career. Too, he has baited William F.nBuckley Jr. on this subject, so deftlynthat the imperturbable Buckley oncenthreatened him: “You queer . . . I’llnsock you in the g n face.”nBut Vidal is no Harvey Milk. Henscoffed at the idea of a “gay politicalnidentity” in his quixotic 1982 Californiancampaign for the Senate; apartnfrom endorsing the repeal of sodomynlaws on libertarian grounds, Vidal hasnignored the homosexual agenda.nMoreover — and anyone who hasnspent any amount of time in Washington,nDC, can attest to this — the grantmunchingnconservative herd is rife withngay men. Roy Cohn, Terry Dolan,nRobert Bauman, and their closetednbrethren make Core Vidal look like anmodel of candor.nSo the Vidal-loathing has muchndeeper roots than the Beltway Right’snpurported aversion to homosexuality.nThe real source of the rancor is thenAmerican past, an epoch that CorenVidal has spent the last two decadesnexcavating and explicating in his selfdescribednrole as “current biographer”nof the United States.nVidal told a young interviewer innThe Progressive: “It’s thirty-five yearsnwe’ve been a garrison state. Somebodynyour age doesn’t even remember whatnthe country was like before. I do, andnthe country was a very good one. It hadnits problems, but the place worked. Fornone thing, we believed in the countrynmore. Now nobody understands it. Itnisn’t taught.”nWe have forgotten our past. InnVidal’s own words, “[w]e have nonpublic memory of anything that happenednbefore last Tuesday.” Pre-DepressionnAmerica has been surgicallynexcised from the national memory,nsave for its quainter aspects. We are notnsupposed to know that alternativesnonce existed—still exist—to industrialncapitalism, the permanent war economy,nand rootless man. Core Vidal hasnnot forgotten, and his work is a monumentnto that past, witness to the climactericnevents that marked the waynfrom republic to empire . . . and backnagain, maybe someday.n”The historical novel,” HenrynJames once wrote Sarah Orne Jewett,n”is condemned . . . to a iatal cheapnessn. . . You may multiply the little factsnthat can be got from pictures andndocuments, relics and prints as muchnas you like — the real thing is almostnimpossible to do.”nCore Vidal has done it. Crandson ofna populist Oklahoma senator, slashingnwit of the Kennedy demimonde, Vidalnhas ever regarded politics at closenrange. He perfectly apprehends thenconstitution of the statesman; he is anlucent and experienced anatomist ofnpower. An anatomist, moreover, whonappreciates Henry Adams’s twin dicta:n”Power is poison,” and politics is “thensystematic organization of hatreds.”nWith intelligence and caustic humor,nVidal has vivified American historynand its great actors. He peoples hisnchronicles with men of letters —nWilliam Leggett, William Cullen Bryant,nJohn Hay, Henry Adams — whonare quick with the epigram, thengnome, the illuminating throwaway.nBeyond his flair for reanimatingndead statesmen, Vidal succeeds becausenhe has found a grand unifyingntheme: the growth of the Americannempire. He has descried, as have fewnothers, the irreconcilable conflicts thatndelivered us unto that empire: the earlyntension between republican ideals andnthe lure of the western lands; Lincoln’sncataclysmic destruction of the loosenconfederation of states and strengtheningnof a brand new, centralized, andnunitary state; the withering of republicannvirtue in the flames of the CreatnBarbecue; Teddy Roosevelt’s vanquishmentnof the principles of 1776;nthe exponential growth of governmentnin the wake of the Second World War.n(Vidal’s sixth entry in the chronicle willnuse the League of Nations debate as anbackdrop; will pious old ParsonnWoodrow Wilson ever be the same?)nVidal has plaintively summarized hisnpolitics as such: “I hate the AmericannEmpire, and I love the old republic.”nHe can be didactic on the point: witnessnthis exchange, from the turn-ofthe-centurynnovel Empire, betweennSecretary of State John Hay and HenrynAdams, who is in so many waysnVidal’s kindred soul.n”John, it is empire you allnwant, and it is empire that younhave got, and at such a smallnprice, when you come to thinknof it.”n”What price is that?” Hayncould tell from the glitter innAdams’s eye that the answernwould be highly unpleasant.n”The American republic.nYou’ve finally got rid of it. Forngood.”nThe parallels between Vidal and HenrynAdams are many and significant: aristocraticnbirth, long years in Europe, hintsnof anti-Semitism, hostility to formal education.nTo emphasize the affinity,nVidal has made Adams the gray eminencenof the latter chronicles, offeringndroll — and very Vidalian —ncommentaries.nThe most pertinent kinship betweennthe two is ideological. Vidal and Adamsnare conservatives in a very singularnAmerican vein. They are exponents —nThe Family WagenThe Family Wage: Work, Gender,nand Children in The ModernnEconomy A fascinating collectionnof essays that will help Americansnbetter understand the current economicnchallenges to family life.nSend for your copy today!nDYES , please send mencopies of The Family Wage: Work,nGender, and Children in thenModern Economy at $11.50 eachn(postage and handling included).nNamenAddressnCitynnnState. Zip.nSend this coupon and your check madenout to The Rockford Institute to: ThenRockford Institute, 934 N. Main St.,nRockford, IL 61103nMARCH 1989/47n