Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Old Sourpuss Passeth

On July 31, the other half of a famous verbal dueling pair moved on to his final reward. Not to speak ill of the dead, I won’t name the place where that reward resides, but I understand it is quite warm there. Eugene Luther Gore Vidal (variously Eugene Louis Vidal, Jr., Eugene Louis Luther Gore Vidal, and finally just Gore Vidal) exited this mortal coil about four-and-half years after his nemesis, William F. Buckley, Jr.

People of my generation are likely to have the most vivid memories of the two as Buckley espoused early conservative philosophy while Vidal was becoming the “literary” spokesman for newly-emergent left-liberal philosophy. Vidal and Buckley met in public forums frequently during the turbulent 60s, often on television. The fireworks were a wonder to behold.

Vidal was one of the few public figures who could so rile Buckley that he would lose his cool. The most famous encounter was when the two were TV “color commentators” at the 1968 Democratic convention. As if that convention wasn’t chaotic enough, Vidal and Buckley got into a shouting match. Vidal went off on a tangent, proclaiming the Vietnam War a capitalist conspiracy and calling Buckley a “pro crypto-Nazi.”

Not to be outdone, Buckley called Vidal a faggot, and threatened to sock him if he ever called him a Nazi again. Remember folks, these were the days of live television. The New York Times also printed the full exchange uncensored the next day, expressing a certain amount of shock at the uncivilized behavior. In its obituary on Vidal this past Wednesday, political-correctness replaced the actual reporting of the original event. It “f-worded” Buckley’s original outburst but was perfectly happy to leave the proto crypto-Nazi words in the obit.

Apparently, The New York Times finds calling someone a Nazi acceptable, but even when reporting on an event that occurred in 1968, it’s still too timid and too politically-correct to use the actual word spoken by Buckley. That, despite the fact it was a [then] commonly-used pejorative for a homosexual. Moreover, it’s not as if Vidal was particularly sensitive about having it known that he was actively “pansexual.”

Vidal wrote many interesting if wrong-headed essays during his lifetime. But he is best known for his far less intelligent novels and political screeds. His books tended to be extremely lightweight, either alternative history (Julian ((The Apostate)), Burr, and Lincoln) or paeans of praise to the sorrows and glories of gay sex (The City and the Pillar and the far better-known Myra Breckenridge, later made into a bizarre movie with movie critic Rex Reed playing Myron Breckenridge and Raquel Welch playing the sexually-reassigned Myra). He also wrote the screenplays for the Broadway productions-turned-movies Visit to a Small Planet and The Best Man.

In Vidal’s mind, there were very few “intelligent and good” people in the world. He was at the top of his own list, along with family, and a few close friends. He spent most of his adult life damning capitalism. As he grew older and crotchetier, he even showed his disdain for traditional liberalism, veering off into full anti-American pro-everybody-else polemics. As one critic put it: “For Vidal, America was a ‘national security state’ run by power-mad oligarchs whose perfidious designs, obvious to him, escaped the notice of the moronic, mouth-breathing multitudes.”

Perhaps from senile dementia or some other physical/mental disease, Vidal went from liberal-leftist curmudgeon to frothing-at-the-mouth loon in his later years. 9-11 seemed to be the event that pushed him over the edge. He was an avid 9-11 Truther, and a year after the event compiled a series of moonbat essays entitled Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace. It included just about every crazy left-wing conspiracy theory imaginable and included his “newfound kinship to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh” (who was long dead by the time he compiled the essays). He had also started to exhibit strains of rabid antisemitism.

I can’t say I’ll miss the old bastard, but he did add spice to our lives. I sort of dream of one last earthly confrontation between the younger versions of Buckley and Vidal, no holds barred and political-correctness tossed to the wind. On live TV. Alas, we’ll never get to see that.

I have attached a link to the 1968 live convention shouting-match for those who have never seen it. I hope it works. With Blogger’s all-new and improved edit screens, we can’t tell now if a link works until the article actually publishes, and by then it’s too late. Go to Buckley and Vidal Name-Calling Festival

37 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

nice post, Hawk. Old war horses such as ourselves are pretty much the last generation to remember Gore Vidal. I read only one of his books--back in the early 70's. Of course the famous exchange on live t.v. at the convention says it all, about the man. Still, without that incident, would anybody really have note Vidal's passing? He was such a pompous ass, he never would have deemed himself worthy to protest a Chick-fil-A. :)

StanH said...

Like you, I’ll not shed a tear for the old fart. However, the Buckley/Vidal clashes were wonderful to behold.

T-Rav said...

