Robert Ganshorn

Why Is It Important Who is President?

Filed By Robert Ganshorn | August 16, 2008 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Gore Vidal, President of the United States, William F. Buckley

This question keeps being asked. For those of us with memories, we have more reasons each passing year to care. I have had heroes my entire life, but nothing can color my life more than the incredible year 1968. YIKES!

What could we possibly learn from forty years ago? That is all old stuff- not important today, right?

How about the first time one man in live television calls another man a "crypto Nazi" and the best response is to call the better debater a "Queer" (also a first time event). This was live television and the excitement of what could happen ruled.

Video and much more after the jump...

Here is video of the exchange (Part 1, with Part 2 following):

iPhone users: Click to watch

iPhone users: Click to watch

Now why would William F. Buckley, the son of an oil baron, who married the daughter of an industrialist, was a Harvard grad and "Skull and Bones" man who had worked for a year for the CIA, have said such things? Oh, he was also a defender of McCarthyism, and considered the white race culturally superior though he did change his mind about (the last) finally. At the instruction of his own hate-filled father he had desecrated an Episcopal Church while in college due to anti-Semitism, was a rabid anti-communist "fag hater" who supported invading Cuba after the Bay of Pigs and the use of nuclear weapons in Vietnam in the name of deterrence.

Gore Vidal is descended from a political family that has been active in politics on our continent since the 1690's. By the time of this program series, he had authored "The City and the Pillar" which was the first American novel to feature homosexuality. He had also already written "Myra Breckenridge" the first novel to feature a transsexual who was a lesbian.

Gore Vidal was and is, most importantly, an absolute foe of American Imperialism. Although his family was long in America and his grandfather had been a United States senator, he worked as a writer to support himself since he had inherited no fortune. And he was successful at it- wildly successful with works including novels, stage plays and screen works.

The situation that caused the exchange above was extreme (as it is hard to imagine a police riot occurring outside of a political convention today), but the live television scenes directly before this exchange showed Chicago police officers using extreme force against unarmed protesters. That Buckley and Vidal disagreed with one another is not surprising, but they actively hated one another. Buckley told lies, half truths and resorted to sexual slurs instead of logical argument because he was defenseless in answering in any other way.

They soon discovered that it was necessary to put these two in separate rooms! Now, you would think that once the election season was over it would be enough, but it was not. Esquire Magazine made the error of inviting both men to explain what was going on in their minds on the fateful night of the "crypto-Nazi Queer" heard round the world.

Buckley wrote in an August 1969 edition of Esquire Magazine an article entitled "On Experiencing Gore Vidal." I would love to provide you a link to it, but after Gore Vidal's response a month later Buckley sued and won a retraction, not even allowing his own article or references to Gore Vidal's response to be reprinted in a 2003 "great writing" edition of Esquire in book form.

So the complete 2003 issue of "Esquire's Big Book of Great Writing" was completely suppressed, recalled, and censored, with book being burned much like a Nazi would.

However, we do have access to Gore Vidal's repudiation of Buckley's article: "A Distasteful Encounter with William F. Buckley" for the September edition of Esquire. What the forces of haters would love to suppress you may now read.

Gore Vidal will always be the first American author to deal with both homosexuality and transsexuality and believes that even heterosexuality is OK.

It is important who the next president of the United States is. If the choices are not apparent already- just from our own interest in freedom, right of self expression, peace, war or starvation- the great issues of the world cry out.

It is damn important who is next President of the United States.

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William D. Lindsey William D. Lindsey | August 16, 2008 11:04 AM

Robert, thank you so much for posting those clips.

That broadcast has long been burned into my psyche. As a teen just leaving home for college, aware at some levels that I was gay, but with no role models or language to cope with that awareness, I remember the shattering, shaming impact of Buckley's words to Vidal when I first heard them.

Ever since, I have not been able to hear Buckley's voice on videoclips without a shudder.

How gay people are represented and treated in the media has a great deal to do with how young gay psyches are shaped, for weal or woe. You're absolutely right: it matters tremendously who is president, since our leadership sets the tone for media representation of all minority groups.

I agree, Bil. It is important to see these clips, especially for someone like me, who had never seen them before.

Great post, Robert!

Want another reason for a President Obama?

Can you say three Supreme Court justices?

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 17, 2008 4:32 PM

If electing justices who'll give into to our demands is a reason to vote for one party or another then obviously it’s the Democrats who come up short.

