegut interviews before his passing.

Or maybe they just get old and start to lose it a bit?

I saw Vonnegut on the Daily Show shortly before his death. It was .... embarrassing.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:00 PM on June 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


@Zambrano hahahahah good one, dude. "Gore Vidal owned them! Can't you see? It was a joke!" Keep telling that to yourself.
posted by falameufilho at 2:02 PM on June 15, 2008


Ignore that skimply little thing in today's NYT Sunday Magazine. It's pathetic. HERE's the one you need to read, from the Sunday Independent (and thank you 3Quarks Daily). It's long, meaty, and conducted by an uncommonly intellegent and sensitive interviewer. If you read only ONE "last interview with Gore Vidal," make sure it is this one.
posted by Faze at 2:08 PM on June 15, 2008 [10 favorites]


It seems like his answer to every other question was "I don't read them" or "I don't know about that." And yet, he still almost manages to sound superior in doing so. Interesting.
posted by Hollow at 2:13 PM on June 15, 2008


On McCain: "Who started this rumor that he was a war hero? Where does that come from, aside from himself? About his suffering in the prison war camp?"

I always did think it was odd that having been imprisoned --- however unjustly --- would be considered a credential for Presidential leadership. It's not like he chose to be imprisoned ... so how is being imprisoned "heroic"?
posted by jayder at 2:17 PM on June 15, 2008 [7 favorites]


Here's Vidal on Kucinich's impeachment motion.
posted by CCBC at 2:22 PM on June 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


so how is being imprisoned "heroic"?

Totally pro-Obama here, but perhaps it has something to do with turning down being released in order to be used as a propaganda tool for the Vietcong?
posted by waitingtoderail at 2:22 PM on June 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


For God's sake, old people, learn from the mistakes of curmudgeons who have gone before you and avoid your crotchety smug Bill Cosby end stage of life. Remember what made you vital and interesting.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:30 PM on June 15, 2008


Totally pro-Obama here...

It is unfortunate that you felt your point would not be accepted without the disclaimer. It is even more unfortunate that you were probably right.
posted by spock at 2:30 PM on June 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


HERE's the one you need to read, from the Sunday Independent...

Thanks for pointing that interview out. I just finished reading it.
posted by ericb at 2:37 PM on June 15, 2008


In a hundred years, when historians are studying the fall of the American empire, the words of Gore Vidal will be cited as some of the most important material actually written during the darkest period of early part of the transition. His brutal honesty, integrity and insights live outside of the vast propaganda machine which has claimed the minds and souls of the vast majority of consumers - not citizens - of the U.S. Snark all you want, folks, the handwriting is on the wall, and Vidal's words glow with the light of truth. In a country filled to the brim with faux patriots, Vidal is the real thing. Is a bit negative in his advanced years? I think he's earned the right to be disgusted with the vapidity of the United States of Amnesia. Reality is not a comfortable, fuzzy teddy bear, and Vidal speaks truth to power better than anyone I've ever read in contemporary times. It's not pretty, but neither is the future of this country.
posted by dbiedny at 2:38 PM on June 15, 2008 [22 favorites]


Were you chaste during those years? Chased by whom?

I wish I could be as sharp and witty at 32 as Mr. Vidal is at 82.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:39 PM on June 15, 2008 [5 favorites]


Is he... sorry.
posted by dbiedny at 2:39 PM on June 15, 2008


Vidal is a very fine lit critic but his novels, not seriously among the best of our times, gets him to badmouth those who do not rank him as a fine novelist. Don;'t blame his remarks on his age. You can read his snippiness a long time ago, when he was much younger, but just as vitriolic...he likes so often to belittle aristorcratic (upper class) people, but manages always to let you know the important people he know personally.
posted by Postroad at 2:40 PM on June 15, 2008


I thought he was dead.
posted by A189Nut at 2:49 PM on June 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


dbiedny -- I disagree with you. A hundred years from now, Vidal's political opinions will be considered an embarassment. Think about it. Vidal's political opinions are no more interesting or intelligently expressed (or different) than those of the average MeFite. They also range fromt the vapid, to the paranoid, the simply asinine (such as his comments on McCain in the NYT interview. I mean, really, there are plenty of substantive and powerfully negative things to say about McCain, without making unsupported assertions about his prison experience.)

Vidal will be remembered as a brilliant prose stylist ("Judgement of Venus"), sometimes hack ("Lincoln," "Nebraska", "Myron"), wonderful historical novelist ("Julian"), and most of all as the best literary essayist (collected in "United States") since Edmund Wilson. There is so much good about Vidal as a writer, that we can fortunately ignore his political comments, and still admire him very much.
posted by Faze at 2:50 PM on June 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Esquire | May 28, 2008: What I’ve Learned: Gore Vidal.

