ELECTIONS --FREE OR FALSE? : FROM THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF AMERICAN
INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS,
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
We are still receiving echoes from the
November 2004 presidential elections in the
In item A. we offer readers the analysis of Noam Chomsky on the "non-election of 2004".
NYU professor of politics, Dr. Bertell Ollman, argues, in item B., against Chomsky's evaluation of the November catastrophe, and provides his own analysis of the election fraud and its historic significance for United States political culture.
sent to us by Mr. Byron Morton, an educator working in
We at CEIMSA-IN-EXILE hope that these
discussions will provide useful information which may better orient our readers
to what is actually happening in the streets and in the classrooms and offices
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
from: Z Magazine
Subject: Democracy Watch
The Non-Election of 2004 (The electoral campaigns were run by the PR industry)
The elections of November 2004 have
received a great deal of discussion, with exultation in some quarters, despair
in others, and general lamentation about a “divided nation.” They
are likely to have policy consequences, particularly harmful to the public in
the domestic arena, and to the world with regard to the “transformation
of the military,” which has led some prominent strategic analysts to warn
of “ultimate doom” and to hope that U.S. militarism and
aggressiveness will be countered by a coalition of peace-loving states, led
by—China (John Steinbruner and Nancy Gallagher,
Daedalus). We have come to a pretty pass when such
words are expressed in the most respectable and sober journals. It is also
worth noting how deep is the despair of the authors
over the state of
Though significant in their
consequences, the elections tell us very little about the state of the country,
or the popular mood. There are, however, other sources from which we can learn
a great deal that carries important lessons. Public opinion in the
One conclusion is that the elections conferred no mandate for anything, in fact, barely took place, in any serious sense of the term “election.” That is by no means a novel conclusion. Reagan’s victory in 1980 reflected “the decay of organized party structures, and the vast mobilization of God and cash in the successful candidacy of a figure once marginal to the ‘vital center’ of American political life,” representing “the continued disintegration of those political coalitions and economic structures that have given party politics some stability and definition during the past generation” (Thomas Ferguson and Joel Rogers, Hidden Election, 1981). In the same valuable collection of essays, Walter Dean Burnham described the election as further evidence of a “crucial comparative peculiarity of the American political system: the total absence of a socialist or laborite mass party as an organized competitor in the electoral market,” accounting for much of the “class-skewed abstention rates” and the minimal significance of issues. Thus of the 28 percent of the electorate who voted for Reagan, 11 percent gave as their primary reason “he’s a real conservative.” In Reagan’s “landslide victory” of 1984, with just under 30 percent of the electorate, the percentage dropped to 4 percent and a majority of voters hoped that his legislative program would not be enacted.
What these prominent political
scientists describe is part of the powerful backlash against the terrifying
“crisis of democracy” of the 1960s, which threatened to democratize
the society, and, despite enormous efforts to crush this threat to order and
discipline, has had far-reaching effects on consciousness and social practices.
The post-1960s era has been marked by substantial growth of popular movements
dedicated to greater justice and freedom and unwillingness to tolerate the
brutal aggression and violence that had previously been granted free rein. The
Vietnam War is a dramatic illustration, naturally suppressed because of the
lessons it teaches about the civilizing impact of popular mobilization. The war
against South Vietnam launched by JFK in 1962, after years of U.S.-backed state
terror that had killed tens of thousands of people, was brutal and barbaric
from the outset: bombing, chemical warfare to destroy food crops so as to
starve out the civilian support for the indigenous resistance, programs to
drive millions of people to virtual concentration camps or urban slums to
eliminate its popular base. By the time protests reached a substantial scale,
the highly respected and quite hawkish Vietnam specialist and military
historian Bernard Fall wondered whether “Viet-Nam as a cultural and
historic entity” would escape “extinction” as “the
countryside literally dies under the blows of the largest military machine ever
unleashed on an area of this size”—particularly South Vietnam,
always the main target of the U.S. assault. When protest did finally develop,
many years too late, it was mostly directed against the peripheral crimes: the
extension of the war against the South to the rest of
State managers are well aware that
they no longer have that freedom. Wars against “much weaker
enemies”—the only acceptable targets—must be won
“decisively and rapidly,” Bush I’s
intelligence services advised. Delay might “undercut political
support,” recognized to be thin, a great change since the Kennedy-Johnson
period when the attack on
The world is pretty awful today, but it is far better than yesterday, not only with regard to unwillingness to tolerate aggression, but also in many other ways, which we now tend to take for granted. There are very important lessons here, which should always be uppermost in our minds—for the same reason they are suppressed in the elite culture.