Most of the US Supremes were nominated by Republican Presidents. They helped remove sodomy laws from the books, relieving us of the enormous historic burden on which discrimination and homophobia rest. They didn't do it because they're LGBT friendly but because they felt the pressure of years of militant and often massive demonstrations, legal challenges and media attention. (The US Supremes cited changes in European law to support their decision. They didn’t want the US to be seen as a bigoted backwater, and the same reasoning informed their decision on school desegregation in the 1950’s.)

The GLBT movements also generated the intense pressures that forced the Republican majorities among the Massachusetts and California Supremes to vote for same sex marriage rights. (In fact, reading the opinions attached to these decisions can give the distinct impression that these sober Republican jurists were gleefully administering a sharp kick in the balls to the rightwing christists who dominate their party. They appear to be enjoying themselves.)

The decisions of the courts are political. End of story. It’s not who appoints or nominates them but who builds the biggest and most powerful mass movement. They’ve always bent to pressure and made up new law as they go along, irrespective of party. Sometimes that’s good but usually they vote in favor of the rich and the status quo.

Vote against the parties of the rich. We need judges appointed by and answerable to unions and mass movements, not the parties of the rich.

Yes, Monica! You have nailed the answer to this question right on the head!

Unfortunately, the next president, even Obama, is not likely to solve the energy problem, or global warming, or the trade deficit, or the ineffable disease that plagues our banking amd finanacial systems ... but at least President Obama will (we pray!) keep the US Supreme Court from rendering the Bill of Rights meaningless.

His reign is over. Long live Vidal.

Wow.... I've never really thought about that time, it was for me as the nation a turbulent time. I was 13 going on 14 and ambivalent about much that was going on in society. Chicago, scared the hell out of me. Seeing Buckley go mad on TV was just scary for a young teen, especially one who was just starting to understand himself. And it was in that fall that I first made that probing hope for acceptance by telling a good friend I was a homosexual (gay by any other word, we hadn't heard the word gay in small-town Indiana back then). But my friend might as well had been Wm F. Buckley Jr. for the hate-filled speech I received back from him.

Then there was that time in the high school locker room that I glance too long at an object of my lust that my 'friend' told me to "resist it, Lynn, resist it, be strong!" That I remember just looking away (back in the direction of my lust) and smiling. I should have realized that his exhortations were of no more use than that which ex-gay groups should use.

Ah memories... dang right it's important who wins, for the next 14 year old high school freshman this fall.

Nitpick 1: Buckley was a Yale man. Not Harvard. It isn't fundamentally important, just an historical fact.

Nitpick 2: Vidal is a damned irascible person, and will argue with anyone over anything just for the sport of it. That doesn't excuse Buckley's behavior, but it's *really* easy to get pissed off at Vidal. BTW, he isn't a fan of the gay community and doesn't feel any particular allegiance to it.

There are some great old classic feuds from the Dick Cavett show, BTW, with clips available that are amazing. Highly recommended.

Robert, it's good to see a posting from someone who recognizes the importance of history in modern political analysis. These videos should serve to remind us all that, while the messages of liberals and conservatives may change, the differences between them remain as wide as Texas - and our choice remains as clear as ever, too.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 17, 2008 4:48 AM

Does it really matter who wins if McCain and Obama both pander to anti-GLBT bigots? Especially since the polls show that Obama and the Democrats won the ‘Most Successful Panderers’ title back from the Republicans who held it in 2000 and 2004. Both parties supported bipartisan efforts of enact bigoted laws like DADT and DOMA and both refused to repeal them. However the effort to gut ENDA and to toss it and the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill into the garbage were purely Democratic (sic). The Republicans were just along for the ride while we got tossed under the bus. Both candidates are pigheaded opponents of same sex marriage, and one in particular, Obama, won’t shut up about it.

It’s not particularly important which one wins because the GLBT communities will have to battle against both parties and both candidates to achieve our agenda against Republicans who openly revile us and Democrats who are too chickenshit to mention our names. What is vital is that we build the movements to do that instead of wasting our efforts and money on Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

Both Obama and McCain are going to recapitulate Nixon’s role in ’68. The invasion and attempted occupation of Iraq were the work of an awesomely inept Republican administration the invasion and attempted occupation of Vietnam was the work of an arrogant and equally inept Democratic (sic) administration.

