Saturday, February 09, 2008

Philip Roth: “The Democrats aren't brutes, which is too bad, because the Republicans are brutes. Brutes win.”

Novelist Philip Roth has been a well known American writer since the late 1950’s. Probably his best know novel is Portnoy’s Complaint, published in 1969. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1997.

The following is an excerpt from an interview with him in Der Spiegel. This excerpt covers his thoughts about contemporary politics in the United States.

From Der Spiegel:

SPIEGEL: Do you still care about politics? Are you following the 2008 election?

Roth: Unfortunately, yeah. I didn't, until about two weeks ago -- until then it wasn't real. Then I watched the New Hampshire primary debates, and the Republicans are so unbelievably impossible. I watched the Democratic ones and became interested in Obama. I think I'll vote for him.

SPIEGEL: What made you interested in Obama?

Roth: I'm interested in the fact that he's black. I feel the race issue in this country is more important than the feminist issue. I think that the importance to blacks would be tremendous. He's an attractive man, he's smart, he happens to be tremendously articulate. His position in the Democratic Party is more or less okay with me. And I think it would be important to American blacks if he became president.

SPIEGEL: It could change society, couldn't it?

Roth: Yes, it could. It would say something about this country, and it would be a marvelous thing. I don't know whether it's going to happen. I rarely vote for anybody who wins. It's going to be the kiss of death if you write in your magazine that I'm going to vote for Barack Obama. Then he's finished!

SPIEGEL: The discussions around Obama remind us of your figure Coleman Silk, the hero of "The Human Stain," who is black with unusually light skin and then invents a Jewish biography. What we mean is the questions of belonging, of right and wrong behavior. Is Barack Obama black enough?

Roth: I know this discussion goes on, but I think it will disappear if he gets the nomination. The reality of his running will wash that away. Anybody who's half white and half black is considered black anyway. That's one drop of blood.

SPIEGEL: For whites to consider him black, yes. But the question is whether the blacks consider him black.

Roth: They will once the election goes on. If he gets the nomination.

SPIEGEL: Do you actually believe that Obama could change Washington or could change politics?

Roth: I'm interested in what merely his presence would be. You know, who he is, where he comes from, that is the change. That is the same thing with Hillary Clinton, just who she is would create a gigantic change. As for all that other rhetoric about change, change, change -- it's pure semantics, it doesn't mean a thing. They'll respond to particular situations as they arise.

SPIEGEL: Are you interested in the Clintons as a couple? Are they literary figures?

Roth: Oh, this is the soap opera side. They're tremendously aggressive, I think they'll say or do anything actually that they can get away with, but no, they don't interest me as a couple. Bill Clinton was interesting as the president -- I don't know what he is now. I think they can overplay that hand, being aggressive, and people will be irritated by it.

SPIEGEL: What will remain of the current president, George W. Bush? Could he be forgotten once he leaves office?

Roth: He was too horrendous to be forgotten. There will be an awful lot written about this. And there's a lot to be written about the war. There's a lot to be written about what he did with Reaganism, since he went much further than Reagan. So he won't be forgotten. Someone has said he's the worst American president we've ever had. I think that's true.


Roth: Well, the biggest thing would be the war, the deceptions surrounding the entrance into the war. The absolute cynicism that surrounds the deception. The cost of the war, the Treasury and the lives of the Americans. It's hideous. There is nothing quite like it. The next thing would be the attitude towards global warming, which is a global crisis, and they were utterly indifferent, if not hostile, to any attempt to address it. And so on and so on and so on and so on. So he's done a lot of harm.

SPIEGEL: Since your book is set in that week during the 2004 elections, can you explain why Americans voted for Bush once again?

Roth: I suspect it was the business of being in a war and not wanting to change, and political stupidity. Why does anybody elect anybody? I thought highly of John Kerry when he began, but he couldn't stand up against Bush. The Democrats aren't brutes, which is too bad, because the Republicans are brutes. Brutes win.

You can read the entire interview here.

1 comment:

Comrade Kevin said...

And brutal tactics will be used against the Democrats by McCain, for sure.

We're in for another tough fight, I'm afraid. Is it too much to ask for ONE landslide?