Returning to the elections, in 2004 Bush received the votes of just over 30 percent of the electorate, Kerry a bit less. Voting patterns resembled 2000, with virtually the same pattern of “red” and “blue” states (whatever significance that may have). A small change in voter preference would have put Kerry in the White House, also telling us very little about the country and public concerns.
As usual, the electoral campaigns were run by the PR industry, which in its regular vocation sells toothpaste, life-style drugs, automobiles, and other commodities. Its guiding principle is deceit. Its task is to undermine the “free markets” we are taught to revere: mythical entities in which informed consumers make rational choices. In such scarcely imaginable systems, businesses would provide information about their products: cheap, easy, simple. But it is hardly a secret that they do nothing of the sort. Rather, they seek to delude consumers to choose their product over some virtually identical one. GM does not simply make public the characteristics of next year’s models. Rather, it devotes huge sums to creating images to deceive consumers, featuring sports stars, sexy models, cars climbing sheer cliffs to a heavenly future, and so on. The business world does not spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year to provide information. The famed “entrepreneurial initiative” and “free trade” are about as realistic as informed consumer choice. The last thing those who dominate the society want is the fanciful market of doctrine and economic theory. All of this should be too familiar to merit much discussion.
Sometimes the commitment to deceit
is quite overt. The recent U.S.-Australia negotiations on a “free trade
agreement” were held up by
When assigned the task of selling
candidates, the PR industry naturally resorts to the same fundamental
techniques, so as to ensure that politics remains “the shadow cast by big
business over society,” as
On the eve of the 2000 elections, about 75 percent of the electorate regarded it as a game played by rich contributors, party managers, and the PR industry, which trains candidates to project images and produce meaningless phrases that might win some votes. Very likely, that is why the population paid little attention to the “stolen election” that greatly exercised educated sectors. And it is why they are likely to pay little attention to campaigns about alleged fraud in 2004. If one is flipping a coin to pick the King, it is of no great concern if the coin is biased.
In 2000, “issue awareness”—knowledge of the stands of the candidate-producing organizations on issues—reached an all-time low. Currently available evidence suggests it may have been even lower in 2004. About 10 percent of voters said their choice would be based on the candidate’s “agendas/ideas/platforms/goals”: 6 percent for Bush voters, 13 percent for Kerry voters (Gallup). The rest would vote for what the industry calls “qualities” or “values,” which are the political counterpart to toothpaste ads. The most careful studies (PIPA) found that voters had little idea of the stand of the candidates on matters that concerned them. Bush voters tended to believe that he shared their beliefs, even though the Republican Party rejected them, often explicitly. Investigating the sources used in the studies, we find that the same was largely true of Kerry voters, unless we give highly sympathetic interpretations to vague statements that most voters had probably never heard.
Exit polls found that Bush won large majorities of those concerned with the threat of terror and “moral values” and Kerry won majorities among those concerned with the economy, health care, and other such issues. Those results tell us very little.
It is easy to demonstrate that for
Bush planners, the threat of terror is a low priority. The invasion of
Note that the critical issue is
control, not access.
There are many other illustrations of the same lack of concern of planners about terror. Bush voters, whether they knew it or not, were voting for a likely increase in the threat of terror, which could be awesome: it was understood well before 9/11 that sooner or later the Jihadists organized by the CIA and its associates in the 1980s are likely to gain access to WMDs, with horrendous consequences. Even these frightening prospects are being consciously extended by the transformation of the military, which, apart from increasing the threat of “ultimate doom” by accidental nuclear war, is compelling Russia to move nuclear missiles over its huge and mostly unprotected territory to counter U.S. military threats—including the threat of instant annihilation that is a core part of the “ownership of space” for offensive military purposes announced by the Bush administration along with its National Security Strategy in late 2002, significantly extending Clinton programs that were more than hazardous enough, and had already immobilized the UN Disarmament Committee.
