She’s been gone from Salon for several years now, but they contacted Camille Paglia for her comments on current events. Here she goes:
- On the Democrats:
“The emptiness at the heart of the Democratic Party is absolutely clear in the current campaign for the 2004 presidential nomination. The Democratic senators never take a stand without consulting a pollster. They’re all trimmers — they put their finger in the wind and frantically trim their sails. They were so twisted up about political fallout before last fall’s election that they gave Bush a rubber stamp for war. Sen. Robert Byrd was the only strong, eloquent voice denouncing this dangerous expansion of presidential power and misuse of our military.”
- On Bush:
“I don’t personally hate Bush. I think he’s sincere and well-meaning. But I feel very sorry for him. Every time I watch him, I feel his suffering, and I suffer with him. But he’s out of his depth in this job. His view of the world is painfully simplistic — like a Wild West video game where the good guys wear white hats and always win. But he’s surrounded by manipulators — like Vice President Dick Cheney, the invisible man, the shadowy puppeteer.”
- On Rumsfeld:
“The person I do hate is Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who is out of control and who has trashed what should be the professional cooperation between the State Department and the Pentagon. Rumsfeld is lost in some delusional state. He’s like Newt Gingrich in the grandstanding narcissism department. Both Rumsfeld and Gingrich show how narrow-bore thinking can turn high I.Q. into colossal stupidity.”
- On blowback:
“Oh, yes, that’s the great accomplishment of the Bush administration! They’ve turned Iraq into a Hollywood studio for terrorism. Al-Qaida was on the run, we were after them in Afghanistan, and now there’s been a massive reinvigoration of al-Qaida. They’ve become heroic role models to Islamic youth. And there’s been a poisoning of world opinion against us — after the sympathy we got after 9/11.”
- On Dean:
“Unless there’s some huge change, I’ll be voting for Dean in the Democratic primary, simply as a gesture for the antiwar side. But I’m not thrilled. I don’t think Dean is remotely presidential in manner. He hasn’t thought any of this through — the style of presidential authority. You can’t just run around wildly with this dour, dyspeptic, sanctimonious persona. Dean’s ability to galvanize a wide-ranging electorate is very limited. I don’t see how he’s going to inspire or attract African-American or Latino voters, or anyone outside white upper-middle-class professionals and the media elite.”
- On Kerry:
“For years, I was looking forward to voting for John Kerry. He is deeply knowledgeable about military and world affairs and is truly authoritative in presence, with a natural gravitas. I once talked in Salon about seeing him on C-SPAN and thinking, wow, he’s so articulate and low-key — how wonderful to have a president like that! This was in the early Bush period when Bush could barely get a complete sentence out. But I’ve been shocked by Kerry’s performance on the stump. His manner is so strained, dead and aloof. One problem is that he’s spent way too much time with rich people and fellow thinkers — that burden of being a Massachusetts liberal that sank Dukakis. And the hair! All that faux-Kennedy stuff that Democrats like Kerry and John Edwards can’t get rid of. They’re so out of it! Don’t they see that hair styles have changed and that flowing locks don’t signal authority? Look at Bush’s short cut — it’s a Roman general’s style. Rush Limbaugh hilariously refers to John Edwards as “the Breck Girl” — perfect! And Edwards’ whole chirpy, boyish manner — who thinks that’s going to fly in the age of terrorism?
But Kerry seems to be a prisoner of his handlers — that whole venal machinery of political consultants that has taken over the Democratic Party, all in the Terry McAuliffe mold. I loathe McAuliffe — a cheap buffoon and parasite. Consultants lobotomize the candidates, whose energy then gets sucked dry by fundraising. Kerry’s advisors have made him seem prissy. It’s a real tragedy because it’s Kerry who has the military record and knowledge of the federal government to be president — he’s an insider in the best sense.”
- On Clark:
“What a phony! What a bunch of crap this Clark boom is. Clark reminds me of Keir Dullea in “2001: A Space Odyssey” — a blank, vacant expression, detached and affectless. There’s something sexually neutered about Dullea in that film — a physical passivity necessitated by cramped space travel — that I also find in Clark. And the astronaut Dullea plays is sometimes indistinguishable from the crazed computer, HAL — which I find in Clark’s smug, computerized vocal delivery.
Doesn’t anyone know how to “read” TV? The guy’s an android! He gives me the creeps. And don’t they realize how short he is? He’s a slick, boudoir, salon military type who rubbed plenty of colleagues the wrong way. Clark is not a natural man’s man. And he’s no Eisenhower, who was a genial, charismatic leader with a genius for collaboration and organization. This is just another hysterical boomlet, as when the nerdy Northeast media went gaga for John McCain — “Finally, a soldier we like!” Well, McCain was another big hot dog with little natural rapport with regular guys. Clark made a major strategic error in going for the presidency. He’s been stumbling all over the place and exposing his lack of general knowledge as well as experience with practical politics.
