Jon Wiener | The Nation

Jon Wiener

Jon Wiener

Politics and pop, past and present.

An Appeal to the GOP: Stick to Your Principles! Don't Listen to Pundits!

An appeal to Republicans: don’t listen to the pundits who say the lesson of 2012 is that you should change course to appeal to women and minorities in order to win elections. You should stick to your principles—and with the the old white men who provided tens of millions of votes on Election Day.

The country needs leaders who will speak from their hearts about “legitimate rape.” It’s true that 55 percent of women voted against Romney—but it’s wrong to say the Republicans don’t have women in their camp. You have that wrestling lady in Connecticut!

And it’s a lie that the white men who make up the base of the Republican party don’t like black people. Remember that your leading presidential candidate in the primaries at one point was Herman Cain.

It’s true that Latinos voted against the Republicans, 70-30 percent. But you’ve already moderated your policy where they are concerned: instead of calling for a police round-up of 10 million illegal immigrants, you favor the compassionate route: “self-deportation.” And as for those illegal kids who want to go to college under the so-called “Dream Act”—that’s just another case of the Democrats creating more people who are dependent on government (for their education).

Another thing: please keep up those attacks on Nate Silver. Yes, he did predict that the Democrats would win, but that is simply more evidence of his pro-Obama bias. He’s no more “scientific” than the people who say the climate is changing.

Twenty twelve was only one election—remember the last one, the midterms in 2010? Sticking to Republican principles there paid off handsomely. Please keep your focus on that year, not on 2012.

A choice, not an echo—that’s what America needs. Instead of becoming more “moderate,” you should be getting rid of the moderates in the Republican Party—like former Republican senator Richard Lugar of Indiana. It’s true that if he had run for re-election, he would have won with 65 percent of the vote, and the Republicans would have had a chance to gain control of the Senate. But it was more important for a Tea Party true believer to defeat him in the primary. That gave the Republicans a chance to run on the argument that conception resulting from rape is “something God intended to happen.”

The only problem with this advice to get rid of the moderate Republicans is that I don’t think there are any left. Mission accomplished!

After this election, will the GOP "evolve" on marriage equality in an effort to win young and LGBTQ voters? More importantly, would it work? Check out Emily Douglas's take here

The Bad News About White People: Romney Won the White Vote Almost Everywhere

If only white people had voted on Tuesday, Mitt Romney would have carried every state except for Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut and New Hampshire, according to the news media’s exit polls. Nationally, Romney won 59 percent of the white vote, a towering twenty-point margin over Obama. (Exit polls were canceled in nineteen states by the consortium of news media that run them.)

The pattern is not limited to the South, with its history of racism and segregation. Even in the deepest blue states, white voters went for Romney: 53 percent in California, 52 percent in New York, 55 percent in Pennsylvania.

Liberals hoped that whites who opposed Obama in 2008 would learn toleration and acceptance of racial difference after four years with a black president in the White House. But what happened was the opposite: Romney won 4 percent more of the white vote in 2012 than John McCain won in 2008.

In New York and Wisconsin, Romney won 6 percent more of the white vote than McCain in 2008; in California and Florida, he won 7 percent more; in New Jersey he won 8 percent more. Even in Massachusetts, where Obama’s margin of victory was 61 percent, Romney increased the Republicans’ proportion of the white vote by four percentage points over 2008.

White men of course were more likely to support Romney than white women, and old white men the most likely of all.

What’s the matter with white people—especially old white men? They used to run everything. But their share of the electorate has been falling steadily: twenty years ago whites were 87 percent of the electorate; this year they were 72 percent.  Could it be that they resent their loss of power in a country that is becoming more racially diverse every minute?  The rest of America wants to know.

While white men voted for Romney, women of all races turned out for Obama last night, striking a blow against political misogyny. Check out Bryce Covert’s coverage here.