The two candidates in ’68, Tricky Dick Nixon and Humbert Hubfrey both supported continuing the war by calling for ‘phased withdrawal’, just as Obama and McCain do now. ‘Phased withdrawal’ is like quicksand; it can, and will, submerge the best of intentions.

During the Vietnam War enough people were fooled by Nixon’s phased withdrawal BS to get him elected. Nixon went on to spread the war to Laos and Cambodia and ordered terror bombing attacks and the widespread use of chemical warfare. They learned the hard way that Democrats and Republicans both aimed at winning the war. As it ground on the antiwar movement grew exponentially and in Nam the Army’s ‘fighting spirit’ was extinguished by massive, sullen anger and antiwar sentiment. That development retarded and eventually ended US plans to go on the offensive in its tracks. Large scale fraggings were a clear signal that mass insubordination was on the agenda. The fact that GIs were uninterested in fighting and threat of larger mutinies forced the withdrawal of US forces and led to Vietnamese independence and reunification.

Both LBJ and Nixon were eventually driven from office in disgrace because of the militancy of the massive antiwar movement which also engendered a youth radicalization, a powerful GI antiwar movement, and the formation of feminist groups and the growth of GLBT movements. At the same time African American and Latino nationalists and leftists began to contest for the leadership in their communities but in many cases their efforts were stopped by police and FBI murder squads.

The solution in Iraq is not “phased withdrawal’ but the total, immediate and permanent withdrawal of all US military, mercenary and ‘security’ forces from the Middle East to US home bases. Voting for Obama or McCain means a longer war and a wider war.

Join the antiwar demonstrations at the conventions of the two war parties in Denver and St. Paul and then join us in planning the antiwar movement’s next campaign to stop the genocide and save our soldiers. There’s time for congress to defund the genocide, pass an inclusive ENDA, repeal DADT and DOMA and pass the very badly need hate crimes bill and put unstoppable pressure on the White House to sign them into law. Or impeach Bush and Cheney and let Pelosi sign them into law.

Think that’ll happen. Think again.

Obama has made it clear on a number of occasions that he supports GLBT rights - he has actually said this to T people, in fact. McCain's voting record speaks for itself - he's no friend of GLBT.

The antiwar part, I buy. Obama will be taking an "Iraquization" approach, as Nixon did with Vietnam (ah, there's pesky history again). McCain is on record as stating that we will be there 99 years from now. Which one is better? I'll take Obama's approach. I'd prefer Kucinich's approach, but Obama gets my vote for being far better on most issues than McCain's record indicates he will be.

Where you lose me is with this:
[impeach Bush and Cheney and let Pelosi sign them into law.]
Impeaching Bush and Cheney was an option a year ago, but there's no time for that now. It would tie up Congressmen at a time when many of the Class of 2006 need all the help they can get to get reelected. And what makes you think Pelosi would sign a withdrawal? If Pelosi'd wanted to defund the war, there are bills filed now to do that, and she would have fastracked them as House Speaker. Frankly, given her performance as House Speaker, she gets a D- from me, as does Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader - didn't stand up to fight the FISA bill, didn't fight for hate crimes, didn't fight to keep T in ENDA, didn't cut the funds for infinitum. If I lived in Pelosi's district, i'd be voting for Cindy Sheehan, if she ends up on the ballot. Pelosi has the backbone of an amoeba.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 17, 2008 5:32 PM

“Obama has made it clear on a number of occasions that he supports GLBT rights”. What, except faith, leads you to believe that Obama’s not a Clinton clone, keeping in mind that both are politicians, liars, hustlers, and bought and sold members of the world’s second oldest profession.

“McCain's voting record speaks for itself - he's no friend of GLBT.” Totally correct. McCain is the enemy. But ask yourself, what does the passage of DOMA and DADT and the refusal to repeal them, plus the gutting of ENDA and the ditching of a very badly needed hate crimes bill and pigheaded opposition to same sex marriage say about the Democrats. It says, irrefutably, that irrespective of who runs Congress, both parties pander to bigots and both parties will act against us if it’s expedient.

With Democrats like that who needs Republicans?

“The antiwar part, I buy.” Then join the antiwar movement if you attend one of the conventions and keep in touch with the National Assembly to end the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations. There are local units all over the country. If you’re a vet you can also keep in touch with Iraqi Vets against the War who are organizing ‘active duty military personnel, Iraq War veterans, Afghanistan War veterans, and other veterans who have served since 9/11 who are opposed to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.”