Two weeks ago, NPR ran a scathing series of taped quotes from leading military figures clearly implying they know more about Clark’s career failures than they can tell. A lot of people don’t trust him. Last summer, I thought Clark would be a good vice presidential partner for Dean. But Clark’s hubris undid him — he’s tainted meat now. The Democratic Party should stay away from this guy — who wasn’t even a registered Democrat until recently.”
- On the fall of Rush:
‘When the McNabb flap broke, Rush could have caught himself and demonstrated his genuine erudition in football — which he’s shared with his audience for years. But suddenly his isolation became dramatically clear. Where was his staff? Callers to his show challenged him, asking who exactly in the media had ever overrated McNabb? Rush kept saying vaguely, “the Philadelphia media,” and I winced. The Philadelphia media have fried McNabb! For heaven’s sake, a radio star here even took a mob up to New York to boo McNabb on the day he was drafted! McNabb is personally very popular, but his uneven skills as a quarterback are constantly being hashed over here.
Days passed when Rush should have been getting research data from his staff — chapter and verse to support his position. His inability to manage basic crisis control amazed me. But through all of that public abuse and exposure, he emerged not diminished but with the dimension of a major Hollywood star, like Judy Garland, who attained semi-divinity through her drug overdoses and suicide attempts. It’s as if Rush stepped over from pugilistic political commentator to mysterious, tortured myth in just a few days.
When Democratic candidates like Dean attack Rush, they don’t realize how they are alienating millions of people. By blaming the messenger, all they’re doing is showing that the Democrats have no answer to the policy dilemmas of our day. And that Newsweek cover story hatchet job on Rush was a total disgrace! After two years of intense debate about whether the American media is biased toward liberals, for Newsweek to produce such a pathetically underreported piece of crap is mind-boggling. Rumor has it that Newsweek stringers had gathered more positive comments about Rush’s career that were junked by the top editors.”
- On replacing Rush:
“O’Reilly is a crass sliver of Limbaugh. He doesn’t have Limbaugh’s homespun Midwestern common sense or his broad sense of the nation. But O’Reilly and Hannity are thorns in liberals’ side, so there’s all this talk right now about getting liberal voices on the radio to counteract them. Well, Al Franken isn’t it, let me tell you right now — or Michael Moore either. Look at them! They’re like big, drooling babies — is this the face of the Democratic Party? Big, squalling babies — “wah wah wah!”
- On Letterman etc.:
“The great switch — and I’m not sure how it happened — was into juvenile, white-boy David Letterman style, smirky, cynical, callow, smarmy and jejune. I wonder how many black fans Letterman has. I can’t stand him and never watch him. But those late-night shows became a vehicle for politicians — the Democrats started it, and conservatives have followed. And that media marriage between liberal figures and the smirky Letterman style has perverted the entire process. The authentic voice of talk radio is raw, rude and hot, hot, hot! — not that cool Letterman style (to use Marshall McLuhan’s media terminology).”
- On the kiss:
“I do feel there’s something wrong with that kiss. Great stars have to learn to age gracefully. I loved it when Stevie Nicks — who’s a true artist — zinged Madonna for “kissing girls half her age.” She was right. Madonna was trying not only to compete with these figures she spawned but to overshadow and upstage them and suck them dry. It was very unfair to Britney Spears, even though she looked spectacular in white lace — as nubile as a real bride. Jennifer Lopez was smarter and opted out.”
- On blogging:
“Blog reading for me is like going down to the cellar amid shelves and shelves of musty books that you’re condemned to turn the pages of. Bad prose, endless reams of bad prose! There’s a lack of discipline, a feeling that anything that crosses one’s mind is important or interesting to others. People say that the best part about writing a blog is that there’s no editing — it’s free speech without institutional control. Well, sure, but writing isn’t masturbation — you’ve got to self-edit.
Now and then one sees the claim that Kausfiles was the first blog. I beg to differ: I happen to feel that my Salon column was the first true blog. My columns had punch and on-rushing velocity. They weren’t this dreary meta-commentary, where there’s a blizzard of fussy, detached sections nattering on obscurely about other bloggers or media moguls and Washington bureaucrats. I took hits at media excesses, but I directly commented on major issues and personalities in politics and pop culture.”
- The last word:
“Most bloggers aren’t culture critics but political or media junkies preoccupied with pedestrian minutiae and a sophomoric “gotcha” mentality. I find it depressing and claustrophobic. The Web is a wide open space — voices on it should have energy and vision.”