Life After Election Day

No more “legitimate rape”
No more dog on the car roof
No more 47 percent “who are dependent upon government”
No more “something that God intended to happen”
No more Etch-a-Sketch
No more “Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs”
No more Jeep jobs to China
No more “Corporations are people, my friend”
No more “I like being able to fire people”
No more ten thousand-dollar bets
No more “binders full of women.”
And also
No more “Say that a little louder, Candy”
No more “Heck, he even hired Hillary!”
No more horses and bayonets
No more “Please proceed, Governor.”
No more Gallup, no more Ipsos, no more Rasmussen
No more undecideds
No more Mitt Romney.

John Lennon and George McGovern: Another Side of the 1972 Campaign

George McGovern’s 1972 campaign against Nixon changed many lives, including John Lennons’s. Lennon had moved to New York City in 1971, and it was his support for McGovern—who died October 21 at age 90—that led the Nixon administration to try to deport the ex-Beatle.

The story begins with Jerry Rubin. 1972 was going to be the first election in which 18-year-olds were given the right to vote—before that it had been 21. Everyone assumed that young first-time voters were likely to be anti-war and thus pro-McGovern. But all politicos knew that young people were (and remain) the least likely to register and vote of all age groups. Thus the problem for McGovern supporters was clear: how to get young people, who had become disillusioned by mainstream politics, to register and vote.

Jerry Rubin’s solution: get John Lennon to headline a national concert tour that would coincide with the election season, a tour that would combine rock music with voter registration and anti-war organizing. None of the ex-Beatles had performed live in the US for six years, so it would have been a tremendous thing.

Lennon had been singing “Give Peace a Chance” at anti-war rallies, but he wanted to do more to use his power as a celebrity to end the war. He understood the logic of Jerry Rubin’s idea, and eagerly set to work, recruiting other rock stars to join him at different venues.

Lennon did the first of the planned concerts in Ann Arbor in December 1971. He was joined onstage by Stevie Wonder and by Bobby Seale of the Black Panther Party. 20,000 people showed up. It was a memorable night, and a promising one.

But the Nixon White House understood the significance of Lennon’s effort and resolved to put an end to the planned tour. “If Lennon’s visa were terminated, it would be a strategic counter-measure,” a memo to Nixon’s attorney general John Mitchell explained. (The memo came from Strom Thurmond, the segregationist Republican from South Carolina, not known to have been a Beatles fan.) Nixon’s Immigration Service promptly began deportation proceedings against Lennon, and his attorneys advised him that his case was not a strong one and he should not do anything to further antagonize the Nixon people. So Lennon’s plan for a Vote McGovern tour was canceled.

While McGovern campaigned for president, Lennon spent many days in immigration court, arguing that the deportation order was an attempt to silence him as a critic of the president. The Immigration Service attorneys said they were merely enforcing the then-existing law under which Lennon was inadmissible for a visa because of a misdemeanor conviction for possession of cannabis in London in 1969.

On election night in November 1972, Nixon won 60.7 percent of the vote, more than any Republican candidate in history up to that point. Lennon had thought McGovern might win, even though polls showed he didn’t’ have a chance. McGovern’s defeat meant not only that the war would continue but also that the INS would remain in Nixon’s hands and that Lennon’s deportation was now more likely.

I interviewed Jerry Rubin in 1982 about election night a decade before that. John and Yoko went to Rubin’s place to watch the returns, but when they arrived the facts of McGovern’s crushing defeat had become clear. “He came into the house screaming,” Rubin told me, “crazy with rage.”

“This is it?” Lennon shouted. “This is IT? I can’t believe this is fuckin’ IT. I mean, here we are… this is the fuckin’ middle-class bunch that’s gonna protect US from THEM!”

Somebody at the party replied, “You, John, you are gonna protect you from them. You and your friends. Organize your friends, organize your block, organize your neighborhood!” Somebody else said “Yeah, organize people. They’ll listen to you.”

“Listen to me?” Lennon shouted. “Man, where’ve you been? They haven’t been listening to me!”

