By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Well, I think that all reality is questionable, as you know. Frankly, I’m not an expert on that at all. And I haven’t pursued it, because I think the consequences of where we are now are far worse. But even if there was a conspiracy, it wouldn’t change where we are now. We’re into another place, where there’s more war, more terror, more bankruptcy, more debt, above all more constitutional breakdown and more fear than ever before. That’s very serious. And we’re on the edge of possibly something bigger and very dangerous. Richard Clarke’s book [Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror], at least, is about a true conspiracy that we know existed, of a small group who took over the government and did it their way — manipulated, created the war. It’s 30 or 40 people, right?
Sy Hersh says it’s 11 guys.
It was a conspiracy, and it was basically at the top. It’s Cheney and Rumsfeld influencing Bush. Cheney and Rumsfeld go back to the Ford administration, and when they got their way, they kicked butt. That’s a great story. But that’s not even all of it. When you’ve got a guy like Representative Pete Hoekstra from Michigan, who was a friend of the Bush administration — who had approved of the Patriot Act, the eavesdropping, the taxes, the bank records, all of it — saying in the press that there’s something worse that he’s pissed off about, because they hadn’t consulted him. Something worse? I mean, all the cards are not on the table, right? This is a big story. And we’re living it. How can you write about it? We’re fucking rocking in the boat. It’s like trying to write a great war novel when you might be going into World War II.
Were you at Yale the same time Bush was?
I was in the same class, yeah. I don’t remember him. I was never in a fraternity. I went twice — I dropped out one year and then went back for half of a second year and dropped out.
But at one point Bush requested to meet you, didn’t he?
Yeah, I met him. It was a political breakfast speech here in California at a club, the Republican right wing. They invited me — they’ve always had fun with me, I don’t know why — and it was a big hotel room and a speech about tough love and justice in Texas. He was governor then, around ’98 or so. I swear, I knew in that room on that day that he was going to be president. There was just no question. He had that confidence, and they adored him. There was an organized love for him. He asked for me to come up to the podium and we had a one-on-one. I was in the Bush spotlight — that thing where he stares at you and he gets to know you a little bit.
Assigns you a nickname.
There was one funny line. He knew I’d been in Vietnam. Actually, I didn’t know he’d been at Yale. He told me he’d been in my class; it was a surprise to me. But then he said he’d had a buddy who had been to Vietnam who’d been killed. “Buddy,” he said. It was funny — it was on his mind, he raised it. And it was the way he looked at me: I just felt like, boy, I bet you he’d rather his buddy had come home than me. But he was very friendly, very charming — a very sociable man.
Have you ever thought about going into politics — running for office? Would you consider doing that in a later part of ?your life?
Not seriously, no.
Orson Welles wrote a weekly political newspaper column during WWII — he was friends with FDR through Sumner Welles, a distant relative of his and a presidential adviser, and at one point he considered running for the Senate from California or his native Wisconsin.
Politics is about raising money and being popular and shaking a lot of hands and spending a lot of time with people. Those are not my strengths. It would be exhausting and would completely destroy my ability to do what I do.
You were pro-Vietnam before you enlisted in the infantry, right? You were fairly conservative?
So we could say that you spent the entire 1960s across the political divide from most of what you’ve now come to stand for?
My story is complicated. I did write a novel about being 19 called A Child’s Night Dream. My parents divorced when I was 14, and being the only child, there was no family to go back to. Basically, going to Vietnam was really throwing myself to the wolves. It was a form of rebellion and suicide.
I’ve read a quote to the effect of “I felt like I had to atone for the act of imagination.” Was it actually the failure of the novel that sent you over the edge?