Back Story: Gore Vidal Interview.
posted by ericb at 2:54 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


CCBC's link - to this thoughts on the Kucinich call for impeachment - well, Vidals words are as astute politically as anything I've ever read, IMO. But hey, what do I know, I'm just another shmoe on MeFi.
posted by dbiedny at 2:55 PM on June 15, 2008


The Spectator | May 20, 2008: A conversation with Gore Vidal, Podcast [mp3].
posted by ericb at 2:58 PM on June 15, 2008


avoid your crotchety smug Bill Cosby end stage of life

Actually I think most people get it out of their systems rather early, right here on MetaFilter.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 2:58 PM on June 15, 2008 [6 favorites]


In a hundred years, when historians are studying the fall of the American empire... It's not pretty, but neither is the future of this country.

That's not writing, that's blogging.
posted by hal9k at 2:59 PM on June 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


Wow. That sounded like one of the "interviews" I do with my grandfather when I accidentally wake him.
posted by ColdChef at 3:00 PM on June 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Gore Vidal is a brilliant man, but no doubt miserable and lonely. And may have always have been that way. Admire him if you must, but emulate him at your peril.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:03 PM on June 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


A189nut---

Me too!
Can they prove it?
posted by Dizzy at 3:03 PM on June 15, 2008


If you read only ONE "last interview with Gore Vidal," make sure it is this one.

Indeed. Thanks for the link.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:05 PM on June 15, 2008


Back Story: Gore Vidal Interview.

C'mon, ericb, the money quote from that article deserves quoting:

Me: You had a calling. You knew what you wanted to do from an early age -- you needed to write. So many people today in the world suffer because they have no calling. They don’t know where their place is, what they should be doing.

Gore: Who gives a fuck?


Awesome.
posted by mullacc at 3:05 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Gore Vidal vs. William F. Buckley, Jr. (1968)
Vidal: As far as I’m concerned, the only pro- or crypto-Nazi I can think of is yourself.

Buckley: Now, listen you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in the goddam face and you’ll stay plastered!
posted by ericb at 3:14 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


When the most high profile liberal writers lose all sense of decorum you know we've gone through the looking glass as a nation. Sounds similar to the Vonnegut interviews before his passing. These are the canaries in the coal mine right before the CO takes em. Instead of heeding their warnings we write them off as bitter curmudgeons so as not to interrupt our solipsistic existence.

OK, so I should be watching for liberal writers to become greater and greater nonsensical assholes? Is there some sort of scale for this?
posted by mattholomew at 3:14 PM on June 15, 2008


I always did think it was odd that having been imprisoned --- however unjustly --- would be considered a credential for Presidential leadership. It's not like he chose to be imprisoned ... so how is being imprisoned "heroic"?

It wasn't that he was imprisoned, but that he refused to get out early despite the chance. So yeah, I don't want him to be President, but he behaved heroically while imprisoned.

Odd. there's actually a photo of McCain being captured.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:24 PM on June 15, 2008


it's unfortunate that of a population of 300 million people, only two men will tell you the truth. without george carlin and gore vidal, the candle goes out.
posted by kitchenrat at 3:24 PM on June 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


The Sunday Independent interview is much better.
posted by ColdChef at 3:28 PM on June 15, 2008


it's unfortunate that of a population of 300 million people, only two men will tell you the truth. without george carlin and gore vidal, the candle goes out.

Wait a minute kitchenrat, you didn't include yourself in that count, so... is this like one of those "island of truthtellers/island of liars" brain teasers?
posted by mattholomew at 3:29 PM on June 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, it was a great pleasure talking to you. I doubt that.

That was an even grumpier interview than usual. But that last line made me LOL a bit, especially since I was getting the distinct impression that the interviewer was getting more and more...frustrated? aggravated? exasperated?...as things progressed.

As for "miserable and lonely," Vidal has sounded very understandably unhappy/depressed in some of the interviews he's given since Howard Austen died in 2005. So, yeah, I imagine so.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:29 PM on June 15, 2008


How am I supposed to read the NYT when bugmenot is down. I guess I'm just forced to continue thinking Gore Vidal is awesome, brilliant, and hilariously snobby.
posted by birdie birdington at 3:38 PM on June 15, 2008


so how is being imprisoned "heroic"?

The same NY Times has a long article on John McCain's imprisonment and kinda addresses that question. It's worth a read.

In ’74 Thesis, the Seeds of McCain’s War Views
posted by falameufilho at 3:38 PM on June 15, 2008


Mark Twain got grumpy towards the end too. Hard not to when you witness what seems to be the terminal decline of your country (of course, Twain had no way of knowing the U.S. would claw its way back to a semblance of respectability before descending into the mire even worse than in his day). And this "interview" was a complete mismatch; Vidal clearly had no interest in the fluff that is the NYT Magazine interview and no desire to fake it.
posted by languagehat at 3:42 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


How am I supposed to read the NYT when bugmenot is down.

By clicking on this non-reg. link (courtesy of the New York Times Link Generator).
posted by ericb at 3:44 PM on June 15, 2008


Well, it was a great pleasure talking to you. "I doubt that."