That night marked the end of Lennon’s engagement with American politics. It also marked a turning point in his personal life: shortly afterwards, he separated from Yoko, left New York City and moved to Los Angeles for his “lost weekend” of alcohol and drugs.

A year earlier, when he arrived in New York City, he said he wanted to live in the home of the free. He had no idea at that point of the power of the American state, especially in the Nixon years, to silence critics and punish “enemies.”

The potential significance of Lennon’s support for McGovern can be measured by the severity of the measures the Nixon White House took to stop him. And of course the story didn’t end on election night 1972. Not long after, Nixon would be forced to resign in the face of evidence of his abuse of power—and when Nixon left the White House, Lennon got to stay in the USA.

Adapted from Come Together: John Lennon in His Time, by Jon Wiener.

For more on the legacy of George McGovern, check out Katrina vanden Heuvel's "George McGovern: American Patriot and Truth-Teller."

Gay Baiting Gore Vidal: Politics in 1960

Gore Vidal was not just a novelist and essayist; he also ran for Congress in 1960 in upstate New York. In a 1988 interview I asked him whether there was any gay-baiting in that campaign.

"Even then it was considered bad karma to fuck around with old Gore," he told me. "But just to be safe I had something on every politician and publisher in the district. There was one old newspaper publisher up in Columbia County, the most conservative of the five counties. He was making some giggly hints about me, and he was also having an affair with his son's wife. So after he took one particular swipe at me, I went on the radio in Hudson, the county seat, and I was asked, "Are you getting any ideas for any novels while you're doing this?"

"I said, 'Well, every now and then I do get an idea. I thought of a funny one the other day. A father and a son. The son marries this woman who's very good looking and the father has an affair with her."

"The whole county burst into laughter, and I never heard another word from the Chatham Bee, I think it was called. Do that sort of thing once or twice and you don't have to worry.'"

Vidal lost the election, but ran 20,000 votes ahead of JFK in the district, carrying every town, starting with Poughkeepsie.

Gore Vidal died July 31 in Los Angeles at age 86.

Adapted from I Told You So: Gore Vidal Talks Politics—Interviews with Jon Wiener

Bob Dylan’s 'Tempest': A Q&A with Greil Marcus

We’re back in the old, weird America on this one.

Greil Marcus has been writing about Bob Dylan for more than forty years, and all those pieces were collected and published in the book Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968-2010. (He’s written more than a dozen other books, including Lipstick Traces and the classic Mystery Train.) I spoke with him recently on KPFK-FM in Los Angeles about Bob Dylan’s new album Tempest—it’s Dylan’s thirty-fifth studio album, released fifty years after his debut album in 1962.

Jon Wiener: How does Dylan sound to you on Tempest?

Greil Marcus: He sounds like himself. He sounds sly, as he’s always sounded. He sounds as if there’s a twinkle in his eye; as if there’s a joke he’s letting you in on, maybe halfway, and you’ll have to find your way to the end of the joke yourself. That’s pretty much been his mode all along. And he sounds utterly eager to keep exploring the unanswered questions of the music that has captivated him for a long time. Mostly that has been the old, old American folk music that first transformed him when he left behind Robert Zimmerman and became Bob Dylan in Minneapolis in the late fifties and very early sixties.

You’ve written about the music of what you call “the old, weird America,” the murder ballads and songs about disasters and floods. We’re back in the old, weird America on this one.

There are four or five songs on this album that don’t do anything for me, that seem very repetitious, songs with a kind of overblown emphasis that don’t give back what they pretend to contain. But there are more songs: there’s “Long and Wasted Years,” and “Scarlet Town,” and a hilarious song called “Early Roman Kings,” and “Tin Angel,” “Tempest,” and “Roll On John.” Most of these go back to old mountain ballads like “Gypsy Daisy,” “Mattie Groves,” “Barbara Allen” and also “The Titanic”—which is not a mountain ballad but a folk song that spread all over the country in 1912, that was sung and recorded by countless people in the 1920s, and today too. He’s looked at these songs, and said “these songs are unfinished. They’re all vague. They are all full of clues. That means there’s room to retell these stories, to burrow underneath the surface story that we know, and say, ‘Why did this happen? Why do people still care about it?’ ”

“Long and Wasted Years” is a song about a long-dead marriage.