“Where you lose me is with this: ‘impeach Bush and Cheney and let Pelosi sign them into law.’”

I asked the question rhetorically knowing that nothing good will come from the Democratic Party. Democratic (sic) supporters often project their views and hopes on candidates who don’t care about us at all. They’ll continue to ignore and justify the Democrats backstabbing until they see a political alternative to the twin parties.

We don’t have that alternative yet. Nader and/or the Greens are not, at least in the US, a sufficiently worker oriented radical alternative to the twin parties. They’re liberals. The birthing process of the US Labor Party seems interminable but nearly complete and the growth of a left wing in the unions will give it some real resources.

In any case, the time when the two parties could make promises and then casually betray their constituents is coming to an end. The economic situation will see to that.

“Pelosi has the backbone of an amoeba.” Granted, but that’s because she’s a Democrat. What did you expect, principles? The Democrats are like the Republicans. They have no principles, only the all-consuming imperative to get elected and divvy up the money and power.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 18, 2008 7:46 AM

Thank you all, I hope we learn that the more things change the more they stay the same. We have made incredible progress as a movement against the forces of fear and stupidity.

Rory, sorry about Harvard you are absolutely right, and yes Vidal is a lightning rod, but on this issue I agree with him and I am sure you do as well. He is not a friend of the Gay community because he is an affirmed bisexual who maintains that is the natural state and there are only homosexual and heterosexual behaviors. If you have not done so I hope you read the "Esquire" article. He explains his point of view and has not strayed from it for forty years.

Mr. Perdue's attitudes justifiably come from the many decades of Democratic dominance of congress that is a faded memory now. The democratic party of that time had it's many interest groups at the time. It took the republicans to perfect "k" street shenanigans. They simply did the money dance so much better.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 18, 2008 10:50 AM

Things change, Ganshorn. You have to keep up with the times.

Vidal did, and after years wasted in the quagmire of the Democratic (sic) Party he concluded that "there is only one party in the United States, the Property Party...and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt—until recently... and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties."

Even the Democrats are changing. They’ve won back the title of "Best Panderer of the 2008 Election Season’ from the Republicans who've held it since Clinton (DOMA, DADT) left office. They've managed a historic turnaround and now Obama has a 43% to 34% among christist cultists.

A quick glance at yesterdays LA Times shows how it's done. The Times reports that both candidates were at a forum at the Lake Forest CA. Saddleback christist cult center in the heartland of Orange County's ultraholy christerland. Obama and McCain debated same sex marriage, except as it turns out it wasn't much of a debate because both of them are still pigheadedly opposed to our agenda.,0,3145888.story

As the event wore on both candidates, surrounded by way too many jumpers, contracted feverish cases of the ‘holier than thou’s’. But it was when Obama said he was “walking humbly with our God…I know that I don't walk alone, and I know that if I can get myself out of the way that I can maybe carry out in some small way what he intends" that people actually began looking around for a burning bush. That's why Obama leads McCain among christist voters 43% to 34%, according to the Barma Poll, a christist polling group.

Praise the Lord! Hallelujah, etc.!

According to the Times, "Though the candidates came down on opposite sides of the California initiative that would ban gay marriage, both stressed that they opposed same-sex marriage. Obama called marriage "a sacred union," drawing applause when he added, "God is in the mix."

More Hallelujahs! and jumping up and down and speaking in toun… You get the picture.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 19, 2008 9:34 AM

I am very happy you have been having fun with your mouse Bill. Is his name Karl?

In that the founding of the republic was by and for landed white men and now the landless, women and minorities have the franchise I hope that they exercise their votes to good effect. You expect the powerless to mobilize in some mass revolution and we can't get most Americans to the polls to vote in their best interest because they prefer to watch television.

That the wealthy, bright and connected watch less TV and spend more time working in their interest does not make them evil. It just makes them organized and the rest of us should emulate their best and disdain their worst tendencies. That would be keeping up with the times.

Or as Mrs. Karl Marx said of her husband: "I wish my husband had spent less time talking about capitol and more time acquiring some."

Socialism is a march to the lowest common denominator of failure. It is the greatest surrender of individual liberty and excellence on the altar of collective mediocrity. But I should not have to tell you this, how many dozen folks came to your last over spiced Mexican fiesta?