HA!
posted by tehloki at 4:17 PM on June 15, 2008


The Independent's article is just full of awesome:
Nina also informed him how, on the way to their honeymoon, his father had told her: "'There's something very important I want you to know.' I was so excited. He's going to tell me he loves me. But he didn't. Instead, he said: 'I have three balls.'" According to Vidal, his father "was in all the medical books".

Best.

Anecdote.

EVAH!
posted by liza at 4:24 PM on June 15, 2008


If you translate this 'condensed' interview into the way Vidal comes across on video or in person, you could see how he's half-joking with the McCain thing. That’s what he tells us is kind of his style of answering a question--it's a bit on the catty side, because he likes doing that, but the follow-up Annapolis thing makes it more obvious that he's having a bit of fun.

Overall, I'd say the interview was CONDUCTED, CONDENSED AND EDITED by someone who lacks style or sense of humor. It might as well have been carried out by a computer program.
posted by troybob at 4:32 PM on June 15, 2008


Gore Vidal's cantankerousness used to be sort of cute...but at his age now it just comes across as thoroughly obnoxious and undignified. Even the picture of him in the interview shows a scowling, bitter old man with badly swollen ankles and red watery eyes.

Hard for me to like him much any more.
posted by jmcneilly at 4:37 PM on June 15, 2008


I hope she's not still up to her old shenanigans, but Solomon was (in)famous for mixing-and-matching questions and answers, and for editing and "condensing" replies to her questions without much regard for context or, you know, ethics.

So Vidal might have said what he said in the Solomon column, but I'd take some salt along with it.
posted by rtha at 4:38 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


> He's become remarkably boring. Good work, profiling a wonder-less bore.

You won't be talking shit after he smacks you down in a rap battle
posted by churl at 4:43 PM on June 15, 2008


Vidal vs. McCain: Welcome To Battle Of The Old Farts.
posted by jonmc at 4:49 PM on June 15, 2008


Twain had no way of knowing the U.S. would claw its way back to a semblance of respectability before descending into the mire even worse than in his day

"Semblance" is the operative word here. Twain was grousing about (among other things) the Spanish American war, another crap fight we had no business in. Vidal has said that he thinks we had no business in WWI or even WWII.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:57 PM on June 15, 2008


Was that a parody? If not, that was the worst. interview. ever. Worse interviewee, anyway. An arrogant old man who clearly doesn't want to be interviewed, or--worse--thinks that his glib non-answers show a kind of "stick it to the man" rebelliousness. Ugh. Lame.
posted by zardoz at 5:09 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


perhaps it has something to do with turning down being released in order to be used as a propaganda tool for the Vietcong?

To be pedantic, he was being held by the North Vietnamese, not the Viet Cong.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 5:30 PM on June 15, 2008


I hope she's not still up to her old shenanigans, but Solomon was (in)famous for mixing-and-matching questions and answers.

Good article. I once spoke with someone else interviewed by Solomon who was just as upset with her slash-and-burn editing.

I do always read the NYTM interview, though. It often keys me onto figures I'm not aware of.
posted by painquale at 5:47 PM on June 15, 2008


Thanks for the link, rtha - that puts the Vidal interview in a wildly different context.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:03 PM on June 15, 2008


I can hardly read Deborah Solomon's interviews--she clearly asks tons of questions fishing for exactly this kind of stuff, then just tries to paste the funny bits together, winding up with something occasionally amusing or provocative but always incoherent.

When I first read her NYTM column, I thought it was some sort of postmodern satire of weekly interview series. I didn't realize that she was serious until I heard about the subjects complaining.
posted by goingonit at 6:06 PM on June 15, 2008


How timely. I've into the second book of Vidal's Narratives of Empire at the moment and enjoying the work immensely, despite never having much cared for his writing before. Perhaps it takes a cranky old man to appreciate a cranky old man.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:24 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Solomon got spanked hard by management last year, as rtha notes, and would not be so foolish twice as to futz with Journalism 201 ( How To Fawn Whilst Interviewing Your Betters) rules.
I see a sad old angry frustrated man.
I feel sorry for him.
posted by Dizzy at 6:24 PM on June 15, 2008


jayder: I always did think it was odd that having been imprisoned --- however unjustly --- would be considered a credential for Presidential leadership. It's not like he chose to be imprisoned ... so how is being imprisoned "heroic"?

Current American culture is victim culture. Heck, we even use our 9-11 victimhood as justification for illegal wars and shitting all over the Constitution. In such a culture, the heroes are those who can best flaunt and exploit their status as victims.
posted by PsychoKick at 6:55 PM on June 15, 2008 [8 favorites]


I think you might be onto something there, PsychoKick.
posted by Huplescat at 7:36 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I always did think it was odd that having been imprisoned --- however unjustly --- would be considered a credential for Presidential leadership. It's not like he chose to be imprisoned ... so how is being imprisoned "heroic"?