It’s the song that got me into this record. I just love it. I have to tell you I haven’t listened to the words at all. I have no idea what story is being told. I love the way he speechifies through the song. He sounds like Luke the Drifter, Hank Williams’s religious alter-ego. He sounds like Elmer Gantry. He is a preacher, a con man; he is lying through his teeth. And he believes every word he’s saying. For me this is just a declamatory voice, and it breaks the mold of this record.

“Scarlet Town” begins “In Scarlet Town, where I was born/There’s ivy leaf and silver thorn.”

“Scarlet Town” is the song on this album that’s most remarkable for me, and most shocking. The old ballad “Barbara Allen,” probably the most widely disseminated and loved folk ballad in the English language, begins, “In Scarlet Town.” But here he’s not singing “Barbara Allen.” He’s not talking about the heartbroken young man and the woman who spurns him and then turns her face to the wall and wills her own death in a double suicide. He’s talking about what it would be like to grow up in a town where that horror overshadows absolutely everything. It has an allure, maybe a kind of beckoning toward your own annihilation, or an allure of romance that, along with the ugliness and fear and terror, makes it a place that’s impossible ever to forget.

What do you think of the band on this album?

The band that Bob Dylan works with now is not a strong band. They’re not a challenging band, except for Charlie Sexton, the lead guitar player. There’s no one with an individual sensibility, with his own grasp of a song and where to take it, to challenge Dylan as a singer. The music for the most part is backup. It’s often a repetitive figure played over and over again, so that all your focus is on the singing, on the voice. But Bob Dylan has always sung best, he’s always been most alive, combative and finding surprises in a song, when a band is challenging him, when the musicians are going somewhere he couldn’t have anticipated. I don’t think that’s happening here.

But then we have…“Tempest”—a fourteen-minute chronicle of the 1912 sinking of the Titanic, a 6/8 waltz with forty-five verses.

Yes. It doesn’t get boring, and that’s because his engagement with the story he’s telling is so complete. It’s a song that’s kind of like the album as a whole: for the first three or four minutes you might think, “Well, okay, I’ll be back in a minute.” Then it becomes a lot harder, a lot more dangerous, a lot uglier, and you begin to feel a sense of horror and dread at what’s going on. Characters that he’s introduced before are being disposed of, are being wiped out of the song. It becomes like a battle, like a war, rather than a sentimental “oh, it was sad when the great ship went down.”

Many critics have pointed to the violence and high death toll on this album; some have thought this has some kind of contemporary political relevance.

There’s been a streak of vengeance and carnage in all of Dylan’s records, except for the Christmas record, since 2001, since Love and Theft. Particularly on Modern Times in 2006. Listen to “Ain’t Talkin’,” one of the great songs of his career.

“Scarlet Town” reminded me of “Ain’t Talkin’.”

They are very much akin. As the singer goes on the road in “Ain’t Talkin’ ” in pursuit of his enemies, he comes upon them sleeping and slaughters them where they lay. I wouldn’t speculate about where this comes from or what it’s about. It’s a theme that has been there a long time. I think Bob Dylan really does go by his own clock, his own calendar. He talks in Chronicles about what was so wonderful about the folk milieu in Greenwich Village: you could ignore all the noise of the contemporary world, all of its self-importance, and if somebody said to you, “What’s new? What’s happening?” You could say “President Garfield was shot!” That mythic calendar was more real to Bob Dylan than the everyday calendar that most people were living by. I think that has got to be true here too.

