Tag Archives: Gore Vidal

The Four Most Beautiful Words in the English Language: I Told You So

14 Dec

It was hard not to think of Gore Vidal’s aperçu when I read this piece on Cory Booker in the New York Times this morning.

When snow blanketed this city two Christmases ago, Mayor Cory A. Booker was celebrated around the nation for personally shoveling out residents who had appealed for help on Twitter. But here, his administration was scorned as streets remained impassable for days because the city had no contract for snow removal.

Last spring, Ellen DeGeneres presented Mr. Booker with a superhero costume after he rushed into a burning building to save a neighbor. But Newark had eliminated three fire companies after the mayor’s plan to plug a budget hole failed.

In recent days, Mr. Booker has made the rounds of the national media with his pledge to live on food stamps for a week. But his constituents do not need to be reminded that six years after the mayor came into office vowing to make Newark a “model of urban transformation,” their city remains an emblem of poverty.

Cory Booker’s promise — captured in two books, two documentaries and frequent television appearances — was to save a city that had been hemorrhaging residents, industry and hope since the riots that ripped it apart 45 years ago. But a growing number of Newarkers complain that he has proved to be a better marketer than mayor, who shines in the spotlight but shows little interest in the less-glamorous work of what it takes to run a city.

…Mr. Booker is better suited to speechmaking in Washington than to governing a state.

They say Mr. Booker’s frequent Twitter posts to his 1.3 million followers, his appearances on television and at gatherings of moguls and celebrities — he was out of town nearly a quarter of the time between January 2011 and June 2012, according to The Star-Ledger — have distracted him from the local trench work needed to push his agenda. Business leaders say he dazzles at news conferences, but flags on the follow-through. Residents have wearied of the outside fascination for the mayor whom Oprah Winfrey called “a rock star” and Jon Stewart on Wednesday referred to as “the superhero mayor of Newark.”

Taxes have risen more than 20 percent over the past three years, even after the city laid off about 1,100 workers, including more than 160 police officers. Crime has risen, and unemployment is up. Schools remain under state control, and the city’s finances remain so troubled that it cannot borrow to fix its antiquated water system. While new restaurants have risen near the Prudential Center downtown, those in the outer wards were placed under a curfew this year because of shootings and drug dealing.

“There’s a lot of frustration and disappointment,” said Assemblyman Albert Coutinho, a Democrat representing Newark. “People feel that the mayor basically is out of the city too much and doesn’t focus much on the day-to-day.

Asked about complaints from residents and business owners that garbage is not picked up, abandoned buildings are not boarded up and public spaces are in disrepair, the mayor talked about a new system that allows him to track which streets need snowplows and which departments are paying for too much overtime — even when he is out of town.

He invited a reporter to see the system in action. He then called to apologize that he could not be there: “I’m in and out of New York all day.”

Instead, his staff demonstrated the system. Mr. Booker was on his way to host a reading at a bookstore on the Upper West Side, filmed by CNN. He then spoke at a benefit at Cipriani and attended a movie premiere at Google’s New York headquarters. Afterward, he announced on Twitter, “I sat on a panel with Richard Branson.”

Yes, I told you so.

I Respect Michele Bachmann

3 Aug

Michele Bachmann claims that Gore Vidal’s novel Burr made her into a Republican.

“It’s very interesting because I had been a Democrats — and I’d actually worked on Jimmy Carter’s campaign. And I was reading a novel by Gore Vidal, and when I was reading it he was mocking the Founding Fathers. And all of a sudden it just occurred to me: I set the book down on my lap, I looked out the window of a train I was riding in, and I thought to myself, ‘I don’t think I’m a Democrat. I think I really am a Republican.’ Because the Founding Fathers were not the characters that I saw Gore Vidal portraying in his novel.

“And that snotty, mocking attitude, to me didn’t reflect in any way who we are as a nation. And I just thought that’s a completely different philosophical view of the United States. And I know that Gore Vidal has passed away today, I understood he was 86 years old. And it’s interesting how his work — while he intended I think one particular way — it was used actually to help me see a completely different way, which is the conservative way. And I started then examining the conservative position, and realized at heart I really am a conservative. And that’s far more reflective of American values, than the values that Gore Vidal was espousing.”

I have a newfound—and sincere—respect for Bachmann. Seriously: how many of us can say a book changed our lives?

Her comment reminds me of what George Steiner used to say about the KGB: they were the only ones who took literature seriously.

The Politics of Fear is Dead. The Politics of Fear is alive and well.

4 Sep

Some bits and bobs for the holiday weekend…

1. Against my better inclinations, I’ve written a short piece on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It’s in the journal Democracy, along with reflections from Orlando Patterson, Michael Kazin, Avishai Margalit, and other smart people. My conclusion? The politics of fear is dead; the politics of fear is alive and well.  Or, as Ed Tufte, a professor of mine at Yale, used to say: Some do, some don’t.

2. On this Labor Day weekend, it’s useful to remember that virtually nothing about the economy that we’re talking about these days is new.  Thanks to Roseanne for the reminder!

 


3. Speaking of comedy from days gone by, Dennis Perrin, a FB friend and comedian (and formidable blogger), posted this link to a SCTV sketch, in which Eugene Levy plays Norman Mailer, Martin Short plays Gore Vidal, and hilarity ensues.

 


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