Just imagine how many presidential-worthy war heroes we are creating for the future Afghan Republic.
posted by Balisong at 8:10 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


If any of us put forth this sort of crap, we'd be called trolls. But because Vidal poses as some sort of left-wing provocateur, we're supposed to overlook the fact that he's a boring, old, washed-up snob who says inflammatory things to pretend to still be relevant, even though all his old jousting opponents have already shuffled off.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:30 PM on June 15, 2008


Well, I liked him as the Senator in Bob Roberts, that's all I know. Seems he was just being himself in that role.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:32 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Re: McCain's 1974 paper on the desirability of inculcating TrueThought on all levels of military so they would remember what they're fighting for when the chips are down.

Interesting idea! We should also perhaps embed Party officers into the military directly, calling them "Commissars" just like the PAVN did! Plus open "NewThought Reeducation Centers" for all us lefties who don't entirely buy the bullshit the Republican Party is selling.

My father's 1965-66 CVA-63 Cruise Book had in its frontispiece the "Why We Fight" blurb from LBJ, alongside a similar letter to the editor written by the daughter of one of the officers on board:

"these men are fighting across the sea
so they won't have to fight in this nation."

The problem with this debate is that both sides have an imperfect version of reality. You've got to carefully pick and choose between eg. Chomsky "neocolonialism!" vs. the McCain "dolchstoss!" sides to get a more accurate understanding of history, its causes and effects.
posted by tachikaze at 9:24 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've never been able to pin down quite what it is about Vidal's style that is unusual. I am tempted to call it a gnomic style. You see it in that interview as well as in his writings. I suppose it's that virtually every sentence he utters is either a bon mot, or aspires to be a bon mot. And then there is the layering of high-cultural allusions with personal gossip and cattiness. Then there's the sort of rich disdain that seems to thickly coat his every utterance.
posted by jayder at 9:47 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Michael Tomasky, Who Is John McCain?
The McCain myth, as we know, is built on the foundation of his five and a half years of captivity in Hoa Lo Prison, aka the "Hanoi Hilton." He was flying a bombing raid in October 1967; his plane was shot down, he parachuted into the middle of a lake in Hanoi, and, with two broken arms and one broken knee, swam to shore. He was stabbed and beaten—bone sticking out of his right knee—and taken to Hoa Lo. His captors did not set his fractures and tortured him regularly, trying to drag false admissions out of him. When they learned that he had a famous father—who was, by 1968, the commander of all US naval forces in the Pacific—they offered him an early release for PR purposes. Because military regulations held that captured prisoners must be released in the order in which they were captured, he refused, spending much of the remainder of his captivity in solitary confinement. It's a staggering story, told most grippingly, in my reading, by David Foster Wallace.

It is also just the right tale of heroism for an unwanted war. If McCain had shot down the greatest number of North Vietnamese, who would celebrate him? If he had led a great raid, most people would be indifferent to him, or—worse—Seymour Hersh or some other investigative journalist would likely have found out by now that innocent women and children were slaughtered. It was by suffering in a cell, serving as a kind of metaphor for American suffering in a war most Americans gave up on early in his confinement, but at the same time holding fast to principle under the most unimaginable circumstances, thereby redeeming some notion of American honor in a dishonorable situation, that McCain became an American hero.
Tomasky summarizes:
... each of the three [books under review] makes persuasive arguments that while there has been much to respect in McCain in the past, there remain today only shards and vestiges of that man; that in doing what he had to do to become the nominee of a party of orthodox conservatism, he has so sublimated his honorable instincts that they have all but atrophied. He's not only adopted domestic policy positions he'd long opposed, he has openly pandered to the conservative Republican base by supporting most of Bush's positions in legislation on the treatment of detainees.
posted by russilwvong at 9:54 PM on June 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


in doing what he had to do to become the nominee of a party of orthodox conservatism, he has so sublimated his honorable instincts that they have all but atrophied. He's not only adopted domestic policy positions he'd long opposed, he has openly pandered to the conservative Republican base by supporting most of Bush's positions in legislation on the treatment of detainees.

That he seemingly had the courage to persevere torture in Vietnam, yet buckle under to an administration of yellow, chickenhawk, draft-dodging thieves — after something so utterly weak as Bush's racist dirty tricks campaign in 2000, no less — completely boggles the mind. Mythology is a powerful thing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:11 PM on June 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


He's smarter than the haters - who will never ever get it. The New York Times Magazine has been a joke for over a decade and he just owned them. Get it?

