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Lambert Strether, Philadelphia, PA

Actually, that's not true. With fictional characters, sex and money explain everything. "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

Adding money in there will help everybody understand the Village a lot better, don't you agree?

Lance

Lambert,

Excellent point and the aptest of apt quotes.

Ken Muldrew

The novel "Restless", by William Boyd, is centered around the British spy ring who planted stories in the American press prior to Pearl Harbor in order to hasten America's entry into the war. The book wraps up some story lines in an overly hasty manner that leaves one with a lot of hanging questions, primarily the idea that this operation evolved into peacetime political dirty tricks and, eventually, into the normal operation of the press (eliminate the middle man). When I first read about the "socks" angle of the Spitzer story, I couldn't help but think that it was a direct descendant of the fake news planted by the British spies (the book goes into the hallmarks of a good plant - unrefutable, strange enough to make people curious, keeps popping up to make sure that the story can't fade away, etc.). Noble beginnings ... unintended consequences ... the trouble with normal is it always gets worse ... etc., etc.

As Fast Eddie Nelson says, "money won is twice as sweet as money earned". If you can get people to pay to buy propaganda, and also get the benefactors to pay, that's a win-win situation that has to taste mighty sweet on some palates.

Susie from Philly

Excellent post, Lance.

Linkmeister

I expect Wolcott to simply expropriate this entire post for his blog over at Vanity Fair.

Nicely done, Lance. The only thing you might have added was the phone listing for the NYC office of the American Psychiatric Society.

julia

I think you're giving him way too much credit. I don't think he's ever considered her in terms of her sexuality to the point of considering what affect her libido might have on their marriage. Clearly the idea of sex with old ladies creeps him out way too much for that.

I think he figures Michelle Obama is keeping her husband satisfied because he would hit it, and hittability is what keeps husbands home.

I also think that it takes a whole pile of wishful thinking for the not-46-year-old Michael Wolff to announce that the 46-year-old Barack Obama isn't middle-aged yet. Apparently youth, like sex, is something only for people Michael Wolff likes to picture having sex.

I'm guessing, counterintuitively, that group includes Michael Wolff.

SweetSue

I do not remember Brits always speculating about the sexual activites of Maragret and Dennis Thatcher: are they still shagging and, if not, how will that effect Maggie's ability to be Prime Minister?
Is the political discourse that much more stupid in America than it is in Britain?
Is fellatio expertise vital in a female CIC? Will we begin to rate male pols as good or bad cunnilinguists?
This is all pretty revolting and Wolf is pathetic.

AZrider

I'm surprised you didn't tie this in with "Lars and the Real Girl," a movie that features an anatomically correct sex doll, but which goes on to say that people aren't really interested in the sex part.

Jodi

Post-sexual set? A group of women who don't have to worry about pregnancy and have shed most of their youthful inhibitions? What a maroon!

AndrewJ

"We're only giving the public what it wants!"

I recall a regional theatrical director who opened a new, innovative company to instant raves. She said, "It's a funny thing... The public didn't know they wanted our work until we presented it to them." Think about it.

Arundel

Well done, Mr. M. I appreciate any and all examinations of Michael Wolff's self-absorbed reflections, screwy premises and dirty mind- plus the fact he's always wrong- but this one was especially accurate and precise.

I agree with you about Gore Vidal, another dirty mind who'll gladly tell you that ALL great minds are dirty ones, from Julius Augustus to the exquisite depravities of Tiberius bla la la... I enjoy Vidal very much, but he really is a malicious gossip, and that particular JFK anecdote has always struck me as quite wickedly untrue. (And as you say, physically improbable.) Gore has never recovered, it seems, from that fabled night he was booted from a WH party; he's had lawsuits and respun the tale so many times, I've no doubt his Kennedy animus- against all of them- dates to that one night.

mad6798j

The character in question in Vidal's "Washington DC" was not a direct stand-in for JFK. They were similar, but not enough for you to accuse him of suggesting Kennedy was a phony war hero. Also, Washington and Jefferson don't come off as clowns and scoundrels in Burr. Washington comes off as aloof and not extraordinarily intelligent, but has a definite commanding presence. Jefferson comes off as intelligent, manipulative and vindictive. Neither are inaccurate portrayals.

Vidal did go a bit loopy by the time he wrote The Golden Age, though.

