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Buyer's remorse on Obama from Gore Vidal

Times Online:

Last year [Gore Vidal] famously switched allegiance from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama during the Democratic nomination process for president. Now, he reveals, he regrets his change of heart. How’s Obama doing? “Dreadfully. 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.” America should leave Afghanistan, he says. “We’ve failed in every other aspect of our effort of conquering the Middle East or whatever you want to call it.” The “War on Terror” was “made up”, Vidal says. “The whole thing was PR, just like ‘weapons of mass destruction’....

Vidal originally became pro-Obama because he grew up in “a black city” (meaning Washington), as well as being impressed by Obama’s intelligence. “But he believes the generals. Even Bush knew the way to win a general was to give him another star. 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.” ....

Another notable Obama mis-step has been on healthcare reform. “He f***ed it up. I don’t know how because the country wanted it. We’ll never see it happen.” As for his wider vision: “Maybe he doesn’t have one, not to imply he is a fraud. He loves quoting Lincoln and there’s a great Lincoln quote from a letter he wrote to one of his generals in the South after the Civil War. ‘I am President of the United States. I have full overall power and never forget it, because I will exercise it’. That’s what Obama needs — a bit of Lincoln’s chill.”* ....

Vidal now believes, as he did originally, Clinton would be the better president. “Hillary knows more about the world and what to do with the generals. History has proven when the girls get involved, they’re good at it. Elizabeth I knew Raleigh would be a good man to give a ship to.”The Republicans will win the next election, Vidal believes; though for him there is little difference between the parties.

Oh well.

NOTE * Actually, I think Obama's quite chilly. The only question is to what purpose; so far, not Lincoln-esque. "Bind up the nation's wounds," and all that.

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tedraicer's picture
Submitted by tedraicer on

I stopped paying attention to Vidal's political opinions when he kept insisting FDR was behind Pearl Harbor (apparently once a teenage America Firster, always an America Firster) but it is still interesting to see an Obama supporter not only admit that supporting Obama was a mistake, but that Hillary would have been better.

Submitted by gob on

and has been for some time. His writings of the last 15 years or so seem like the random utterances of a once-brilliant mind. Boring and annoying in equal parts.

I'm surprised he ever had the sense to prefer Hillary.

Submitted by jawbone on

high responsibility.

I will demand a record of showing how the person acted when faced with decisions, how he or she managed accountablity and honoring promises to the public, etc.

I will need time spent exercising the responsibilities of leadership, of managing power, of using power, of udnerstanding power. I will want to see how a person developed programs and worked to implement them.


basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

of Obama's lies and how it demonstrates itself. He was the dumbest guy at the Democratic debates. he didn't know the issues and he couldn't think on his feet. I am very interested in anything Vidal has to say, but as far as I can tell, Obama is the flat out stupidest Democratic candidate for the presidency that I've seen since the 80s. Obama doesn't do anything and never has. And without some history of accomplishment, it's hard to think that someone in their late forties is all that fucking bright.

What I really think happened is that the cultural discussion about Hillary being a pro-corporate sell-out spoke to Vidal's personal nightmare and he took a chance.

Troll prophylactic - all the Democratic candidates, including Obama, are a damn site smarter than almost all the Republican candidates.

Davidson's picture
Submitted by Davidson on

Obama certainly is intelligent. Yes, I'll cite his admission to Harvard Law and him graduating magna cum laude. This shows that he definitely has the ability to understand complex problems. However, he's not a smart politician, especially when it comes to policy or branding (i.e. image). This is only true if we assume he actually wanted to solve problems on behalf of the people or wanted to be recognized by history as a legendary political figure. I always doubted the former, but I did believe his ego would force him to do better than what he's done so far. I can't help but think he believes all the Village bullshit to explain it. To me, that's more an expression of his will. For some reason, he's desperate to believe it, reality be damned.

As for Vidal: I don't know what to think of the man anymore. To be honest, he's been off my radar for about ten years. I keep thinking he's dead only to realize every few years or so he's actually still alive. Needless to say, I didn't even know who he supported.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

Lincoln didn't know squat about exercising executive political power when he got to Washington. He was a one-term Congressman, a lawyer, and the head of his own very small law firm. He learned on the job. And I'm not much of an admirer of how he ran the Cabinet, Doris Kearns to the contrary. He manipulated people's desire to be the closest to the source of power, and played subordinates off against each other. He did, however, have a vision and principles to go with it. The vision evolved. The principles stayed firm. My view comes from, among other sources, Vidal's Lincoln.

So just depending on a deep vitae to identify the most promising candidate strikes me as frequently wrong. Limiting support to career politicians brings its own problems.

People generally tell you what they believe in and how they will act. Get over the focus-group-tested PR phrasing, and it's there. Obama praised Reagan. He slammed the left for not being sanctimonious enough. He promised to filibuster FISA and then whipped for it. In other words, he demonstrated his allegiance to the right wing during the campaign. His hope/change speeches were like Bush's compassionate/humble speeches -- obvious bullshit to anybody not looking for an our-group leader.

Vidal hated the corporate takeover of the Democratic Party and the advancement of the National Security State, which he identified with Bill Clinton, whom he called "Governor Chicken" because Arkansas promoted Perdue for economic development. I think that misled him. I admit to some of the same reactions, since Bill Clinton is the most talented politician I expect to see in my lifetime, and it really tore me up that he governed as what Michael Moore calls "the best Republican President" ever.

Nonetheless, I'd say listen to what issues a candidate addresses, what context he puts them in, and who he aligns himself with.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

You can be smart but not interested in actually doing certain things. A record is useful in evaluating a person's interest in *doing*. In the case of Lincoln, he did help start a new Party which is a strong demonstration of his commitment to the issues which came to represent the Republican Party. (Personally, I'd have been a Seward Republican.)

As far as Clinton, it bothers me that people forget what he did in 1993: assault weapons ban, made the tax code more progressive, tried to integrate gays in the military and tried to get health care for everyone. He was, in large part sabotaged by his own Party. In 1995, after Congress went to the GOP, while he was diddling on the side he single-handedly shut down the government to stop some really draconian measures in the GOP econ bill. Had Clinton not been backstabbed by his own party he may have been a more liberal president. Maybe its because I was a teen for most of the Clinton presidency so I never got to experience the disappointment in BC firsthand, but the history records I read now have a rather different view of him than contemporary progger analysis.

koshembos's picture
Submitted by koshembos on

The most prominent trait of Gore Vidal is his vast and expansive hate to a world of topics and issues. He a mediocre author and a shallow thinker. I started to ignore 30 years ago and that was too late.

Obama may have been a good student, but a good student doesn't correlate well with later success or ability. Life and school call for different talents. He isn't very intelligent and is quite conservative. Clinton is exceedingly bright and tried health care reform almost 20 years ago. He tried to open the military gates to gays. After that his presidency was constantly besieged by Republican, many Democrats, the whole media and Gore Vidal who hated Clinton racially. No wonder he tried to govern in the middle.