|I was 20 on 9/11/01, and in the previous year, my first year of college, I watched the returns of the 2000 presidential election and the extended recounts and the installation of GW Bush as the president by a partisan Supreme Court (phew, thank god we don’t have partisan supreme courts any more!). So in the years following, I was witness to the political disasters of the Patriot Act, the war in Iraq (I will leave Afghanistan aside for the moment), and the years of fallout that included the Great Recession and the rise of very visible white nationalism (as opposed to the steady 200 years of white nationalism that was mostly systemic and quiet).
This book is mired in that exact context, around 2005, and Gore Vidal, unlike a lot of his contemporaries, became more and more convinced of a dangerous slide into anti-democratic territory right after 9/11 and throughout the war in Iraq. I don’t disagree with him that this is a true thing. I am less convinced there was ever much actual progress in a lot of the areas we kind of take for granted up until very recently. Anyway, this book takes on that context, but indirectly so, by looking at the specific ideas of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson and reinterrogating them in terms of the new context. Ultimately the effect of doing so tends to be kind of weakly argued and cherrypicked. So while I might agree in my heart with a lot of what is said here, I am less in agreement that the things being said are supported by Vidal’s investigation into the evidence.