Heh, right-wingers' knee-jerk "Grr, that guy asshole - he no respect McBush's glossed over war record (fist mashing keyboard sounds)" tripe on here - bleck. It's certainly understandable that he has good reason to disrespect NYT and its magazine for its corporate pandering, its service as a republican echo chamber and for its general flakiness.
posted by peppito at 12:16 AM on June 16, 2008


Faze's link has a bit on Vidal's history with the NYT:

Vidal's first book, Williwaw, a war novel, was well received in 1946. But it was his third, The City And The Pillar, an openly homosexual novel, published two years later (dedicated "To JT") that influenced his life most profoundly. Vidal has consistently argued that the term "homosexual" has no validity, because human sexuality is too complex and diverse to be reduced to binary terms. This was a nuance lost on publications such as The New York Times, which refused to review his next five novels. He retains a special contempt for the paper, "which never found a well it could not poison".
posted by tomcooke at 1:02 AM on June 16, 2008


Heh, right-wingers' knee-jerk "Grr, that guy asshole - he no respect McBush's glossed over war record (fist mashing keyboard sounds)" tripe on here - bleck.

Yeah, nobody could possible think Vidal is an pompous ass and not be a right-winger. How astute.
posted by Snyder at 3:26 AM on June 16, 2008


Were you chaste during those years? Chased by whom?

Oh, Gore. You card.
posted by sparkletone at 4:47 AM on June 16, 2008


... Vidal poses as some sort of left-wing provocateur ...

Consider him a boring, washed-up snob if you will, and you're certainly far from alone in doing so, but is it possible to accord him a tiny shred of respect by saying that he actually is a left-wing provocateur, and not merely posing as one? His opinions, however boring, snobbish and washed-up, have been remarkably consistent over the past half-century.

So he's a pompous ass. So he sounds peevish and lonely. He didn't go the route he could have taken so very easily, the route so many others have taken, and drifted to the right over the years, written I-was-blind-and-now-I-see articles about Reagan, gone gooey over American hypoerpower, and settle into regular TV appearances and New Republic columns calling liberals traitors, coimplaining about Mexican immigrants and calling for racial profiling at airports or whatever. If he had done that, no doubt he'd be rich, and feted by concentric circles of fawning acolytes, which would sort out the loneliness and the sadness. I'm sure Metafilter would like him then.

Call him an asshole and he'd probably agree. He probably is an asshole. Sad, old and angry - these are all true. He is old, which was a stupid mistake for him to make. Eww! Old! And fat, too! As for sad, his lifelong companion has died. Or "shuffled off". He's certainly angry, about America, about the right. He has been for decades. No one was listening then, and clearly no one's listening now.

Anyway, carry on. He'll be dead soon, which will spare you all this distraction and trouble.
posted by WPW at 5:14 AM on June 16, 2008 [8 favorites]


Hypoerpower = hyperpower, of course. If I was Vidal I think I would have written hyperpuissance.

Anyway, as Vidal said to a radio pundit who called one of his books meretricious: "Well, meretricious and a happy new year."
posted by WPW at 5:17 AM on June 16, 2008


(of course, Twain had no way of knowing the U.S. would claw its way back to a semblance of respectability before descending into the mire even worse than in his day).

(emphasis mine)

LH, I have an enormous amount of respect for you, but I gotta call BS on this one. Mark Twain was around for the darkest days of slavery and the Civil War. Don't get me wrong, I'm as anti-Bush as the next cat. But seriously, dude. Slavery.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:59 AM on June 16, 2008


I always did think it was odd that having been imprisoned --- however unjustly --- would be considered a credential for Presidential leadership. It's not like he chose to be imprisoned ... so how is being imprisoned "heroic"?

I'd happily get McCain a drink at the VFW, as he complains once more about the gooks who tortured him and we all sit, wishing that he'd shuffle the cards faster.

But voting for him on that basis? LOL.
posted by Project F at 6:34 AM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Read this on Sunday and laughed out loud - I agree with most of the criticisms above, it's just that I relish becoming (if blessed with a life so long) "that guy" - the old guy with no filter, no concerns about propriety, just form the words and send 'em on out...
posted by jalexei at 8:25 AM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just can't shake the disgusting feelings I had after reading an article in the Books section of The Guardian (UK) in May 2008 entitled "Voice of the People" where he states this about Obama:

"He'll be shot, though, that's his problem. If Jack [Kennedy] knew he was going to be shot, a black boy must know it too."

Referring to an African American adult male as "boy" is racist, pure and simple and if Vidal is so freakin' smart and a capital "L" Liberal, he should know this.

It put me off wanting to hear anything more from him, no matter how witty and smug he wants to be.
posted by kuppajava at 8:31 AM on June 16, 2008


It might as well have been carried out by a computer program.

VIDAL: Who started this rumor that he was a war hero? Where does that come from, aside from himself? About his suffering in the prison war camp?

ELIZA: Please go on.

VIDAL: That’s what he tells us.

ELIZA: Does that question interest you?

VIDAL: He’s a graduate of Annapolis. I know a lot of the Annapolis breed. Remember, I’m West Point, where I was born. My father went there.

ELIZA: Why do you tell me you were born your father went there just now?

VIDAL: The service universities keep track of each other, that’s all. They have views about each other. And they are very aware of social class and eventually money, since they usually marry it.

ELIZA: Would you like it if they were not very aware of social class and eventually money since they usually marry it?

