October 31, 2004


'The liberal elite hasn't got a clue': As a member of the Manhattan intelligentsia, novelist Tom Wolfe seems a lonely defender of George Bush's conservative values. But, he tells Ed Vulliamy, he's bewildered by a sex-mad society and tired of being lectured to at dinner parties. So is he voting for Dubya tomorrow? He's not quite telling (Ed Vulliamy, November 1, 2004, The Guardian)

Wolfe's lambent success in documenting ambition, drunkenness, sloth and meanness in his own country has taken him from his native Virginia to New York which he wrote about in Bonfire of the Vanities, pitching the super-rich "Masters of the Universe" in high finance against the real world of the Bronx. But even as the author of the quintessential New York novel, Wolfe feels estranged in the city, as he surveys America during the final days of the election campaign. Estranged not from the subjects of his scrutiny, the "Masters of the Universe", but rather from the liberal elite.

"Here is an example of the situation in America," he says: "Tina Brown wrote in her column that she was at a dinner where a group of media heavyweights were discussing, during dessert, what they could do to stop Bush. Then a waiter announces that he is from the suburbs, and will vote for Bush. And ... Tina's reaction is: 'How can we persuade these people not to vote for Bush?' I draw the opposite lesson: that Tina and her circle in the media do not have a clue about the rest of the United States. You are considered twisted and retarded if you support Bush in this election. I have never come across a candidate who is so reviled. Reagan was sniggered it, but this is personal, real hatred.

"Indeed, I was at a similar dinner, listening to the same conversation, and said: 'If all else fails, you can vote for Bush.' People looked at me as if I had just said: 'Oh, I forgot to tell you, I am a child molester.' I would vote for Bush if for no other reason than to be at the airport waving off all the people who say they are going to London if he wins again. Someone has got to stay behind."

Where does it come from, this endorsement of the most conservative administration within living memory? Of this president who champions the right and the rich, who has taken America into the mire of war, and seeks re-election tomorrow? Wolfe's eyes resume the expression of detached Southern elegance.

"I think support for Bush is about not wanting to be led by East-coast pretensions. It is about not wanting to be led by people who are forever trying to force their twisted sense of morality onto us, which is a non-morality. That is constantly done, and there is real resentment. Support for Bush is about resentment in the so-called 'red states' - a confusing term to Guardian readers, I agree - which here means, literally, middle America. I come from one of those states myself, Virginia. It's the same resentment, indeed, as that against your own newspaper when it sent emails targeting individuals in an American county." Wolfe laughs as he chastises. "No one cares to have outsiders or foreigners butting into their affairs. I'm sure that even many of those Iraqis who were cheering the fall of Saddam now object to our being there. As I said, I do not think the excursion is going well."

And John Kerry? "He is a man no one should worry about, because he has no beliefs at all. He is not going to introduce some manic radical plan, because he is poll-driven, and it is therefore impossible to know where or for what he stands."

Cheney: Kerry Took Poll on Bin Laden Tape (PETE YOST, 10/31/04, Associated Press)
Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday that Sen. John Kerry's first response to Osama bin Laden's new videotape was to take a poll to find out what he should say about it.

A spokesman for Kerry's campaign did not deny polling on the bin Laden videotape...

Too funny.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 31, 2004 10:43 PM

They didn't deny it because they were waiting for the results of the poll about how he should react to the fact that he took a poll to gauge how he should react.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at October 31, 2004 11:02 PM

Wolfe was a conservative 40 years ago when my father worked with him at the Trib, which was both a much more isolated but less dicey position to be in circa 1964. And of course, he put Leonard Berstein's party for the Black Panthers in 1970 through a typewritten Cuisinart that the fashionably-left in New York City have never really recovered from nationally.

They're still there, and they're the types Wolfe is talking about when he mentions the dinner party talk about Bush, but anyone paying attention knows about their cluelessness now. It's hard to see him going into the booth on Tuesday and pulling the lever for the same person as they do, though living in New York, I suppose he could do it just for future story fodder and not have to worry about his vote affecting the electoral college.

Posted by: John at October 31, 2004 11:44 PM

The New York Daily News has endorsed Bush. I wonder if it will have any impact.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 1, 2004 12:40 AM

The News' publisher, Mort Zuckerman, "got" both Sept. 11 and Bush's changed policy towards the Israelis and Palestinians from the outset, so it's really not that much of a surprise that he would endorse GWB for re-election. Unfortunately, too many on the News' reporting side are New York Times-wannabes and craft their political ideology accordingly. The cleavage isn't as bad at that between the editorial and news departments at the Wall Street Journal, but the ideological split is there.

Mort's editorial no doubt went over like a lead balloon within the newsroom. Whether it fares better with the paper's readers, especially those in northern New Jeresey, we'll find out about 48 hours from now.

Posted by: John at November 1, 2004 1:43 AM

The question is, rather simply, Are there more waiters than there are Tina Browns?

Thankfully, I believe the answer is, yes.

And Wolfe explains precisely why Bush will win this election in a runaway.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at November 1, 2004 2:10 AM

Tina Brown is going to have a Pauline Kael moment on Wednesday.

Posted by: Joe at November 1, 2004 5:23 AM

Tina Brown and her ijjit husband should be sent back to Britain in a packing crate at the earliest possible opportunity. We have enough elitist, leftist, Fabian nitwits in America, we do not have to import them especially from perfidious Albion.

Posted by: Bart at November 1, 2004 6:28 AM

Wolfe's take on the demonization is interesting. The other day I was in my local bookstore, where I am well-known. The elderly manager was going on about the evils of you-know-who. I put on my warmest, most jocular smile and said "Careful, now, there are the twenty per cent of us who think he's just great." It is hard to describe the reaction, but I can only assume I grew horns and a tail before her very eyes.

I remember angering people by defending Reagan in the eighties, but I don't remember anything like this.

Posted by: Peter B at November 1, 2004 7:09 AM

David Warren has referred to the phenomenon as akin to being "possessed."

Though I am increasingly finding that assessment to be a bit euphemistic...

Posted by: Barry Meislin at November 1, 2004 7:19 AM
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