As for “moral values,” we learn what we need to know about them from the business press the day after the election, reporting the “euphoria” in board rooms—not because CEOs oppose gay marriage. And from the unconcealed efforts to transfer to future generations the costs of the dedicated service of Bush planners to privilege and wealth: fiscal and environmental costs, among others, not to speak of the threat of “ultimate doom.” That aside, it means little to say that people vote on the basis of “moral values.” The question is what they mean by the phrase. The limited indications are of some interest. In some polls, “when the voters were asked to choose the most urgent moral crisis facing the country, 33 percent cited ‘greed and materialism,’ 31 percent selected ‘poverty and economic justice,’ 16 percent named abortion, and 12 percent selected gay marriage” (Pax Christi). In others, “when surveyed voters were asked to list the moral issue that most affected their vote, the Iraq war placed first at 42 percent, while 13 percent named abortion and 9 percent named gay marriage” (Zogby). Whatever voters meant, it could hardly have been the operative moral values of the Administration, celebrated by the business press.
I won’t go through the details here, but a careful look indicates that much the same appears to be true for Kerry voters who thought they were calling for serious attention to the economy, health, and their other concerns. As in the fake markets constructed by the PR industry, so also in the fake democracy they run, the public is hardly more than an irrelevant onlooker, apart from the appeal of carefully constructed images that have only the vaguest resemblance to reality.
Let’s turn to more serious evidence about public opinion: the studies I mentioned earlier that were released shortly before the elections by some of the most respected and reliable institutions that regularly monitor public opinion. Here are a few of the results (Chicago Council of Foreign Relations):
A large majority of the public
believe that the
It is instructive to look more
closely into popular attitudes on the war in
These results indicate that activists have not done their job effectively.
Turning to other areas, overwhelming majorities of the public favor expansion of domestic programs: primarily health care (80 percent), but also aid to education and Social Security. Similar results have long been found in these studies (CCFR). Other mainstream polls report that 80 percent favor guaranteed health care even if it would raise taxes—in reality, a national health care system would probably reduce expenses considerably, avoiding the heavy costs of bureaucracy, supervision, paperwork, and so on, some of the factors that render the U.S. privatized system the most inefficient in the industrial world. Public opinion has been similar for a long time, with numbers varying depending on how questions are asked. The facts are sometimes discussed in the press, with public preferences noted, but dismissed as “politically impossible.” That happened again on the eve of the 2004 elections. A few days before (October 31), the New York Times reported that “there is so little political support for government intervention in the health care market in the United States that Senator John Kerry took pains in a recent presidential debate to say that his plan for expanding access to health insurance would not create a new government program”—what the majority want, so it appears. But it is “politically impossible” and has “[too] little political support,” meaning that the insurance companies, HMOs, pharmaceutical industries, Wall Street, etc., are opposed.
It is notable that such views are held by people in virtual isolation. They rarely hear them and it is not unlikely that respondents regard their own views as idiosyncratic. Their preferences do not enter into the political campaigns and only marginally receive some reinforcement in articulate opinion in media and journals. The same extends to other domains.
What would the results of the election have been if the parties, either of them, had been willing to articulate people’s concerns on the issues they regard as vitally important? Or if these issues could enter into public discussion within the mainstream? We can only speculate about that, but we do know that it does not happen and that the facts are scarcely even reported. It does not seem difficult to imagine what the reasons might be.