VIDAL: They keep explaining it to me, and I keep forgetting.

CONDUCTED, CONDENSED AND EDITED by SpiffyRob and ELIZA
posted by SpiffyRob at 8:53 AM on June 16, 2008 [5 favorites]


its service as a republican echo chamber

You're joking, right?
posted by tadellin at 9:24 AM on June 16, 2008


Referring to an African American adult male as "boy" is racist, pure and simple

Given his age, any male under the age of 70 might qualify as a boy to him. And even though I think the guy is a pompous ass, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. People of my grandmother's generation are apt to say things that don't jibe very well with common, recent thought. Blame it on the times in which they grew up.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:39 AM on June 16, 2008


We know that John McCain spent five and a half years in the custody of the North Vietnamese, but do we really know exactly how his time was spent while there? It's obvious from the public record that he returned a changed man, promptly abandoning his devoted wife after her injury and disfigurement in an automobile accident, and marrying a much wealthier woman whose family fortune allowed him to jump-start his political career. Now, it goes without saying that I would never insinuate that a hero like Senator McCain could, in fact, be a brainwashed Communist sleeper agent with no goals other than the complete and utter destruction of America and everything she stands for, but Americans deserve to know all the facts so they can draw their own conclusions.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:42 AM on June 16, 2008 [10 favorites]


"Semblance" is the operative word here.

I chose it with care.

I gotta call BS on this one. Mark Twain was around for the darkest days of slavery and the Civil War. Don't get me wrong, I'm as anti-Bush as the next cat. But seriously, dude. Slavery.

Excellent point, and I thank you for the opportunity to clarify: in the context of that comment, by "his day" I meant the early days of the twentieth century, when he was a grumpy old man and the US was invading the Philippines. Obviously slavery days were far worse.

It saddens me that so many here have no respect for Gore Vidal, but such is life. Do you apply the same demand for perfection to yourselves?
posted by languagehat at 9:53 AM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Referring to an African American adult male as "boy" is racist, pure and simple and if Vidal is so freakin' smart and a capital "L" Liberal, he should know this.

It put me off wanting to hear anything more from him, no matter how witty and smug he wants to be.


Er... what? Obama is 46 years old, which is notably young for a presidential candidate. Vidal is fully 36 years older than Obama, which in my book earns him a pass to use any sort of young-whippersnapper terminology he likes, especially in such a glib context. You're trying to squeeze racism out of an incidental comment by one of the most progressively leftist intellectuals alive, which is... strange.
posted by Mayor West at 10:12 AM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


John McCain is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:19 AM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Times fanboys and the haters should go to democracynow.org and listen to Vidal being interviewed by someone who "gets it".
posted by Zambrano at 10:33 AM on June 16, 2008


Gore Vidal is an asshole.

John McCain is an asshole.
posted by ornate insect at 10:58 AM on June 16, 2008


kirkaracha, why don't you play some Solitaire...
posted by paddbear at 11:57 AM on June 16, 2008


Yes, Gore Vidal is an Asshole, and God bless him for it.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 12:26 PM on June 16, 2008


The Times fanboys and the haters

LEAVE VIDAL ALONE!!
posted by pyramid termite at 12:58 PM on June 16, 2008


BigLankyBastard: I couldn't agree more, that linked comment is very apt here. So Vidal has some fun questioning McCain's military record. According to rule set by the right wing, that's off limits, bad taste, FOR SHAME. But as Kerry vs Bush demonstrated, the right wing don't play by those rules. So why should the American left? This may be what Vidal intends here. If the American left played the same game as the American right, it would now say: "Obviously we don't condone Vidal's remarks, but we should discuss the controversy. So, was McCain really so heroic? What is heroism? Wasn't it essentially a career break at the expense of a foreign government? Has he been brainwashed? Let's call it 'herogate'. Do we have a graphic of McCain scowling, with 'NOT A HERO?' written under it?"

That's how to play with the provocateurs on your side.
posted by WPW at 1:35 PM on June 16, 2008


So, was McCain really so heroic? What is heroism? Wasn't it essentially a career break at the expense of a foreign government?

I like the theory that he is a hero because he toughed out his POW treatment. To return to the russellwvong's really excellent comment:
It was by suffering in a cell, serving as a kind of metaphor for American suffering in a war most Americans gave up on early in his confinement, but at the same time holding fast to principle under the most unimaginable circumstances, thereby redeeming some notion of American honor in a dishonorable situation, that McCain became an American hero.
The mystery, perhaps, is that he did not continue to uphold his principles after the 2000 Republican primaries. He didn't tough it out after Bush ran his racist and divisive campaign in order to push McCain into the ground. He is still a hero, though, because eating whatever shit that rolls downhill until you get yours is a reasonably American tradition. He didn't complain at the shabby treatment he got from his GOP bosses. I guess that's heroic these days.

