Malibu Democrats host Gore Vidal at fundraiser

Vidal lashes out against the Bush administration; spouts views on the “corruption” of “a poisonous media” that doesn’t live up to its responsibility to inform the public.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

Approximately 200 people attended a fundraising luncheon and pep rally for the Malibu Democratic Club on Sunday at the estate of Dr. A.S. Marwah at which Gore Vidal, general Progressive agitator and chronicler of the political times, was guest of honor.

Vidal, longtime considered by many as enfant terrible of political commentary, held forth on the state of affairs in the United States. Vidal has enjoyed an extensive and storied career as an author, playwright, screenwriter and essayist, but his historical novels, such as “Lincoln,” and his more recent collection of political punditry like “Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia,” have come to define his reflection of political outrage at our time in U.S. history.

Moderated by Lila Garrett, political Progressive and host of KPFK’s “Connect the Dots,” Sunday’s members and guests discussed subjects such as election protection and ballot propositions for the November election that would, proponents say, offer protection of California coastlines, provide for publicly funded elections and offer universal healthcare to all state residents.

Vidal scorned what he characterized as President Bush’s “misadventure” in Iraq and the “imperialistic abuse of power” by the Bush administration.

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“The war in Iraq isn’t real,” Vidal said, referring to the administration’s reasons for the imperative to invade Iraq. “But the damage that has been done is very real. Under the constitution, the office of the president has clearly enumerated powers and it is a short list.”

Vidal said he believes the administration has been able to flout the restrictions of that list with impunity because of “a poisonous media,” that will not live up to their responsibility to inform the public, and an all-too-compliant Republican majority in Congress.

“The Republicans want to see the Constitution hanging in the Smithsonian as a piece of irrelevant history,” Vidal said. “It is no accident that [Supreme Court Justices] Roberts and Alito are now on the nation’s highest court and that John Bolton speaks for us at the U.N. These people all represent corporate ownership of our society.””

It is that corporate ownership of national media that prevents the truth from being heard, Vidal stressed. “Of course the Republicans are awash with corporate campaign contributions-including from giant media conglomerates. They get tax cuts and industry deregulation from a Republican Congress that puts more money in their corporate pockets, which they can then give back to an accommodating Congress in the form of campaign contributions!

“I find it hard to believe that America could actually have enough of corruption, but I think we’ve gotten there,” he added.

Vidal has had close ties with the Democratic Party for years. He is a distant cousin of former President Jimmy Carter, his mother married the future stepfather of Jacqueline Kennedy, his grandfather “brought the state of Oklahoma into the Union,” and he claims distant cousinship with former Vice President Al Gore.

Vidal endorsed the idea of another run for the presidency by Gore and said that “Al should serve in the office to which we elected him once before.”

Vidal channeled his political estimations through a historical worldview. “In 1945,” Vidal recounted, “Harry Truman was terrified when the presidency fell on his head. He knew what Roosevelt had told him: ‘We must let them strike first, or else it is Roosevelt’s War.’ So, in 1942, when Roosevelt poured $8 billion into gearing up for a war economy, the country was looking good, coming out of a severe Depression. But in peacetime, how was Truman going to get the military appropriations from Congress to keep a strong economy running? He was forced to promote fear of the Russians. And that has been how the Republicans have operated since then. Fear.”

Vidal appeared sanguine about the Democrats’ ability to turn the tide. “Remember that Lyndon Johnson didn’t decide to quit the race in ’68, until he saw Wall Street marching in the streets,” he said with a nod to the Washington admonition to “follow the money.” “Perhaps when the economic collapse finally happens,” he said. “The money people are aware that this joy ride is coming to an end. As to ‘liberalism,’ we wouldn’t have seen the economic reforms of Roosevelt’s New Deal without ‘liberalism.’ This country was ready to revolt in the late ’30s.”

Vidal closed by quoting Tacitus, a third century Roman writer, who noted the impending fall of the Roman Empire: “They have made a desert and call it peace,” he said. “Now we have a desert and call it democracy.”

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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