David Rakoff, 1964–2012: George W. Bush Made Me Want to Become an American

David Rakoff, who died August 9 at age 47, was funny and smart about many things, including politics in America. “George W. Bush made me want to become an American,” he said in our radio interview in November 2005.

When I asked him why, he explained, “He frankly scared the hell out of me. I’d lived in New York City for twenty-three years, and I always felt pretty safe, having just a green card. I am a native of Canada. But with Bush things seemed scary”—especially for residents who were not citizens.

So he decided to apply to become a citizen. How hard was it? “You can download the application. Even I know how to do that. If you’re industrious, you can finish it in a day or two. It took me longer because two things held me up.

“One of the questions was ‘Are you a male who lived in the US at any time between your eighteenth and twenty-sixth birthdays in any status except as a lawful non-immigrant?’ It took me four months to parse the grammar of that. Then I realized the answer is ‘no.’

“Then I got held up on the question of whether I would bear arms for the United States. I have a problem with bearing arms for anybody. Ultimately I checked ‘yes.’ There are some instances where it is not inconceivable. But they’re never going to call me. I’m 41, I have to take a thyroid pill every day.”

His book Don’t Get Too Comfortable had just been published, where he had written about becoming a citizen.

Then came the citizenship interview: “The asked me four questions—one was ‘Who takes over when the president dies?’ I got a little wise-ass-y and answered ‘Dick Cheney, God help us,’ and that got a little bit of a smile from her—we were in New York City.”

Finally there was the swearing in ceremony. “A few weeks later I had to schlep out to Hempstead, Long Island, to a huge auditorium where hundreds of people were sworn in. We said the Pledge of Allegiance, and we sang the national anthem. And I cried.”

Why? “It felt like a big intense thing, like a severing of where I had come from. It made me feel a little sad and a little ungrateful that I had chosen to do this. I felt a little lonely and a little cut off from my family.”

I said “You were surrounded by people who had come from all over the world, people who now were full of hope.” “Yes,” he replied, “and none of them were crying. They were fine. It was just the drama queen who was crying.”

Then came voting. I asked him, “How’s that going?” (This was 2005, Bush had been elected to a second term.) “Not so well!” he said. “Everyone I vote for never wins. Welcome to America.”

“But I enjoy voting,” he added. “I had been paying taxes and going on demos, but now I was really participating. I comfort myself with the notion that this too shall pass. It’s not always going to be like this.”

Medical Research Fraud: Professors Go Unpunished in Glaxo $3 Billion Guilty Plea Over Paxil

The head of the UCLA hospital, Dr. David Feinberg, and twenty-one other academics are going unpunished despite their role in perpetrating a healthcare fraud that has resulted in the largest fine ever paid by a pharmaceutical company in US history.

On July 3 GlaxoSmithKline pleaded guilty to criminal charges and agreed pay $3 billion in fines for promoting its bestselling antidepressants for unapproved uses. The heart of the case was an article in a medical journal purporting to document the safety and efficacy of Paxil in treating depression in children. The article listed more that twenty researchers as authors, including UCLA’s Feinberg, but the Department of Justice found that Glaxo had paid for the drafting of the fraudulent article to which the researchers had attached their names.

The study, which, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, had been criticized because it “dangerously misrepresented data” and had “hidden information indicating that the drug promoted suicidal behavior among teenagers,” was published in 2001 in The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The lead “author” was Martin B. Keller, at the time a professor of psychiatry at Brown University. He retired this month. The article had been exposed as fraudulent in a 2007 BBC documentary and in the 2008 book Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower, and a Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial, by Alison Bass. Glaxo’s guilty plea, according to the Chronicle, included an admission that “the article constituted scientific fraud.”

Paxil went on sale in the US in 1993 and, according to Bass, prescriptions for children “soared” after the study appeared, even though research showed Paxil was not more effective than a placebo. But in 2004, the Chronicle reports, British regulators warned against prescribing Paxil to children, after a study reported that children taking Paxil were nearly three times more likely to consider or attempt suicide. Then the US FDA issued a similar warning. Paxil sales totaled more than $11 billion between 1997 and 2005.

