one of America’s most respected writers and thinkers. He’s authored more than twenty novels and five plays. His recent national bestsellers are "Dreaming War" and "Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace." His latest book is called "Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia."
In advance of President Bush’s state of the union address later tonight, author Gore Vidal delivers his own traditional state of the union address. We hear Vidal speak about patriotism, the NSA domestic surveillance programs, corporate America, Presidential powers and more. [includes rush transcript]
In Washington, President Bush will deliver the State of the Union address tonight. In advance of tonight we’d like to bring you a different take on the annual presidential speech.
Since the early 1970s, author and playwright Gore Vidal has been delivering his own State of the Union address. The tradition began on the David Susskind Show. We’re going to continue that tradition by hearing from Gore Vidal today.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Here is Gore Vidal in an address he recorded for us on the State of the Union.
GORE VIDAL: Today, the 31st of January, in the hallowed year, election year, of '06, could be a memorable day if we all do our part, which is simply to concentrate, among other things, and do perhaps what a couple of groups have decided would be useful for the President, I guess his State of the Union. We might give him some idea of our state, which is one of great dissatisfaction with him and his regime. And there's talk of perhaps demonstrating in front of the Capitol or here or there around the country to show that the union is occupied by people who happen to be patriots. And patriots do not like this government.
This is an unpatriotic government. This is a government that deals openly in illegalities, whether it is attacking a country which has done us no harm, two countries — Iraq and Afghanistan — because we now believe, not in declaring war through Congress as the Constitution requires, but through the President. 'Well, I think there are some terrorists over there, and I think we got to bomb them, huh? We'll bomb them.’ Now, we’ve had idiots as presidents before. He’s not unique. But he’s certainly the most active idiot that we have ever had.
And now here we are planning new wars, ongoing wars in the Middle East. And so as he comes with his State of the Union, which he is going to justify eavesdropping without judicial warrants on anybody in the United States that he wants to listen in on. This is what we call dictatorship. Dictatorship. Dictatorship. And it is time that we objected. Don’t say wait 'til the next election and do it through that. We can't trust the elections, thanks to Diebold and S&S and all the electronic devices which are being flogged across the country to make sure that elections can be so rigged that the villains will stay in power.
I think demonstrations across the country could be very useful on this famous Tuesday. Just say no. We’ve had enough of you. Go home to Crawford. We’ll help you raise the money for a library, and you won’t even ever have to read a book. We’re not cruel. We just want to get rid of you and let you be an ex-president with his own library, which you can fill up with friends of yours who can neither read nor write, but they’ll be well served and well paid, we hope, by corporate America, which will love you forever.
So I think it is really up to us to give some resonance to the State of the Union, which will be largely babble. He’s not going really try to do anything about Social Security, we read in the papers. He has no major moves, other than going on and on about the legality of his illegal warrantless eavesdroppings and other breakings of the law.
I had a piece on the internet some of you may have seen a few days ago, and there’s a story about Tiberius, who’s one of my favorite Roman emperors. He’s had a very bad press, because the wrong people perhaps have written history. But when he became emperor, the Senate of Rome sent him congratulations with the comment, "Any law that you want us to pass, we shall do so automatically." And he sent a message back. He said, "This is outrageous! Suppose I go mad. Suppose I don’t know what I’m doing. Suppose I’m dead and somebody is pretending to be me. Never do that! Never accept something like preemptive war," which luckily the Senate did not propose preemptive wars against places they didn’t like. But Mr. Bush has done that.
So this is a sort of Tiberius time without, basically, a good emperor, and he was a good emperor in the sense that he sent back this legislation, which was to confirm anything he wanted to have done automatically. And they sent it back to him again. And then he said, "How eager you are to be slaves," and washed his hands of the Senate and went to live in Capri, a much wiser choice, just as we can send this kid back to Crawford, Texas, where he’ll be very, very happy cutting bushes of the leafy variety.
You know, it’s at a time when people say, 'Well, it makes no difference what we do, you know, if we march and we make speeches, and this and that.' It makes a lot of difference if millions of Americans just say, "We are fed up! We don’t like you. We don’t like what you’re doing to the country and what you have done to the country. We don’t like to live in a lawless land, where the rule of law has just been bypassed and hacks are appointed to the federal bench, who will carry on and carry on and carry on all of the illegalities which are so desperately needed by our military-industrial corporate masters."
I think a day dedicated to that and to just showing up here and there around the country will be a good thing to do. And so, let the powers that be know that back of them, there’s something called "We the people of the United States," and all sovereignty rests in us, not in the board rooms of the Republicans.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Author Gore Vidal delivering his traditional State of the Union address in advance of President Bush’s State of the Union later tonight.