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“Every four years the naive half who vote are encouraged to believe that if we can elect a really nice man or woman President everything will be all right. But it won’t be.

“Any individual who is able to raise $25 million to be considered presidential is not going to be much use to the people at large. He will represent oil, or aerospace, or banking, or whatever moneyed entities are paying for him. Certainly he will never represent the people of the country, and they know it. Hence the sense of despair throughout the land as incomes fall, businesses fail and there is no redress.”

— Gore Vidal
The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

The American Pre$idency

by Gore Vidal.  Bookcover has drawings of 12 different Presidents, all their faces slightly distorted. From the Common Courage Press:

From the cousin of both Al Gore and Jimmy Carter, Gore Vidal’s The American Presidency is a how-to manual on the twin tasks of empire building and hiding the resulting moral decay.

Vidal provides a series of portraits of American presidents designed to give a unique twist to the understanding of history:

Of the Constitutional Convention, which was actually a meeting of landowners frantic to prevent both monarchy and true democracy, establishing instead something they all agreed on: “the best sort of government for white Anglo-Saxon Protestant men of property to do business.”

Of George Washington, the man who acquired “his fortune in the most honest way — he married it.”

Of Jefferson, who owned several of his children who were born to his slaves: “Flashing forward to today, it makes one wonder just what Independent Prosecutor Kenneth Starr is so upset about concerning the current president — whose middle name is also Jefferson.”

From Lincoln, who assumed dictatorial powers during the Civil War, to Teddy Roosevelt, who Vidal calls the rhetorical precursor to Mussolini, the underpinnings of the ruthless reasons of state are starkly — and entertainingly — exposed.

See also:

The Plutocratic Presidency, 1789 – Present Day:
Commentary on the subject matter in The American Presidency.

About the Author

photographic portrait of Gore Vidal
photo by Stathis Orphanos

Gore Vidal was born on October 3rd, 1925 in West Point, New York, where his father was an aeronautics instructor. His grandfather was Thomas Pryor Gore, the populist senator from Oklahoma. Vidal graduated from Philips Exeter Academy in 1943 and then joined the U.S. Army at the age of 17, serving during World War II.

The author of 22 novels, five plays and numerous essays, articles and reviews, Vidal wrote his first novel at the age of 19 and was widely hailed as a young genius. Many of his subsequent novels have been number-one best-sellers, and his writing is said to have remained in top form for all this past half-century. If anything, he has gotten better with time.

While Gore Vidal is world-famous for his writing in general, he is particularly loved and respected for his courageously outspoken criticism of the predatory American Empire. Many consider his political essays to be his most important writing, but the consensus is that all of it is good: full of eloquent, humorous, insightful analysis of American society, history and politics.

Vidal is noted for such novels as Myra Breckenridge (1968), in which he lampooned contemporary sexuality and American culture. When asked in an interview about the gender of his first sexual encounter, he said: “It was dark and I was too polite to ask.”

Having thoroughly overcome such verbal inhibitions in the intervening years, he has, since the early 1950s, written screenplays for Hollywood and plays for live T.V., made numerous film cameos, spoken on T.V. talk shows, and given speeches before many an appreciative audience. (The unappreciative ones have minds mass-produced by the corporate mass-media.)

In addition to his literary career, Vidal has twice run for office. In 1960, he was a candidate for Congress in upstate New York, where he got the most votes in his district of any Democrat in half a century. Running for the U.S. Senate in the 1982 Democratic primary in California, he received half a million votes and finished second in a field of nine.

In 1982, Vidal won an American Book Critics Circle Award for his collection of essays, The Second American Revolution.

Major written works

Essay Collections

The Last Empire

From the Foreword (mysteriously removed from the published edition):

“I am writing this note a dozen days before the Inauguration of the loser of the year 2000 presidential election. Lost republic as well as last empire.