I feel bad saying "Good riddance to bad rubbish," since he's dead and all. But obviously, not that bad.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: I read Burr and Julian largely because I am a history buff. I read a lot of his early essays because I was a radical in my youth. But Myra Breckenridge pretty much finished it off for me. It got great reviews from the liberal press. I guess they figured only the literati could appreciate such an exercise in transsexualism and sado-masochism. When it came to the movie version, the public stayed away in droves, and it didn't get a single positive review. Several reviewers called it the worst movie of all time, and in a field which includes Plan 9 from Outer Space, that tells you a lot.

LawHawkRFD said...

Stan: Vidal and Buckley were a couple of aristocrats, but Buckley had more of a tendency to behave like one. Vidal's irresolute life affected his whole way of behaving. Also, unlike Buckley, Vidal was a hopeless name-dropper. But it sure was fun watching the two mix it up.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: I had to resist turning my mini-obit into a "biography of Gore Satan Vidal." I did my best to stick to major events without going into the sordid details of his personal life and vicious attacks on America, Christianity and Jews. Otherwise, the article would have been much longer and a great deal more profane. LOL

LawHawkRFD said...

Vidal was so determined that nobody should ever endanger his position, that he couldn't even say a nice word about his up-and-coming homosexual competitors. When Truman Capote's works started getting national attention, Vidal said "Capote I truly loathe. The way you might loathe an animal. A filthy animal that has found its way into the house."

K said...

Come on Hawk, Myra Breckenriidge - the movie - is hilarious. Perhaps not in the way the author would have like, but hilarious just the same. A 70 yr old May West cast as sex goddess was the final touch, I think. World class camp.

LawHawkRFD said...

K: I reluctantly agree. Like the other movie I mentioned in the list of worst movies, Plan 9 From Outer Space, this one is so very, very bad that it's good. Unintentionally funny. And I had almost forgotten that it was Mae West's swan song. The movie is perhaps the best argument I've ever heard for celibacy. LOL

tryanmax said...

I'm too much of a youngster to engage in this conversation. I'm only familiar with post-9/11 Gore Vidal. I would venture that amongst people my age, Buckley retains about ten times the relevance of Vidal, even amongst liberals.

AndrewPrice said...

I know nothing about Vidal except the name. He's one of those people from the 60s who just always struck me as irrelevant outside of the 60s.

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: Excellent. Buckley lives on in the memories of those who barely had a chance to see him in action, while the memory of those same people of Vidal is his post-9/11 ravings.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: Vidal remained an active and influential mouthpiece for the new left right up until about the time Bill Clinton was elected. He then went off into full-blown and vicious attacks on the Democrats and his fellow left/liberals. He quickly became an irrelevant has-been, and a generation of young people hardly know his name.

Critch said...

I remember Buckley and Vidal getting into that shouting match in 1968,,,it was great...Gore Vidal was just a hack writer and intellectual lightweight as far as I'm concerned.














and

tryanmax said...

Hope nobody minds and OT comment here, the last Vox Populi is pretty buggy.

It just dawned on me why the Olympic coverage includes so many tales of overcoming hangnails. This is the leftist media. They have to scrounge around for justification of why these athletes should deserve to win. Training and hard work don't cut it because, as the left sees it, their very opportunity to train is the result of some privilege born of historical injustice. The only justification for winning is as compensation for some suckitude that the athlete had to bear in their life.

LawHawkRFD said...

Critch: Vidal was a leftist popularizer. His essays were serious but wrong-headed. His novels were fun to read, but contained no serious literary merit beyond good grammar and interesting alternate history. His plays (and their manifestations as movies) were just plain awful. He had the intelligence to be a serious writer, but frittered it away with loony polemics.

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: That's exactly why I don't watch the Olympics anymore. The politics and the background material all overwhelm the actual events which are interrupted or foreshortened for no apparent reason. I don't care if Suzie the Swimmer suffers from crippling PMS or that Joe the Runner once had an ingrown toenail. I just want to see the events and the medals. The rest is a waste of my time, and insulting to my intelligence besides.

PS Don't ever feel the need to explain going off-topic. That's not the same thing as hijacking a thread by any means, and after helplessly watching all my comments disappear yesterday, I'm glad to have your random thoughts here in place of yesterday's disastrous comment dump on the open thread.

Patriot said...

None of the Olympians earned their medals. Sure, they worked hard, but you know there's a lot of hardworkin' people out there. So they got a medal. God bless. But they got it by getting up at 0430 and driving on GOVERNMENT ROADS to their GOVERNMENT REGULATED aquatic center (with pool chemicals perfectly regulated thankyouvery much).

So just like the North Korean stooge who thanked Kim Jong Un for his abilities and opportunities to win the decadent medal, our USA athletes need to acknowledge the beneficence of our OWN Dear Leader and thank Barack (PBUH) for allowing them the use of all the government provided services that made it possible for them to even have a chance at competing.

Gore Vidal would approve (BIHMF)

LawHawkRFD said...

Patriot: I wonder how long it will take Obama to take credit for all the gold medals won by Americans.

tryanmax said...

