Phone Message Transcript: February 15, 1999
[appearing on Anne's fan phone line]
Mardi Gras is in full swing down here in New Orleans. Tonight, the Krewe of Orpheus parades. Last year at this time I rode in this parade, as Literary Muse, but this year, due to being very behind on my work, and this illness, I've been unable to attend anything to do with the whole festive season.
Whatever, New Orleans is swinging right now, and many of my guests are riding tonight in the parade, and I know from experience, they'll have the time of their lives.
The first copy off the press of my new novel VITTORIO THE VAMPIRE hit here about four days ago. This is always a major event in an author's life - - when you hold the first finished copy of a new book in your hands. My pattern is to pause and reflect on when I had the very first thoughts that generated the novel, and to realize that now, all those uncollected dreams are made into the finished story. Then I usually write a note in the book, putting the date, and describing feelings unique to this story, and then I sign my name, and put it on the shelf.
If I've ever missed this ritual with a novel, I don't remember it.
With VITTORIO, the thing to mention was that the tale all began for me on a mountain top in Tuscany when I stood among three towers that dated back to long before the Renaissance. The three towers, the entire compound which once was a castle and a village, is beautifully restored now for modern living by the couple who reside there. But I took it back in my imagination to what it might have been in the 1400's, and it became for me the house of Vittorio's father, the country lord.
Of course I did the usual research for this novel - - ransacking everything I could find in English on the Age of Gold in Florence when Cosimo, the first real Medici, came to power. It's interesting to me that at one point in his life Cosimo di Medici, a banker by trade, mentioned to someone that, though the Florentines might eventually drive him out of power, his buildings would long after remain.
He was absolutely right, but I wonder if any human being could have foreseen the power of the Medici legacy which came to include so many museums and churches, and the works of such incredible geniuses.
Only a fraction of the research material I gather ever goes into my novels. But reading so much on any subject - - whether it is Beethoven and his Vienna for VIOLIN, or all the lore on angels for MEMNOCH THE DEVIL - - inspires me. Same with VITTORIO, except that more than with any other novel I've written, the physical places were a key part of the creation.
Now! The President is acquitted! I'm ecstatic. And for the first time in my life, I'm actually worried about the Republican Party. Henry Hyde, poor old soul, and his cohorts have really done a number on the party, and I can't imagine how the moderates and the young Republicans are going to recover, unless some truly brilliant man comes to the fore - - untainted by the scandalous persecution of Clinton, somebody who didn't become a fool for the likes of Linda Tripp and the obsessed and disgraceful Kenneth Starr.
There was a piece in the New York Times a few days ago by Mr. Apple, beautifully written, that gave me the impression that Mr. Apple thought people would be disillusioned with politics over the whole impeachment process. I really differ with him. I think people have been disillusioned by politics for decades because of the IRS, Medicare, and Social Security. For many years, the American people have seen politicians as Blue Suits who parade on camera and do nothing about these bad things.
If anything, Mr. Clinton's accessibility and vigor brought back some hope to the disillusioned, and now that the Republican attempt to destroy Clinton has failed, people will be filled with hope. How can they not be? It is obvious from what took place that the Presidential Office itself has been greatly strengthened. After Mr. Clinton's victory, Republicans or anybody else for that matter, will think long and hard before trying to destroy a President over a sex affair in the President's private life. Mr. Clinton, no matter how bad his judgment might have been in trusting the careless Monica Lewinsky with his secret desires, has basically made history when he first walked past the self seeking and ridiculous Gennifer Flowers.
Before Flowers' shabby attempt to ruin Bill, other candidates had been brought down by the mere hint of scandal. Remember Gary Hart? But Mr. Clinton ran for the Presidency in spite of Miss Flowers and now any candidate coming after him can probably take the same route past those who would destroy him with silly nonsense about the candidate's private life.
Make no mistake, I do not assume for a moment that Clinton has not had affairs. But the point is - - it's private. Clinton never should have been questioned about Monica in the Paula Jones case, the case itself had no merit and was eventually thrown out of court, and the conniving of Miss Tripp is a scandal unto itself.
What I'm saying is that the President's personal life need never have been exposed to the American People. The persecution of Bill was exactly what Hillary called it: a Right Wing conspiracy.
Now the question is -- sick as we all are about investigations and accusations--can we really let the conniving Mr. Kenneth Starr off the hook? If he lied about his contact with Clinton, if he did illegal things in his hot pursuit of the President, don't we have to pursue this matter? In other words, can we allow this shameless bastard who spent years trying to find anything he could on Clinton, and ran up multi millions of the public money for a failed trial in the Senate - - can we really allow him to walk?
I don't quite see how. There is no double standard for Mr. Starr. Mr. Starr, in my personal opinion, has done irreparable harm to the American People. He is the sole author of all of this foolishness that has occupied us for 13 months. And if he did do dishonest things, illegal things, I think we have to go after him legally and properly, and make him accountable. He is running rampant as far as I can see, talking about indicting President, which is absolute madness. And there is still the matter of Starr's accepting illegally obtained tape recording material from Linda Tripp, and the efforts of his office, early on, to get Ms. Lewinsky to wear a wire to entrap the President. There's something more than fishy about Mr. Starr, and all of it has to do with the law. In other words, there may be a real case against Starr, while there was never a real case against Clinton.
How these unfortunate Right Wing fanatics must hate Bill Clinton! It's no mystery to me why. Clinton is young, immensely popular, and one of the hardest working Presidents we have ever had. He is also one of the most accessible and reassuring Presidents we've ever had. He loves the people of the United States. He and his wife really tried, without question to do something about the health care disaster in this country. They really tried. And Clinton never stopped trying to improve the lot of the common American, no matter what his detractors did to him.
Clinton's enemies, on the other hand, were old, far less charismatic than Clinton, and in many instances, weak men who could never compete with Clinton's energy. Old and weak men have always feared the vigor and power of an up and coming young leader. The Republicans were like Saul in the Bible, living in fear of the young David who eventually became the King.
When these old goats and weaklings got the news that Clinton had had contact with Lewinsky, they thought they really had nailed Clinton. It was a sex affair! They were going to play on the disgust of the American people, and blow this thing all out of proportion, hoping that everybody would be outraged by the personal sexual details revealed in Starr's report.
That's where they made their terrible error. They couldn't dispose of the young, energetic leader so easily. He wasn't guilty of the High Crimes and Misdemeanors and everybody knew it. And the sex angle simply wasn't enough. Men like Clinton often have strong sex drives; their drives stem from the same energy source that allows them to travel the world, keep long hours, and make constant personal appearances where they can hear and respond to the people who concern them.
The American people knew all this, and the affair, though it probably struck them as unwise, given Ms. Lewinsky's irresponsible gossip, did not make that much difference to anyone. It certainly never should have been allowed to affect government.
What the people of America confirmed in their devotion to the President throughout the ordeal was that morality for them was more a matter of feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, getting good health care for everybody, alleviating tax problems, and keeping the international peace. This is morality. This is what matters.
And this last week - - when the Senate acquitted the President on the charges brought against him - - morality triumphed, and hypocrisy and hate failed.
One good movie to mention: THE FUNERAL, starring Christopher Walken and Isabella Rossalini. I caught about half of it last night on TV and I'm now trying to track down the laser disk.
Thanks to so many of you for letting me know that Kenneth Branagh is making LOVE LABOR'S LOST. I've started to read it.
Work on the new book continues.
I'll return soon. My love to all of you who have been calling the reader line. I'm glad the X-FILES has so many fans.