“We are now faced with a Japanese seventeenth-century-style arrangement: a powerless Mikado ruled by a shogun vice president and his Pentagon warrior counselors. Do they dream, as did the shoguns of yore, of the conquest of China? We shall know more soon, I should think, than late. Sayonara.”

Gore Vidal
11 January 2001

“Shredding the Bill of Rights”

The American Presidency

Virgin Islands

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

United States

Screening History

A View from the Diners Club

At Home


Vidal in Venice

The Second American Revolution

Sex Is Politics and Vice Versa

Matters of Fact and Fiction

Homage to Daniel Shays

Sex, Death and Money

Reflections Upon a Sinking Ship

From the Preface:

“I have selected a title which seems to me altogether apt this bright savage spring with Martin Luther King dead and now Robert Kennedy. The fact that these deaths occurred at a time when the American empire was sustaining a richly deserved defeat in Asia simply makes for added poignancy, if not tragedy.”

Rocking the Boat



In a Yellow Wood

The City and the Pillar

The Season of Comfort

A Search for the King

Dark Green, Bright Red
1950, revised 1968
Ballantine Publishing Group (October 1986)
ISBN 0-345-33457-4

Dark Green, Bright Red is Vidal’s first novel to explore the fact that the United States is an imperialistic predator among nations. It was based on personal experience. He lived for awhile in Guatemala, and the novel uncannily presages the bloody CIA-engineered overthrow of the democratically elected, progressive Jacobo Arbenz in 1954.

The “Dark Green” in the title refers to American money power, and “Bright Red” refers to the bloodshed of American state terrorism and popular rebellion, and also the alternative of communism.

The Judgement of Paris
1952, revised 1961


Messiah is another prophetic novel. It illustrates the power of the mass-media to brainwash people by the millions.


Washington, D.C.

Myra Breckinridge

Two Sisters







This satire of American culture (or the lack thereof) is one of Vidal’s personal favorites.



The title refers to the American Empire, baptized in the blood of 200,000 Philippine men, women and children, from 1899 to 1902. The novel deals mainly with sordid intrigues among the American ruling-class of that era.


Live from Golgotha

The Smithsonian Institution

The Golden Age


Palimpsest: A Memoir


Views from a Window: Conversations with Gore Vidal

Interview of Vidal by Harry Kloman

Short Stories

Three Strategems

A Thirsty Evil


An Evening with Richard Nixon And...

Tricky Dick meets George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Adlai Steventon, Spiro T. Agnew, Gloria Steinem, Harry S Truman, Helen Gahagan Douglas, Hubert H. Humphrey, Martha Mitchell, Nikita Khrushchev, Lt. William “Babykiller” Calley and many others. A satire of American political corruption.



On the March to the Sea

The Best Man

Visit to a Small Planet

Related sites

Excerpt from The Last Empire:
“Shredding the Bill of Rights”

A foreword by Gore Vidal to the book:
Money and Politics: Financing Our Elections Democratically

The Gore Vidal Index

Gore Vidal Reader:
books, interviews, reviews, sites, discussions

His take on McVeigh arouses neocons’ wrath
by Justin Raimondo

Related pages

The Plutocratic Presidency, 1789 – Present Day

Commentary on the subject matter in The American Presidency.

Solutions: American Revolution 2 and a Humane Future of International Socialist Democracy

Thomas Jefferson Calling: The Time for Revolution is NOW
by John Kaminski

Civil Disobedience and Tax Resistance

The two-headed, two-faced American plutocracy

Revealing Quotes 2: Corporate Capitalist Plutocracy

Corporations Have a Chokehold on the U.S. Media

Our Hidden History: Corporations in America

The Corporate Domination of American Culture and Politics

Related books

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The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb
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Lies My Teacher Told Me:
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Market Elections:
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Democracy for the Few
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Killing Hope:
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Pressure Drop Press, 1991

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Deadly Deceits:
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The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media:
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edited by Lenora Foerstel; multiple authors

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