Hawk, sounds intimidating! Someone ought to make a movie about birds attacking people! ;-D

LawHawkRFD said...

BTW, Vidal was born at West Point, where his father was a star quarterback. He went on to become one of the first officers in the Army Air Corps, and is also alleged to have had an affair with Amelia Earhart. But young Gore always gravitated toward his actress mother, who later married a member of the Auchincloss clan (related to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy). Vidal himself served in the Navy, but became increasingly anti-military as he grew older. His first homosexual-themed novel (1948), The City and the Pillar was dedicated to "JT." Though he never confirmed it, many who knew him said that JT was James Trimble III, Vidal's great love who was killed at Iwo Jima. What few close friends Vidal had said that the young man's death increased his bitterness about the military and American attitudes towards homosexuality.

Partially in retaliation for Buckley's use of the word faggot (for which he quickly apologized), Vidal took his grudge to Esquire Magazine in 1969 and stated categorically that when Buckley was a youngster, he and several friend broke into and vandalized a Protestant church to protest the church selling a piece of its property to a Jewish family. Buckley sued Esquire and Vidal for libel, and though the case didn't go to trial, Esquire agreed to pay all of Buckley's expenses, including attorney's fees. For some strange reason, in 2003 Esquire published a collection of Vidal's writings, including the defamatory article, verbatim. Buckley sued again, with the same result.

And one other thing. He got many of his early "progressive" notions as a pupil at Sidwell Friends School, the same school now being attended by the Obama girls.

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: Sounds like a great idea, but we'd have to dig up a director for the film.

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: Or someone could do a movie about the birds and the bees. I now know that the "bee guards" on my old feeder were for. We didn't have a lot of bees in San Francisco, but we have plenty here. One very stubborn bee has found the nectar. The hummingbirds will attack each other (and me if I don't feed them fast enough), but they're giving that bee a wide berth.

LawHawkRFD said...

Patriot: Actually, Vidal has such an outrageously big ego that he would have taken personal credit for the victories and to hell with someone as insignificant as an American President. LOL

As he moved farther and farther to the left, Vidal came to consider the Republicans and Democrats as co-conspirators in the fascist wars on democracy. He most likely would have damned Obama for not moving far enough to the left when he had the chance.

So you're right, his heart would be with the North Koreans and their "Brilliant Comrade" (alternatively, "Great Successor"--Kim Jong-un will have to be in power for twenty or thirty years before he gets the title "Fabulous Leader" or some such).

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk and fellow Commentaramens,

I found this blog while cruising the internet. This guy takes exception to the new internet meme concerning Harry Reid and pederasty. It is another, we are unethical using the Harry Reid's standards and thinks we should lay off. I think this guy is foolish.

This isn't a boxing match where the guy who punches the groin loses. I put my two cents in. Check it out.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: I don't see the blog as much different from a whole lot of others. There are just so many to review. Even though we are not a news service, we try very hard to verify any rumor before we publish it as truth. If it's pure speculation, we try to avoid it, or point out that it's speculation. When a given rumor gets evidence to support it, we might write a piece on it. But we always try to separate opinion from fact.

As for the Reid story, we might have mentioned it at some future point, but with clear warnings that it is nothing but nasty rumor and to print it as fact might be actionable libel. I despise Harry Reid. But he leaves so many openings for legitimate attacks that I don't see the necessity or the propriety of claiming he's a pedophile.

Not to mention that if a blog accuses him of acting on his alleged proclivities, that blog is saying that Reid has committed a heinous crime. We won't play that game. I'm not above an occasional smear, but even in the opinion world there are limits of decency.

The First Amendment and New York Times v. Sullivan have their limitations, and even a public figure can sue for libel under certain circumstances. In fact, the Vidal libel of Willam F. Buckley (above) is a fine example.

All of that said, if the rumor turned out to be true, I would somehow not be particularly surprised. There something that's just not right about Harry Reid.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: There's a difference between fighting dirty (which the Republicans do too poorly) and crossing the line. Look at the two mud-slingings and see the difference.

Reid has unfairly and dishonestly accused Romney of paying no taxes for ten years. Obviously, it's a purely political ploy to make Romney look bad. But he didn't say that Romney hadn't filed his taxes because that would be an accusation of committing a violation of federal law. He just said he believed that Romney didn't pay any taxes, which wouldn't necessarily be illegal even if true (see GE's taxes for 2011). If false, as we can all be confident that it is, then if Romney falls into the trap of releasing his tax returns, Reid can just say "I made a mistake," then immediately shift gears to the Democratic theme that Romney paid less than his fair share and he has too much money.

The mud-slinging against Reid, on the other hand, accuses Reid of being a sexual deviant and perhaps a criminal. That's hardly in the same ballpark as the slurs against Romney.