In brief, we learn very little of any significance from the elections, but we can learn a lot from the studies of public attitudes that are kept in the shadows. Though it is natural for doctrinal systems to try to induce pessimism, hopelessness, and despair, the real lessons are quite different. They are encouraging and hopeful. They show that there are substantial opportunities for education and organizing, including the development of potential electoral alternatives. As in the past, rights will not be granted by benevolent authorities, or won by intermittent actions—a few large demonstrations after which one goes home, or pushing a lever in the personalized quadrennial extravaganzas that are depicted as “democratic politics.” As always in the past, the tasks require day-to-day engagement to create—in part re-create—the basis for a functioning democratic culture in which the public plays some role in determining policies, not only in the political arena from which it is largely excluded, but also in the crucial economic arena, from which it is excluded in principle.
Noam Chomsky is a linguist, social critic, and author of numerous articles and books, including Hegemony or Survival (Owl/Metropolitan Books, 2003) and Pirates and Emperors, Old and New (South End Press, 2002).
from Bertell Ollman :
"SHOULD THE LEFT IGNORE THE 'STOLEN ELECTION'?"
Dept. of Politics, NYU
In the course of his very rich article, "The Non-Election of 2004" (Z Magazine, Jan., 2005), Noam Chomsky sought to minimize the importance of the fact that the 2004 presidential election was stolen. And if there is still any doubt in the anti-Bush camp that this past election was stolen, it is - in my view - chiefly because most opinion formers (including writers in the "New York Times", the "Nation" and the "Village Voice") have (mis)understood "stealing" on the model of robbing a bank, where someone has to catch the winning candidate piling boxes of unopened ballots into the back of his pick-up truck before one can say it has occurred. Stealing an election, however, is more like stacking a deck of cards where a devious sleight of hand ensures that the same party wins every time.
The relevant question, then, is whether the well publicized scandals over electronic voting, the numerous problems people had in registering and casting their ballots, the irregularities in counting votes, the politically biased actions of the secretaries of state in the key states of Florida and Ohio, the unwillingness of Republican politicians at all levels of government to address these problems over the last four years, the huge discrepancies between the "official" vote count and usually reliable exit polls, and the fact that practically all of the admitted incidents of blocked, lost, changed, and added votes favored Bush - the question is whether all this constitutes a "stacking of the political deck". If so, there should be no doubt in anybody's mind that the country that likes to bill itself as "the world's foremost democracy" has just gone through a stolen election.
For there to be a stolen election, however, or at least one that deserves to be taken seriously as such, there would have to have been a "real election". And this is what Chomsky says did not happen. While ignoring the often progressive views of the public, the two major political parties together with their public relations and media allies orchestrated a campaign based on lies, distortions, photo ops, trivialities and assorted feel-good slogans. In such a contest, whoever won it is clear that the public could only lose. That does not mean that Chomsky did not see that a victory by one or the other candidate would have some different consequences, but this does not compensate for the completely manipulated and undemocratic character of the entire electoral process. Moreover, most people are broadly aware that the elections are not serious affairs and therefore do not take them very seriously, which is why there has been so little public outrage at the possibility that the election was stolen, both now and in 2000. According to this view, the task of radicals is to explain why there was no real election and to protest that, and not to get sidetracked into relatively trivial debates over the tampering of ballots on election day (which seems to take for granted that a real election did occur).
Having said this - and it sorely needs being said - it doesn't follow that the Left should ignore or even try to play down the current controversy over Bush's theft of the election. First, there is the matter that the right to vote in this country - as limited and distorted as it is - was won by over 200 years of popular struggle and marks an important advance over what existed before.
Second, apart from those who voted for Bush, and to the extent that people are aware of the facts listed at the start of this piece, there is widespread if still diffuse and largely repressed anger over the stolen election. Many students, in particular, were extremely upset to witness what the democracy that gets touted every day in class comes down to in actual practice. Chomsky claims just the opposite, that apart from a relatively small group of intellectuals, most of Bush's victims - who know that neither party really represents their views - have responded to his hold-up with a "yawn". To the extent this is so, I believe it is mainly a media induced yawn. If people's thinking and feeling leading up to the vote were so affected by the media, why would their reaction after the vote reflect that influence any less? And once the votes were in, practically the entire media (including some progressive voices) did everything they could to dismiss or trivialize all the so-called "irregularities". This apparent indifference also arose from the refusal of Demoratics Party leaders to countenance mass protests, the obscene rapidity with which Kerry accepted his loss (in part, no doubt, to avoid the social instability associated with such protests), and the removal of all the issues in contention to the courts, where - as we saw in 2000 - political problems are transmuted into legal ones, and the only popular participation allowed is rising when the judge enters the courtroom. A lot that appears like indifference, therefore, is really the other side of a frustration that comes from a media imposed uncertainty regarding what happened and not knowing what to do about it.