Brown University officials said they had no plans to take action against Keller. At UCLA, Dale Triber Tate, a spokesperson for the medical center and Dr. Feinberg, had no comment. The journal that published the fraudulent research has failed to retract it, and editor-in-chief Andres S. Martin, a professor of psychiatry at Yale, told the Chronicle he had no comment on the options the journal might take.

Feinberg and Keller were among twenty-two people listed as “authors” on the fraudulent article. Others included Karen D. Wagner, now professor and vice chair of psychiatry at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; Boris Birmaher and Neal D. Ryan, professors of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh; Graham J. Emslie, professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas; and Michael A. Strober, professor of psychiatry at UCLA.

Although Glaxo pled guilty and paid $3 billion in fines, none of the academics have been disciplined by their universities for their roles in perpetrating research fraud. Moreover, according to the Chronicle, several continue to receive federal grants from the National Institute of Health.

Remembering Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal. (AP Photo/file)

Victor Navasky tells one of the most revealing stories about Gore Vidal, who died July 31 in Los Angeles at age 86. In 1986, Gore wrote an essay for the magazine’s 120th anniversary issue. Shortly after it was published, Victor was invited to lunch by the publisher of Penthouse magazine, Bob Guccione, at his East Side townhouse, famous for its $200 million art collection. “We had barely consumed the amuse gueules when Bob asked me how much it cost to get Gore Vidal to write his essay,” Victor recalled. “When I told him we had paid each contributor to that issue $25 and Gore got the same $25 that everyone else got, he almost choked on his Chateau Margaux and told me he had offered Vidal $50,000 to write an article for Penthouse and Vidal declined.”

Gore, who had accepted Victor’s invitation to join the magazine in 1981 as a contributing editor, published forty-one articles in The Nation at those rates. Some of his most memorable quotes appeared in The Nation: “We are the United States of Amnesia,” he wrote in 2004. “We learn nothing because we remember nothing.” In that same essay he called the US a place where “the withered Bill of Rights, like a dead trumpet vine, clings to our pseudo-Roman columns.”

Gore was a great talker as well as a great writer, and I interviewed him many times—in front of live audiences, on the radio and for print—and in many places. The most memorable was at his legendary cliffside house in Ravello, on the Amalfi coast of Italy, where lots of people visited him. We arrived a few days after historian Eric Foner departed; he told me his daughter had played in Gore’s famous swimming pool with the children of Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. Gore sent my wife to sit by the pool with Howard Austen, his lifelong partner—she had a wonderful time with Howard—while Gore talked about his life and work in the deep shadows of his downstairs study.

In that interview, for the Radical History Review, Gore described his campaign to introduce the term “American empire” into the political discourse—and, later, the concept of “the national security state”—both of which were firmly rejected at the time by establishment thinkers. Indeed much of his writing for The Nation was devoted to elucidating those two ideas—and empire was also the theme with his six-volume series of historical novels “Narratives of Empire,” which included number-one bestsellers Burr (1973) and Lincoln (1984).

In that interview he also talked about his transformation from right to left, his path to The Nation. In the beginning he had opposed US entry into WWII. “My radicalization begins in 1948 with The City and the Pillar,” he said—one of the first American novels about a gay man—with the “rough” treatment it received in the New York Times. Next, he said, came the Hollywood blacklist—he was working in Hollywood, and although never a Party member, was “horrified” to see his friends banned from the industry. The third step came in 1968, when he published the wild sex farce Myra Breckinridge, debated Willliam F. Buckley Jr. on TV during the Democratic National Convention, and then helped found the anti-war New Party, and then the People’s Party, which he co-chaired with Benjamin Spock from ’68 to ’72. Then in 1980 Victor invited him to become a contributing editor, and he promptly accepted.

