Saturday, July 29, 2006
That iconoclastic chronicler of America's imperialistic ventures, Gore Vidal, on Harry S. Truman (from The American Presidency, 1998):
The Democrat Truman was told by Republican Senator Arthur Vandenburg, You're going to have to scare the hell out of the American people to make them spend all that money on war in peacetime. Truman accepted the assignment . . . .On JFK, "one of the very worst of our presidents":
Truman was reelected -- barely -- in 1948. And we lost the opportunity of transforming our superpower status into prosperity and growth at home. By now the presidency had embraced the military and we were ready to become a national security state.
Kennedy was the reverse [of Wilson and Roosevelt] -- he wanted to be a war president. "Who would ever have heard of Lincoln," he once asked me, "without the Civil War?" . . . .On Nixon, "the supreme opportunist":
In the gospel according to Oliver Stone, after a little trip to Dallas, Kennedy would bring back the troops that he had only just sent into battle. Why? Because he's the good guy.
Actually, he had no intention of ending the war that he had just begun. "After Cuba," he told mutual friends, "I have to go all the way with this one" . . . .
My friends on the left were convinced that oil had been discovered in Vietnam and that we wanted it. I said that no one in our government had anything so reasonable as theft in mind. This was a war about vanity -- imperial, presidential vanity.
I don't know of any example in the history of the world -- what little we can ever know of so shadowy a subject -- where a country has done something so suicidal for no motive.
As the nation was running down, the only glory point left was the space program. It was launched under Kennedy, but Nixon got the good of it: "Hello, Neil and Buzz. I'm talking to you by telephone from the Oval Room at the White House, and this certainly has to be the most historic telephone call ever made from the White House."On Reagan, "an agent of the hateful race of informers, spying for the FBI on fellow Hollywood-persons":
Why was he so pleased with himself? Well, Teddy Kennedy had just gone off the bridge at Chappaquidick, so Nixon's chief political rival was out of the picture and reelection was a certainty.
Finally, in a flurry of lawbreaking (recycling enemy Iranian money from arms sales to aid Nicaraguan rebels), Reagan went happily home to one of the many residences that his fans have always provided for him, gratis.On George Bush the First:
When I asked Katharine Graham, owner of the Washington Post, why her brave journal had not demanded Reagan's impeachment over "Iran-Contra," a criminal conspiracy quite as mischievous as Nixon's dark plottings, she said, "Oh, we couldn't go through all that again, just fourteen years later."
Contrary to rumor, George Bush did not put his wife Barbara's face on the one-dollar bill -- that is still George Washington's green bewigged head, not savvy Barbara's.Mr. Vidal is ruthless in his evaluations of the presidents most revered by the writers of schoolbooks (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Roosevelt), and even more so, as the extracts above should indicate, when it comes to the ones he has known personally. He is, in short, no innocent, and should therefore be taken seriously when he proposes, in an interview with David Barsamian, that Mr. Bush's presidency will be remembered as the dead worst in the history of the nation:
Q: In 2002, long before Bush’s current travails, you wrote, “Mark my words, he will leave office the most unpopular President in history.” How did you know that then?(Link courtesy of our illustrious colleagues Gordon, of Alternate Brain, and Avedon Carol, of the Sideshow.)
Vidal: I know these people. I don’t say that as though I know them personally. I know the types. I was brought up in Washington. When you are brought up in a zoo, you know what’s going on in the monkey house. You see a couple of monkeys loose and one is President and one is Vice President, you know it’s trouble. Monkeys make trouble . . . .
Q: Today the United States is fighting two wars, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, and is now threatening to launch a third one on Iran. What is it going to take to stop the Bush onslaught?
Vidal: Economic collapse. We are too deeply in debt. We can’t service the debt, or so my financial friends tell me, that’s paying the interest on the Treasury bonds, particularly to the foreign countries that have been financing us. I think the Chinese will say the hell with you and pull their money out of the United States. That’s the end of our wars.
Q: You’re a veteran of World War II, the so-called good war. Would you recommend to a young person a career in the armed forces in the United States?
Vidal: No, but I would suggest Canada or New Zealand as a possible place to go until we are rid of our warmongers. We’ve never had a government like this. The United States has done wicked things in the past to other countries but never on such a scale and never in such an existentialist way. It’s as though we are evil. We strike first. We’ll destroy you. This is an eternal war against terrorism. It’s like a war against dandruff. There’s no such thing as a war against terrorism. It’s idiotic. These are slogans. These are lies. It’s advertising, which is the only art form we ever invented and developed.
But our media has collapsed. They’ve questioned no one. One of the reasons Bush and Cheney are so daring is that they know there’s nobody to stop them. Nobody is going to write a story that says this is not a war, only Congress can declare war. And you can only have a war with another country. You can’t have a war with bad temper or a war against paranoids. Nothing makes any sense, and the people are getting very confused. The people are not stupid, but they are totally misinformed.
Q: You’ve called the country “The United States of Amnesia.” Is this something in our genes?
Vidal: No, it’s something in our rulers. They don’t want us to know anything. When you’ve got a press like we have, you no longer have an informed citizenry.
I was involved somewhat with Congressman Con-yers on what happened in Ohio during the last Presidential election.
Conyers is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and he went up there with a bunch of researchers. They went from district to district, and they found out how the election was stolen. He wrote a report that was published by a small press in Chicago. To help out, I said I’d write a preface for him on how the election was stolen. We were thinking that might help. But The New York Times and The Washington Post were not going to review the book about how we had a second Presidential election stolen. They weren’t going to admit it.
A huge number of Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. You have a people that don’t know anything about the rest of the world, and you have leaders who lie to them, lie to them, and lie to them.