Still, we know that shocking events
can deliver quite a jolt to people's habitual ways of being in the world. It
was said that being sentenced to hang concentrates the mind wonderfully. So do
Third, it is important to note how
seriously our ruling class in both of its political parties takes democratic
elections as a means of legitimating its right to rule. As
House Majority Whip, Roy Blunt, pointed out, in the Congressional debate over
Absent a belief in the divine right of kings (or presidents), and without evident superiority of breeding or intelligence or wisdom, and unable to obtain sufficient popular support through brute force, this government badly needs to have most of the Americans who voted for other candidates (or didn't vote at all) believe that they lost fairly and squarely. Otherwise, why should they do any of the things this government and its agencies and representatives ask - except for their fear of being fined or arrested, and even then? And right now a large portion of Americans are starting to ask this question.
We on the Left do not and cannot always
determine the particular issues over which we do battle. This is usually
decided by events, the Government's more egregious mistakes and provocations,
and the ebb and flow of popular anger against ongoing injustices. The stolen
election brings together all these factors in a way no less striking than the
Does all this mean that the stolen election should replace the lack of a "real election" as our major concern? Not at all. But, rather than being a minor side show and a tactical dead-end, this stolen election (we can never repeat these words often enough) is an American tsunami, whose waves have not only ruined millions of ballots but pulled off a corner on the operations of a social and economic system that is inherently biased and unjust. Surely, it is our task - and opportunity - to complete the job, which is to explain this cataclysm in a way that helps the dazed survivors see that the robbery goes beyond Bush and the G.O.P., beyond Kerry and the Democrats, and even beyond all the biases and outright fraud in the electoral system, to include the capitalist relations of unequal wealth and power that structure all of the above. Yes, it's possible to begin with what happened on election day and to move with only a few middle steps to all the rotteness that Chomsky so relentlessly and thoroughly brings out about American society… and more.
Abraham Lincoln's famous comment on
democracy as government of, by and for the people offers one arresting way of
linking these two levels of analysis. If we take "OF" as referring to
those who have the status of citizens in the country, "BY" as
referring to the much smaller group who control the means and instruments by
which political decisions are made, and "FOR" as referring to
different groups depending on how they are affected by these decisions, it becomes clear
that we are not talking about the same people under each of these rubrics. On
The stacked deck of cards with which the government forces us all to play the game of politics goes far beyond the many frauds that emerged on election day, and encompasses all that politicians do after they get elected (which includes preparing the ground - socially and psychologically as well as politically - for the next fraudulent election). It also makes our elections - once people's attention is drawn and their anger aroused by the outright theft of our highest office - an ideal prism for seeing American democracy as a capitalist class democracy, run BY that class (and the few outsiders they hire to help them out) and FOR that class. For the rest of us, living in a democracy most take to be OF the people, politics can only be a series of false hopes and tragic deceptions.
Bush's stolen election is but the
tip of the iceberg, but it is the tip that is now showing, and tens of millions
of people can see it, many for the first time, and they are raging (if still
too silently) about it. The Left must be part of this protest and accompanying
and deepening both - making the connections, making the connections - however
we can. And don't forget the
Bertell Ollman : <www.dialecticalmarxism.com>
from Byron Morton :
Subject: Fw: Gore Vidal on Bush's Inagural Speech
Gore Vidal on Bush's Inaugural Address:
"The Most Un-American Speech I've Ever Heard"
We take a look at President Bush's
inaugural address with Gore Vidal, one of
We are joined now by Gore Vidal. He
is one of
AMY GOODMAN: As we continue our discussion of President Bush's inaugural address, let's hear a section of that speech :
AMY GOODMAN: President Bush, his second inaugural address. Today we're
joined by Gore Vidal, one of
thinkers. Author of more than twenty novels, five plays. Author most
recently of, Dreaming War and Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace. His
latest book is, Imperial America:
Reflections on the
Amnesia. Yesterday we caught up with Gore Vidal and I asked him his
reaction to the inaugural address.