His first article in The Nation, in 1981, was “Some Jews & the Gays,” a caustic response to several anti-gay articles in Commentary, the conservative Jewish magazine edited by Norman Podhoretz. His first big cover story for The Nation, “Requiem for the American Empire,” was published in 1986 as Gorbachev was beginning to reform the Soviet system. Gore proposed that the US and the USSR—he called them “the white race”—should unite to fight off the economic threat from “one billion grimly efficient Asiatics.”

The Asiatics didn’t complain, but two months later, some Jews did, after Gore wrote that Norman Podhoretz’s “first loyalty would always be to Israel,” and that he and his wife Midge Decter therefore constituted “an Israeli Fifth Column Division" inside the United States.

Many of us took that as another satiric barb, but Podhoretz had his associate editor at Commentary write to thirty people on the Nation masthead who had Jewish-sounding names asking whether they had protested the magazine’s publication of “the most blatantly anti-Semitic outburst in an American periodical since the Second World War.” (Nobody on the masthead resigned.) Arthur Carter, the Wall Street figure who had recently become publisher of the magazine, told Victor that the head of the Anti-Defamation League had complained to him about Gore’s piece. Carter replied, “What do you think we are? It’s The Nation, not the Jewish Federation Newsletter.” Victor called that “passing the Gore test.”

Gore was glorious before live audiences. At the Los Angeles Times Book Festival at UCLA in 2007, Royce Hall was packed with two thousand of what can only be called “adoring fans.” Onstage, I asked him what he had said to Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins when they asked him to be the godfather of their son. His answer: “Always a godfather, never a god.” I concluded by noting that he had pretty much done it all—novels, essays, plays—and won every award; I asked, “What keeps you going? What gets you up in the morning?” He had a one word answer: “rage.”

In the late 1990s Gore named Christopher Hitchens as his official “successor, inheritor, dauphin or delfino.” But after 9/11, when Hitchens came out in support of the Iraq war and quit The Nation, Gore withdrew the nomination. Hitchens came back in 2010 with a Vanity Fair column titled “Vidal loco,” going after Gore for his endorsement of the “9/11 Truth” cause—which indeed dismayed many of us. (Gore held the milder version—that the Bush administration had advance warning, but let the attacks happen—rather than the view that the towers were blown up from the inside on Bush’s orders.)

One of Gore’s memorable quotes had special meaning for me--it came in his unexpected appearance in the 2006 documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon, based on a book I wrote about Nixon’s attempt to deport Lennon in 1972 because of his anti-war activism. “Lennon was a born enemy of those who govern the United States,” Gore said with a twinkle in his eye. “He was everything they hated.… he represented life, and is admirable; and Mr. Nixon and Mr. Bush represent death, and that is a bad thing.”

Gore Vidal wrote as a citizen of the republic and a critic of the empire. We won’t have another like him.

What Romney's Hiding in His Tax Returns: He's a Muslim Born in Kenya

The news has been full of speculation about why Mitt Romney won’t release his tax returns before 2010. People say maybe it’s because he paid zero taxes one year, or maybe he made a truly stupendous amount of money one year, or maybe they show he stayed at Bain Capital longer than he’s said.

I have a different theory: Romney won’t release his tax returns because they show he’s actually a Muslim born in Kenya.

Also, they show that his middle name isn't "Mitt," it's “Hussein”—he’s actually “Willard Hussein Romney.”

Another possibility: Romney’s tax returns show that he has apologized for America. A lot.

Or maybe they show that, after leaving Harvard, he worked as a community organizer in Chicago—which is sort of like being the mayor of a small town, expect that the mayor of a small town has actual responsibilities.

Or maybe they show that his book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness was ghostwritten by Bill Ayres—which means he’s been palling around with terrorists.

One final possibility: Romney’s unreleased tax returns show that his healthcare plan for Massachusetts was actually the model for “Obamacare.”

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