Canid

As I remember it in Vidal's memoir, Seymour Hersh called him while working on his JFK book. He asked Vidal to confirm the dunking story, and Vidal did. Hersh asked, Why was he doing this. "Vaginal spasms," Vidal explained....

aimai

Lance,
I'm a frequent reader, mostly lurk. Brilliant post. Really worth bookmarking and circulating widely.

aimai

sfmike

Enough with the Vidal bashing. If he says FDR basically orchestrated Pearl Harbor so we could get into the war, I'm inclined to believe him, and the JFK anecdote was written in the context of a book review he was writing about some scandalous tell-all about JFK, where Vidal was refuting some rumours and substantiating others.

The Wolff article just sounds awful and the type of crap that keeps me from reading "Vanity Fair" (that, and my inability to actually find the articles among 900 pages of glossy ads).

AndrewJ

Vaginal spasms," Vidal explained....

And what first-hand knowledge would Vidal have about those...?

sfmike

@AndrewJ: If you'd read any of Vidal's memoirs, you'd realize that Vidal's first-hand knowledge of every kind of sexual spasm with both genders is vastly more extensive than most of us have experienced, and I've experienced a few.

Lance

SFMike, Andrew,

For the record, Vidal is one of my favorite essayists and Burr is one of my favorite novels. Palimpsest is beautifully written. But he has axes to grind and his own interpretation of American history that borders on the crackpot (and the brilliant at the same time) so I always approach his writing with skepticism. I frankly don't believe that anecdote about Kennedy and don't understand how Vidal could know it and know it's true and I don't know why Hersh would have called Vidal of all people for confirmation of such a story.

But my point in bringing it up in the post was that there was no good reason for Wolff to pass it along except to make JFK sound creepy and it's Wolff's portrayal of middle-aged sex as creepy that creeps me out.

Mary

Excellent post. And in reading it, the Great Light Bulb finally lit up in my dim little skull. I finally understood why Hillary is hated by so many Democrat women - one of whose posts I just read in another place, where the poster brought up the boring Monica thing again to explain her loathing. She dressed it up with a load of highminded stuff about women and job opportunities, none of which applied the the actual situation. So - why is she hated for this? Because if she had been a "real" woman (like Michelle), Bill wouldn't have been looking for a dish on the side. It's seen as Hillary's failure as a woman, and for this failure, women hate her. She wasn't enough of a wife, they believe at some deep, visceral level. Which makes these supposedly high minded, ultra liberal women no different from the conservative "a woman's place is in the kitchen sink" - they too are demanding their women know their place and keep their men in it, even if they don't know they are. They think we're living in a soap opera driven by sex too.

Chino Blanco

I don't think the situation is nearly as dire as Mary would have us believe.

Even if a certain campaign would indeed benefit from us believing that it's as bad out there as all that.

Why I'm skeptical:

Otherwise worthy post:

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2008/05/sexual-politics-by-digby-we-are-seeing.html

Embedded link:

http://makethemaccountable.com/index.php/category/media-news

Click through:

http://noquarterusa.net/blog/2008/05/04/despicable-sexist-sign-outside-indiana-dinner/

Lather, rinse, repeat.

And voilà. It's all Obama's fault.

calliopejane

"It's seen as Hillary's failure as a woman, and for this failure, women hate her. She wasn't enough of a wife, they believe at some deep, visceral level."

I hate this sort of internalized misogyny, but can understand its motivation of self-reassurance. It's the same reason that some women want to find some reason to blame a rape victim for her rape (e.g., what she was wearing, where she was, with whom, etc.) -- they want to believe that THEY would never do that thing, so that means they are safe from rape. Just like they want to believe if they are a "good wife" then their own husbands will never cheat on them. That sort of belief in one's own control over men's sexual/aggressive/adulterous behavior can only be maintained by asserting that women who have been wronged must have done something themselves to cause it.

Doctor Jay

"In short, Vidal doesn't see himself as a satirist writing fiction. He sees himself as a realist writing history."

Maybe he sees himself as a guy trying to sell more of his novels by generating publicity with outrageous claims.

4jkb4ia

Alongside Mary's comment, there is my mom's (64 years old). During the Wisconsin primary, my Mom said that Hillary's fatal mistake was that she let her husband loose. My Mom also said that if it was not for Bill, Hillary would be a "CORPORATE LAWYER!" or at least not a Senator from New York. I could agree and see Hillary Rodham as a potential Donna Edwards figure.
Here the resentment is that when Hillary hitched herself to Bill, and having sex with him, she hitched herself to many long years of not being an independent person. Family connections work because the family member inherits a comfort level from the one who was already in office.

dark1p

I never thought I'd say this, but I miss Tina Brown.

julia

Hey, Lance, are you going to the DMI do?