Or perhaps it is in McCain's nature to follow orders from the top, rather than give them, so long as he thinks he's taking orders from the right people. Which makes me question his potential to uphold the Constitution if he can no longer think for himself (above and beyond the fact that he is a Republican and would hold Republican principles above the welfare of the nation) -- or perhaps the more mundane explanation is that he is simply an opportunist, which would explain his adultery, divorce and subsequent remarriage to a well-to-do heiress.

McCain a hero? Maybe. Perhaps much less than people assume. He's certainly a red-blooded American in many unsavory ways. Writers from Mr. Vidal's generation wrote about bullshitters and con artists, so that's probably where he's coming from when he openly questions McCain's hero status. If Mr. Vidal can use his sharp tongue to make people think about and question the mythology they consume on a daily basis, I think the old man deserves a pass for being (rightly) cranky on the subject.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:47 PM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


McCain a hero? Maybe. Perhaps much less than people assume.

it's been used so much about so many different people, it's hard to say what it means any more - still, gore claiming that mccain wasn't really a p o w is just dumb - it's not credible, as satire, it falls flat and it's guaranteed to cause some people to automatically dismiss anything he says - (now if gore had said that he stayed over there to help raise jane fonda's love child they'd had one scary night in a bunker in hanoi ...)

but you know what i'm really sick of? - talking about that goddamned war - i'm fucking sick of the vietnam war being an issue in 2004 and now possibly 2008?? - why can't people give this a rest? - it's as absurd as hoover and roosevelt getting into a debate in 1932 about the spanish-american war - especially seeing as we have our own little war that perhaps we should be concerned about

gore shouldn't be playing up this kind of crap - he should tell the baby boomers that we wouldn't know a real war if it bit us in the ass, (which they have a tendency to do) and no one with any brains or consideration of the country's future is going to waste time with whether kerry or mccain or anyone else was a "hero" in that war

like that was the point - like we actually learned anything from that war, anyway
posted by pyramid termite at 5:00 PM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Which reminds me, I'm sick and tired of the Republican coverup of the disgraceful role McCain played in the Spanish-American War. Tell the truth, John!
posted by languagehat at 6:00 PM on June 16, 2008


I waded through several of his historical novels; despite surface details, each one is set in the realm of Gore Vidalia, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Washington, D.C.
posted by bad grammar at 6:05 PM on June 16, 2008


Tell the truth, John!

he can't - if he were to do that, he'd also have to tell people what gen custer whispered to him right before he died - and his experience as sitting bull's prisoner - and then people might discover his role as a private in the confederate army

do we want a president who served on the wrong side in the civil war? HELL NO - especially seeing as he got captured by the yankees in that one

don't even get me started on both world wars, the mexican american war, the war of 1812 and the revolutionary war - hell, he got captured in those too

he can sing "bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb iran all he wants" but if he starts anything, it's going to end up in a dungeon in tehran for him - don't ask me how it'll happen, but he'll go from commander in chief to prisoner in chief so fast it'll make his head spin
posted by pyramid termite at 6:17 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fascinating how quickly we seem to have devalued the word "hero".
I'd enjoy an essay on its recent mutability.
(NOT by Safire, thank you...
L-Hat?
I'm looking at you, sir.)
posted by Dizzy at 7:51 PM on June 16, 2008


Why is McCain so ugly?

In 1998, McCain made a joke during a speech at a Republican fundraiser about President Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, saying: "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno."[49] The joke was thought so offensive that many newspapers declined to print it verbatim;[49] McCain's biographer Robert Timberg would characterize it as "an unspeakable thing to say, unworthy of him."[50] McCain subsequently said: "This is the bad boy. It was stupid and cruel and insensitive. I've apologized. I can't take it back."[51] His letter of apology to President Clinton was described as "abject, contrite, and profuse."[50] In response, White House spokesman Mike McCurry said: "To make a further issue of the matter would lend further exposure to an offensive joke. In light of the senator's apology, they [the first family] decided to drop the matter."[52]

posted by Brian B. at 7:51 PM on June 16, 2008


Wow, dude that's f_ing awful. What kind of coward picks on teenage girls for a fundraiser. Oh. Right. John McCain.
posted by device55 at 8:47 PM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Pressure on McCain to release military records, as John Kerry did, amidst questionable claims by McCain.
posted by Brian B. at 8:51 PM on June 16, 2008


What kind of coward picks on teenage girls for a fundraiser.

It was a trend started by Rush Limbaugh
posted by Brian B. at 8:57 PM on June 16, 2008


Hilarious interview. Thanks for posting!
posted by jagorev at 9:22 PM on June 16, 2008


Maybe we should wear purple heart Band-aids to honor Senator McCain's service.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:39 PM on June 16, 2008


Wes Clark says McCain is "largely untested and untried" on national security.

McCain's Secret, Questionable Record debunks a recent front-page New York Times story that said McCain turned down a chance to become an admiral.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:58 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


>Gore Vidal is an asshole.

>>John McCain is an asshole.