GORE VIDAL: Well, I hardly know where to end, much less begin. There's
not a word of truth in anything that he said. Our founding fathers did
not set us on a course to liberate all
the world from tyranny.
just said, “all men are created equal, and should be,” etc, but it was
not the task of the
Quincy Adams so wisely put it;
because if the
abroad to slay dragons in the name of freedom, liberty, and so on, she
could become “dictatress of the world,” but in the process “she would
lose her soul.” That is what we -- the lesson we should be learning now,
instead of this declaration of war against the entire globe. He doesn't
define what tyranny is. I’d say what
we have now in the
working up a nice tyrannical persona for itself and for us. As we lose
liberties he’s, I guess, handing them out to other countries which have
not asked for them, particularly; and what he says -- The reaction in
they have all those different kinds of cheesebut, simultaneously,
they're much better educated than we are, and they're richer. Get that
out there: The Europeans per capita are richer than the Americans, per
capita. And by the time this administration is finished, there won't be
any money left of any kind, starting with poor social security, which
will be privatized, so that is the last gold rush for (as they say) men
with an eye for opportunity.
No, I would have to parse this thing line by line and have it in front of
me. It goes in one ear and out the other as lies often do, particularly
rhetorical lies that have been thought up by second-rate advertising men,
which are the authors of this speech. It is the most un-American speech
I’ve ever heard a chief
executive give to the
at least to television, we were given
every inaugural from
one was as gruesome and as off-key as this, and that guy is Harry S.
Truman, who’s being made into a hero because he fits into the imperial
mode. He starts out his inaugural -- we're on top of the world we’re the
richest country, the most powerful militarily, and what does he do?
Within three lines Harry Truman is starting the Cold War, which the
Russians were not starting. They thought they could live in peace because
of their agreement at
whose unfortunate death gave us Harry Truman and gave us the Cold War,
which is now metastasized into a general war against any nation that this
president of ours, if he is -- was elected, wants to commit us to, and we
-- preemptive wars. That’s just never existed in our history, that a
president “Well, I think I'm going to
some terrorists down there one day. Oh, they aren't there yet, but
they're planning for it. And they’ve got bicarbonate of soda. Once you
have that, you know, you can build all sorts of biochemical weapons.”
This is just blather. Blather.
And that an American audience would sit there beside the capitol or
reverently in front of their TV screens and watch this and not see the
absurdity of what was being said -- absolute proof of a couple of things
that I have felt, and most of us who are at all thoughtful feel: We’ve
got the worst educational system of any first world country. We are
shameful when we go abroad, because we know nothing. Just to watch the
destruction of the archaeologists’ work
of our culture. Nobody knows that. Nobody knows what it is, except it's a
wicked city that the lord destroyed. Well, it was the center of our
civilization, the center of mathematics, of writing, of everything. And
apparently our troops were allowed to go in and smash everything to bits.
Why did they do it? Was it because they are mean bad boys and girls? No.