Heartfelt

Nice post. I agree that the Wolff article (that I read in it's sad entirety) said far more about the author than those he was speaking about. He is clearly a man with sexual issues, generalizing his personal demons to the public and the politicians who serve them. As you say, there may be a small percentage of citizens who resonate with his words, and sadly, that even a small percentage is a lot of actual people... but my personal experience agrees with your own...
the overwhelming political talk that I have heard and read (online and off) is not in line with Wolff's declarations. The American public generally does not appear to care much about the sexual lives of their politicians unless it interferes with their job or exposes them as hypocrites who cannot, therefore, be trusted.

Jim Carlile

Actually, I believe Vidal on JFK because they were on a friendly basis as Jackie was his step-sister. They talked alot about this kind of thing.

Also, Vidal never ridiculed ALL the Founding Fathers. But this is correct about young people's view of 'middle age.' It's sad because not only is it unwarranted and false, but they have nothing else to rebel against except age.

And, if anything, they're the ones who are fucked up sexually as well. Gotta get drunk and all, they do-- just like their grandparents.

Jim Carlile

"I frankly don't believe that anecdote about Kennedy and don't understand how Vidal could know it and know it's true and I don't know why Hersh would have called Vidal of all people for confirmation of such a story."

Vidal was Jackie's step brother--his mother married Hugh Auchincloss. He knew JFK very well. He campaigned for him. Those stories are true.

He has great stories about Jackie 'preparing' herself when she was younger, before dates. Those are true, too.

Jim Carlile

"I frankly don't believe that anecdote about Kennedy and don't understand how Vidal could know it and know it's true and I don't know why Hersh would have called Vidal of all people for confirmation of such a story."

Vidal was Jackie's step brother--his mother married Hugh Auchincloss. He knew JFK very well. He campaigned for him. Those stories are true.

He has great stories about Jackie 'preparing' herself when she was younger, before dates. Those are true, too.

Nancy

Any woman over 30 who subscribes to Vanity Fair should cancel her subscription immediately. This essay is the Mein Kampf of misogyny.

tinfoil hattie

For people who do want to speculate on the sex lives of strangers, that's why we have movie stars and teenage pop idols, who are at least blessed with beautiful and photogenic naked backs and bare shoulders.

Aaah, yes. The male idealization of what is "beautiful and photogenic." -- teenage pop idols. This is different from Wolff's characterizations of Hillary Clinton and other middle-aged women...how, exactly?

Nancy

Aaah, yes. The male idealization of what is "beautiful and photogenic." -- teenage pop idols. This is different from Wolff's characterizations of Hillary Clinton and other middle-aged women...how, exactly?

The saying that Washington is Hollywood for ugly people was only true as long as politicians were men. Women are judged harshly on appearance no matter what line of work we are in.

The problem with the essay is the undercurrent of evolutionary psychology that says that while men desire young beautiful flesh, women don't, just because women don't generally go to ho's.

But much of the media, even the so-called liberal media, accepts this propaganda without question.

julia

Well, remember, Vidal comes from a Very Old Family - he wrote a disturbing essay once about Eleanor Roosevelt where he said that her populist ideals were overridden by her patrician upbringing because she would only socialize with people like him, and never with the vulgar, ill-born people she advocated for publicly.

Which probably had something to do with his issues with Joe Kennedy's kid.

forked tongue

I don't have an opinion on whether that JFK anecdote is true, but I remember reading it in the New Yorker--it creeped me right the fuck out for days, not only for its sheer evilness but for Vidal's slimey tone and dubious motives for retelling it--and, as far as the "physical improbability" goes, what Vidal said was that JFK would have one of his Secret Service guys do the dunking. Eeeesssh.

Tom Wells

Excellent essay. The media gives us entertainment. Who does it serve to make politics like Hollywood?

Meanwhile, as the journalists trivialize, the Great Class Stratification grows wider.

swmbo

That article is one big steaming heap of WTF? Older women are post-sexual, except when they're not, and love Hillary, except when they resent her, and ...

Brain hurt.

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