In a letter to a colleague, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. remarked that his dissents in cases that limited the reach of the First Amendment merely upheld “the right of a donkey to drool.” If Matt Lauer’s knees can tremble whenever Ann Coulter appears on “The Today Show,” then its producers have the right to ask Gore Vidal. While his influence on me is incalculable (and I still insist that his underappreciated historical novels, not his essays, represent his permanent achievement), he’s also espoused some crackpot views: endorsing the theory that Abraham Lincoln was bisexual, and now, that Hillary Rodham Clinton would have been a better president because she’s a woman.
A new interview with the Times Online, he gets off a few zingers at Obama (on healthcare: “He f***ed it up. I don’t know how because the country wanted it. We’ll never see it happen”), Edmund White (“a filthy, low writer…all he writes about is being a fag and how it’s the greatest thing on Earth”), and Katherine Hepburn’s expense (“She had Parkinson’s. She shook like a leper in the wind”). Wanton cruelty is okay on national TV as long as it’s embodied in right-wing demagogues. Why can’t left-wing ones get in on the fun?