Interview with an angry writer: Alain Elkann speaks to Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal and actress Bianca Jagger sit at a table during a Tanya Tucker show at the Roxy, Los Angeles, January 1979.

Gore Vidal: “The Attorney General is nothing but a puppet. Let me tell you about this massive conspiracy.”

Gore Vidal, you followed President Clinton’s speech on TV at your house in Ravello. What do you think about it?

In a few words, the President was furious with Attorney General Starr and his questions which – this is certain – have nothing to do with politics, but are part of a conspiracy to destroy Clinton. That he was enraged was shown only in Clinton’s deliberately slow manner. His three lawyers have prudently advised him not to put himself on a collision course with Starr.

How does the President come out of this situation?

The American people are satisfied with Clinton’s presidency. Curiously, the mass media despise the people so much that they consider them even more stupid than the mass media is itself. Every single man in the United States has sympathy for Clinton, a human being who is similar to himself in terms of sexual behaviour; and every single woman understands Monica’s behaviour. This explains Clinton’s curious, almost star-like popularity, despite the theatre of the absurd that has been constructed around his life.

What are the chances of impeachment?

Clinton has real enemies for other reasons. First of all, many rich Americans are joined together by their pathological hatred for black people. And Clinton is a white champion of the blacks. There’s more: in 1993, Clinton tried to provide Americans with a national healthcare service, something that all civilized countries in the First World have, without realizing that he had declared war against the so-called ‘ruling class’ of the United States, the one that represents the great financial groups. Today, a third of the money spent in medical cures in our extremely costly and inadequate healthcare system goes to insurance companies; for them it is a source of enormous profit. And the corporations have immediately joined forces against him, allocating – so they say – half a billion dollars for TV advertisements against the healthcare plan, which they make out to be a “Communist plan”.

Who are the members of that conspiracy?

The insurance companies and pharmaceutical majors, with the help of the American Medical Association. It’s a year since the Republican Right – which has a fascist mentality – gained the majority in Congress, and the agreement for the destruction of the Clintons was born. They didn’t manage to defeat the President in ’96, but they keep inflicting wounds on him. Not that there’s anything personal about it; they want to put all the other politicians on their guard.

It sounds like a very well organized conspiracy.

Yes, and Attorney General Starr was chosen by a right-wing group that includes two Senators from North Carolina and a pool of Representatives that think in the same way. My proposition is this: that since all political legitimacy in the United States is based on the will of the people, Starr and the other conspirators, who previously tried to despatch the results of two presidential elections into thin air, in ’92 and ’96, are technically guilty of treason against the citizens who elected Clinton as their President.

Is there a risk of an economic crisis?

The stockmarket is in turmoil and we might be heading towards a Japanese scenario. But economic situations are beyond the real power of a President. The great financial groups that control every aspect of our lives, and particularly the mass media, will face up to and deal with a crisis as and when it happens. Let’s hope that there will be a strike before they achieve their dream, which is the total privatization of the National Health Service, in order to steal the money that citizens have already paid for their pensions.

Is Vice President Al Gore going to succeed Clinton?

I do not think that Clinton will be impeached because then Gore would have two years of presidency in which to prepare himself for the 2000 elections. And if he were to win them it would signal the end of the Republican Right.

Will Americans forget the Lewinsky affair quickly, or will the storm continue?

If Elizabeth Taylor had a romantic crisis and married her Japanese gardener tomorrow, Monica Lewinsky would immediately be consigned to the oblivion in which Joan of Arc and Charlotte Corday live in the mind of the American public today. Prime Minister Prodi hopes that the Lewinsky affair won’t have serious consequences and that Clinton will remain strong, because this is important for the power balance of the world.

Your prediction?

Clinton will carry on as before. He is against war, which distinguishes him from other Presidents, but like all other Presidents he doesn’t have real internal power. It is the American corporations that rule. Nothing will change and Prodi can sleep peacefully.

(Rome; August 19th, 1998)

The above is taken from Alain Elkann Interviews, published by Assouline (196A Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1J 9EY)

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