Romney (or his surrogates) could perfectly legitimately say that Harry Reid supports whorehouses. But that's a slight twisting of the facts if not the underlying truth. That's down-in-the-mud politics, but is essentially true. Reid did support the Nevada bill which would tax prostitution and its related activities as a "product" rather than a "service." I don't think he's a big fan of whorehouses, but he is big fan of tax, tax, tax.

Joel Farnham said...

I hear you LawHawk. It clearly went over the line, but I don't want to be an ethical slave.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: Don't get me wrong. I think it's time to take off the gloves. I just think it's important to know where to draw the line. I also happen to think there are damned few ethical limits in hardcore politics, I simply think staying on the safe side of the law is a good idea.

tryanmax said...

Joel, Party A and Party B don't really represent anyone in particular, but I do have a handy example. (You'll see I've blogged it this morning, though not about this pattern of argument.)

Marco Rubio just proposed a bill that would exempt Olympic prize money from the income tax. My argument against is that it fails the conservative principle of tax simplification and elimination of loopholes.

Now let's say that Rubio counters my argument by saying that being against exemptions puts me against exempting combat pay for soldiers, which means I'm a jerk. Calling me a jerk is ad hominem b/c it is irrelevant to the debate, but it also sets me up to prove I'm not a jerk.

Tact 1) I ignore the ad hominem and agree that combat pay should not be exempt either. I've stuck to principle, but I've also framed myself, along with Rubio, as a jerk.

Tact 2) I allow the combat pay exemption, thereby abandoning the principle I just espoused--making me a hypocrite--and possibly I still come off as a jerk because I have no special love for Olympians.

Now, Rubio presents a special case, because I can attack him on his broken principles before he sets me up for the same. But for the sake of the example, it needs be set aside.

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: I see where you're headed, but there could probably be better examples, even though your mode of argument makes sense.

The military has always been treated differently from the civilian population. Combat pay is arguable (and it would put you in the position of being a jerk). But think of all the other exceptions. Until they created the welfare state and public housing, only the military got food and shelter from the government as a routine part of their employment. Today, the welfare bums live better than the military, but that's irrelevant to the argument.

Also, no right or liberty is absolute. Until leviathan spread its ugly tentacles into every facet of American life, it was possible to make reasonable exceptions to the general rule without making the exceptions available to everybody and his dog. In a sane world, exempting the medals from taxation would be reasonable and popular, but until we completely gut and rewrite the Tax Code, you would be right in saying that it violates conservative principles. There is no theoretical difference between winning a Cadillac in a drawing and winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Tax both, or tax neither.

tryanmax said...

I admit, I snapped up the military argument because I couldn't think of another exemption off the top of my head in a pinch. Probably mortgage deduction or child credits would have been better examples.

As far as the military exception goes, I think there are strong reasons for it based on separate principles. At the very least, a serviceman is trading one hardship for another. Also, military matters are a perpetual concern. As far as I'm aware, this Olympic thing just cropped up this summer.

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: And you've picked the two deductions that even conservative me would allow (even if I had to do a lot of work on them). LOL The mortgage interest deduction encourages home ownership, and every study ever done shows that homeowners are far more likely to have stable families, commitment to their communities, lower crime rates, and better jobs (and therefore pay more taxes in the long run) than those who rent or live in public housing.

The child deduction is a companion to the mortgage interest deduction. Before the government developed a vested interest in breaking up families and making everyone dependent on government largess, promotion of families for stability and children to enter the workforce (and pay for ponzi entitlement schemes like Social Security and Medicare) and take care of their parents in their old age, keeping the government entirely out of the formula was the goal. It even kept down mortgage interest deductions, since much of the time one of the children would take over the home on his parents' death and the home loan was usually paid off by then. Granting mortgage interest deductions to freeloaders who weren't creditworthy and had no intention of paying off the mortgage anyway (thank you, Barney Frank) killed that entire concept and brought the housing industry to its knees.

tryanmax said...

Hawk, I can appreciate the reasoning behind allowing those deductions. For my part, I see their existence as ceding a portion of the tax argument. To my mind, a simpler, flatter tax structure would return home ownership/investment back into its own reward. As things stand today, the expression "invest in a home" is a dubious concept. As to the child tax credit, I would see it replaced with a proper deduction. I can see parallels between child-rearing expenses and other types of deductible expenses.

And to be thorough, I could be talked back into the mortgage interest deduction as it is, after all, a deduction. The real source of my dissatisfaction is outright exemptions.

Individualist said...

"Vidal went from liberal-leftist curmudgeon to frothing-at-the-mouth loon in his later years."

Lawhawk...

liberal leftist curmudgeon ....
foruthin at the mouth loon ....

There's a difference... who knew

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: I see your point, and since we agree on the underlying reasoning, I also agree with your conclusions.

LawHawkRFD said...

Indi: Admittedly, it isn't much of a difference.

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