Questioner: Was there more civility among politicians in the early years of the Republic?
Gore Vidal: Well that’s not what they’re there for. Civility among politicians is oxymoronic – they’re supposed to be awful. And that’s part of the fun of it; if they’re going to talk about real issues and they care about real issues, then they get to really hate each other and they talk rather savagely.
In past generations, they could actually talk. As opposed to politicians today, they could actually speak without reading – hesitantly – a speech somebody else had written for them.
As I once said of General Eisenhower: he always read his speeches with a sense of real discovery. He was terribly interested in some of things he was reading. There was a great moment during the campaign of ’52, when he said, ‘And, if elected President, I will go to… Korea!’ And he went. Nobody’d told him. And he had to go.
From the question and answer section of Gore Vidal’s “State of the United States” speech, given in November 1994.
More from Vidal…