On David Cameron, Barack Obama and why he thinks America is heading for dictatorship.
Melvyn Bragg has interviewed the American author Gore Vidal many times over the years – including for three separate South Bank Show films.
For his guest-edit of this week’s New Statesman, Bragg called Vidal at his home in Los Angeles, where Vidal claimed to be working on perfecting “the telephone essay”.
The resulting interview is a wide-ranging conversation, replete with Vidal’s usual wit, that covers his life and career. But perhaps – as always – his political views are the most striking.
Here is what he had to say about the Republican Party:
These are the small-town enemies of everybody. They just dislike everyone. They couldn’t come out and say: “We don’t want a black president” – we’ve finally got past that roadblock. So what they did was set out to slaughter the opposition party, the Democrats.
Vidal’s contention is that Obama’s opponents, motivated by racism, have set out to discredit him:
Repetition. They keep saying he’s really a terrorist and they even deny he’s black. He’s obviously brown in some way – a vicious way – because we know what they are like; those are terrorists.
This febrile political atmosphere, combined with economic turmoil, is a recipe for disaster:
I should not in the least be surprised if there were a kind of dictatorship at the end of the road, which seems to be coming more and more quickly as we lose more and more wars.
Vidal also gave his verdict on Britain’s current Prime Minister:
Have you any opinion on our new Downing Street tenant, Mr Cameron?
You do like to adjust to types. You’ve got all the right types you should have for government in this adorable Tory. He’s everything we thought Bertie Wooster was – and God knows we worship Bertie Wooster, in the form of Hugh Laurie.
And there is a warning for Britain, too, over the direction of its foreign policy:
Anybody who tries to hang on to America’s coat-tails is going to find himself up to his eyeballs in, well, deceit and corruption. This is the crookedest place on earth – and I never thought I would go that far, having been to many other countries at least south of our borders.
You can read the full interview in this week’s magazine.