They're totally uneducated. And their officers are sometimes mean and
bad, and allow them to have a romp, as they also had in the prisons, none
of which we heard about in the last election. We were too busy with
homosexual marriage and abortion, two really riveting subjects. War and
peace, of course, are not worth talking about. And civilization, God
forbid that we ever commit ourselves to that.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Gore Vidal. He -- President Bush said in
his speech: “Across the generations, we’ve proclaimed the imperative of
self-government, because no one's fit to be a master, and no one deserves
to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our
nation. It's the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it's the
urgent requirement of our national security, and the calling of our
GORE VIDAL: Well, proof of his bad education -- he seems not to know that
the principle founders of the
Thomas Jefferson to
country with half of the country quite prosperous because of black
slaves, African slaves, who were not in the least happy about being
slaves, but they had been captured, brought over here and sold back and
forth around the country. So, I don't see how the founding fathers could
have committed us to the principle that ‘no man should be a slave, and
every man should be a master,’ or whatever the silly-Billy said. Well,
this is a country based on slavery, is also based upon the dispossession
of what we miscall the Indians. They were the native Americans, at least
before -- long before our arrival. So, we were not dedicated to any of
these principles. We were dedicated to making as much money and stealing
as much land as we could and building up a republic, not a democracy. The
word democracy was hated by the founding fathers. It does not appear at
any point in the constitution, nor does it appear in any pleasant sense
in the Federalist Papers. So, we are not a democracy, and here we are
exporting it as though it were just something -- well, we just happened
to make, a lot of democracy, and cotton and tin and stuff like that. So,
let’s --let's do some exports of democracy. We don't have it, and most
countries don't have it, and not many countries want it. Democracy was
tried only once, and that was in the
Fifth Century B.C., at
finally, they were overcome by an oligarchy
tried again to establish a democracy in any country on earth. And if any
history had been taught to the cheerleader
that I even went to the brother school
were taught enough history not to make gaffs like that in public.
AMY GOODMAN: Gore Vidal, President Bush also said, “All who live in
tyranny and hopelessness can know the
oppression or excuse your oppressors when you stand for your liberty, we
will stand with you. Democratic reformers facing repression, prison or
exile can know
your few [free] country. The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we
still believe, as Abraham Lincoln did, ‘Those who deny freedom to others
deserve it not for themselves and under the rule of a just God, cannot
long retain it.’”
GORE VIDAL: Oh, what bull. I notice all the help that we gave Mandela
before he himself extricated his people from the white rule of the Boers
and the English in
was silenced, that he was not helped at any time. And we were -- Is that
how we stood up for other countries trying to liberate themselves? We’ve
never done that. We went into the first two world wars for
self-aggrandizement. We did very well out of it. We’ve gone into Latin
government, from Arbenz
played a vicious game. Sometimes we assassinate the president, sometimes
we overthrow him. Sometimes -- all the time, eventually, we establish a
military dictatorship. We’ve been doing that for 200 years. But, for a
people that knows no history, does not want to know history, with a
corrupt media that will not tell you the truth about anything going on in
the world, what else could we have, but a dumb, cheerleader president?
AMY GOODMAN: But if it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who said,
“democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know,
country,” would you object?
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT: I can
only tell you that I feel your pain, and I know that
you will be rulers one day. But meanwhile, I'm staying here in
AMY GOODMAN: Yes.
GORE VIDAL: That's
that he was on the side of that; but we never did anything about it.
tyranny, when his state departmentI must say he didn't like itbut his
state department turned away the infamous ship in which the Jews trying
AMY GOODMAN: What is your hope for the future, as President Bush
inaugurated his second term with this speech?
GORE VIDAL: I don't see much future for the
on economic grounds. Forget moral grounds. We're far beyond any known
morality, and we are embarked upon a kind of war against the rest of the
world. I think that the thing that will save us, and it will probably
come pretty fast, when they start monkeying around with Social Security,
that will cause unrest. Meanwhile, the costs of the wars the cost of
rebuilding the cities immediately after we knock them down, if we didn't
knock them down, we wouldn't have to put them back up again, but that
would mean that there was no work for Bechtel and for Halliburton. We are
going to go broke. The dollar loses value every day. I live part of the
do, to have a house in
We are a declining power economically in the world, and the future now
clearly belongs to
they have the educational systems. They have the will. And they will win.
And we will -- we only survive now by borrowing money from them in the
form of treasury bonds which very soon we won't have enough revenue to
redeem, much less service. So, I put it down to economic collapse may
AMY GOODMAN: President Bush in this inaugural address, and in his second
term, can you make comparisons to Richard Nixon, and won by a landslide,
much more than Bush, in terms of how he beat his opponent, and yet
ultimately is forced to resign?