Wouldn't you like to be an asshole too?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:29 AM on June 17, 2008


The more I learn about McCain and the things he has said over the years, the less I like him. He could be the least likeable candidate since Nixon.
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:49 AM on June 17, 2008


I'm not a McCainnonite, but I have to say, after listening to Porter Halyburton discuss his time in captivity in Viet Nam, I think comparing the experiences McCain (and Porter) had to those that Kerry suffered is like comparing night to day.

And for Gore Vidal to even question the heroism of someone subjected to that kind of treatment during those years while Vidal sat, fat and happy, here in the states is completely reprehensible and does more to damage the credibility of the liberal cause than anything any of the Republicans could do.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:30 AM on June 17, 2008


ah, concern trolls.
posted by tachikaze at 10:12 AM on June 17, 2008


Were you chaste during those years? Chased by whom?

I wish I could be as sharp and witty at 32 as Mr. Vidal is at 82.


Except that joke was as tired and old as Mr. Vidal at 82 back when he was 32. It wasn't even fresh when Truman Capote said it when they were both 18 and "artistic rivals"
posted by Pollomacho at 10:31 AM on June 17, 2008


And for Gore Vidal to even question the heroism of someone subjected to that kind of treatment during those years while Vidal sat, fat and happy, here in the states is completely reprehensible and does more to damage the credibility of the liberal cause than anything any of the Republicans could do.

You're joking, right?

"Despite graduating in the bottom 1 percent of his Annapolis class, McCain was offered the most sought-after Navy assignment -- to become an aircraft carrier pilot."

I guess this is all the other side has, the Leave McCain Alone!
defense.
posted by peppito at 12:36 PM on June 17, 2008


Are you also denying McCain's stint in Hanoi? I fail to see what you link really shows about McCain, peppito, I don't think anyone is claiming his heroism came from any other period in his Naval career than his many, many years of torture, which he took voluntarily despite his negotiated release because of the broken back he suffered when he went down. Yes, he most likely was a privileded fuck up as a pilot (not to mention in his personal life), but he certainly showed a lot of balls as a POW.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:53 PM on June 17, 2008


You know, I don't really care if he was handpicked by Ronald McDonald to fly the plane that he was shot down in, subsequently captured, and then tortured. I don't really see why it's remotely relevant who pulled what strings to put him there. I mean, if he had been one of the ones to run off to Canada to avoid the fighting -- or used his family connections to pull strings to get into the National Guard, I could see why you might question his heroism.

Now, if you're one of the crackpots who believe the stories that say he wasn't tortured -- who think he was a "songbird..." according to Holyburton, once the US started bombing Hanoi, the Vietnamese started torturing all of their prisoners, with rope bindings ... that they didn't torture with the intent to kill. And he says that it turned into a game of telling them enough to keep them from continuing the torture while not telling them enough to be of any real value.

McCain is said to have broken both of his arms when he ejected from his plane, and that his arms were never properly set. Add to that the binding torture that he had to endure.

Meanwhile, fat old Gore Vidal was on television, calling Bill Buckley a nazi.

In any case, it will a mistake if the left is looking with glee to have their own version of the Swift Boat.
posted by Dave Faris at 12:57 PM on June 17, 2008


Just for the record, folks, Gore Vidal served in the Army during WWII. He enlisted at the age of 18. He was never captured, never under fire, but he did his bit. His lover was killed in the Pacific.

And I really want to underline what has been said several times in this thread: Vidal's interview was selectively edited.
posted by CCBC at 2:13 PM on June 17, 2008


(I should add that despite McCain's POW and torture experiences, I personally don't think that gives him any extra qualifications to be a president ... especially in light of his recent support of torture of terror suspects, and his recent views on the Supreme Court decisions. It's just wrong to downplay his sacrifices in attempt smear him.)
posted by Dave Faris at 3:34 PM on June 17, 2008


Meanwhile, fat old Gore Vidal was on television, calling Bill Buckley a nazi.

That was 1968, when Vidal was neither very fat nor very old. He was, however, 43, too old to be drafted for Vietnam. He did serve in WW2.

Vidal has had a life cushioned by privilege, but given his privilege and talent he has consistently NOT taken the easy route of sittin back and pandering to the establishment. He has, since The City and the Pillar, deliberately made life uncomfortable for himself in order to advance causes and ideas he believes in. Had he been willing to compromise his political beliefs, he would have walked into the US Senate decades ago, and may have gone further. He did not take that option. And we're not even addressing a lifetime's contribution to American letters that places him in the top 10 of 20th century American literature.

Whatever McCain's heroism, and ultimately we're in an abstract morass, the principles that his experiences in Vietnam endowed to him have proved to be so plastic that he now advocates the torture of others. Vidal doesn't advocate torture, which makes him a bit more of a hero in my eyes.
posted by WPW at 7:33 AM on June 18, 2008


Gore Vidal's inconvenient truths
posted by homunculus at 8:53 PM on June 22, 2008


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