GORE VIDAL: Well, let us hope history repeats itself, and there's a
possibility that the American people will get fed up with endless war,
and endless deaths coming out -- American deaths. That's all we care
about. We don't care about foreigners dying. But that is getting on
people's nerves. I think that he thinks, and many of the American people
appear to think, that we're in a movie. Lousy movie, but it's just a
movie. And, once the final credits run, all those dead people, who were
just extras anyway, will stand up and come home, or go back to the old
actors’ home. It isn't a movie we're in. It's real life. And these are
real dead people. And there are more and more of them, and the world
won't tolerate it. So, he might very well end up like Mr. Nixon. Nixon at
least when he ran again, curiously enough, was rated among the most
liberal and progressive of our presidents in the 20th century. Not that
he really was; it's just that he felt domestic affairs were best left
alone. Let labor unions and capital worry about that while the president
prosecuted foreign wars. He loved foreign affairs because it was fun. You
got to make a lot of trips and see people in fancy uniforms and hear
“Hail to the Chief” in various tunes. That was Nixon's take. And then, of
course, once he got in -- into war, he couldn't get out. Didn't try very
hard to get out. He wanted to be victorious. Well, he wasn't victorious.
Then he lied and cheated. This one lies and cheats, too. So far he’s not
had his Watergate. Let us hope that there is one looming.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you take heart from the opposition, from the resistance
on the ground, from the grassroots protests?
GORE VIDAL: Well, you know, I spent three years in the second world war
in the Pacific, and I was born at
for the army; and what I am hearing, the tom-toms that are coming not
only from those who have returned to the
reservists, but what I also hear from overseas, is that there’s great
distress and dislike of this government, and certainly of this war, which
is idly done. And everybody is at risk with insufficient armature --
arms, and no motivation at all except the vanity of a -- of the lowest
grade of politicians that we’ve ever had in the White House. They are
disturbed, and I can see that there may be suddenly something coming from
them once they get back home, if they can get back home. They may turn
AMY GOODMAN: And, in general, young people in this country protesting the
inauguration, for example. More than 10,000 people out in the streets,
almost -- although there was almost no
coverage except for
independent media of those voices. People -- hosts on CNN saying they
didn't want to ‘over-exaggerate’ the images that would be so easy to go
to, so they just didn't.
GORE VIDAL: Or be honest about them. The famous February, a year ago,
when everybody demonstrated. I spoke to
100,000 people in
Boulevard. And the L.A. Times, which is better than most of the
establishment papers, said there's just hardly anybody there. However,
they were undone by the photograph taken of -- when I was up on the
platform at very end of
and way up ahead
looked like, unlike
so you couldn't see them at all in a photograph, because they just didn't
show up. So, out here, a makeup man at the Times helped the cause.
AMY GOODMAN: As the Democratic Party chooses a new leader, do you have
words of advice for the direction?
GORE VIDAL: Remember that the
have always been isolationists, a word which has been demonized, thrown
out, an isolationist is somebody who believes in a flat earth and is
racist and so forth and so on. Well, none of that is true. Isolationists
-- Most of the left in the second world war, from Norman Thomas on to
Americans were anti-war. We have never been for imperial foreign wars. We
have to be dragged screaming into them,
as we were after
there was a lot of machinations going on to make sure that that happened.
And it goes on all the time. Events are made so horrible people like
Saddam and so on are demonized, and we all have to immediately begin by
saying how awful he is for 25 minutes before we can get down to the fact
that he was no threat to the
involved with al Qaeda. He was not involved with 9/11. He was not. He was
not. You can say it a million times, but there you have a president with
the help of the most corrupt media in my lifetime bouying his words
across the land and telling lies about the ‘We're 45 minutes away from
being blown up by the weapons of mass destruction that this master of
evil has in his hands.’ To which the answer is: Why? Why would he do
that? There must be some motivation. You see, they are now beyond
motivation, and that is insanity. So, an insane government is not one
that you can look to with any confidence.
AMY GOODMAN: Gore Vidal, speaking to us from
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research at CEIMSA-IN-EXILE