Interview of Paul Hoover for Régis Bonvicino
Paul Hoover is a San Francisco poet and editor of the anthology, Postmodern American Poetry (W. W. Norton, 1994). With Maxine Chernoff, he has edited and translated Selected Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin and, with Nguyen Do, the anthology, Black Dog, Black Night: Contemporary Vietnamese Poetry. His most recent poetry books are Poems in Spanish (2005) and Edge and Fold (2006); another volume, Sonnet 56, is forthcoming.
Is the support of Camille Paglia (left-wing) and Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of Ike (right-wing), at same time, for Barack Obama, a kind of general buzz or it represents a real change in the US?
We fervently hope that Barack Obama is the ideal candidate he seems to be. Maxine Chernoff and I have supported him throughout the primary season and will continue to do so in the presidential election. He’s the best hope for the Democratic Party to reverse the Fascist shift brought about by Bush and Cheney, the Neo-Cons, Big Oil, and Fundamentalist Christianity. He understands that the election must be won by unifying the forces of common sense and genuine love of the country. George Bush and Dick Cheney are radical rightists; they are not conservative in the traditional sense (political non-intervention, low national debt, individual rights, and right to privacy). They have purposely worked against those values. This is why a vast number of U.S. citizens, from right and left, will be voting for Obama. Camille Paglia is as right-leaning as a Leftist can be. I’m glad to hear she’s for Obama. If you have been watching the political map during the primaries, you’ll note that Obama has been changing it. He’s able to win in the West and, to some degree, in the South, in other words in red states. The country is changing, and a major force for change has been the disastrous presidency of Bush II. It’s no longer a matter of Left and Right, but whether or not the government is willing to care about its citizens, by providing national health care, responding to disasters like Katrina, and creating a strong new economy based on green technologies. I do believe that it that Obama represents real change, with one caveat: you can’t win a national election in this country unless, in some way, you are indebted to powerful interests. We must assume for now that an awakened populace is a powerful interest group. To give you an example of Obama not representing real change, this week he voted for the FISA renewal bill, which protects the phone companies from lawsuits (40 are pending for helping spy on American citizens). All of the Democrat senators running against him in the primary voted against it, including Hilary Clinton. The bill gives new license to a disgusting and unconstitutional practice that Obama had been denouncing. Bush considers it a great victory for his side. I hear people rationalizing Obama’s vote by saying it’s clever politics not to seem predictably liberal, but Obama’s base is very upset with him. This loss of nerve is the same kind of mistake Democrats made in the last two presidential elections, especially Kerry. Sometimes you have to call Fascism by its right name. I don’t know if Brazilians know that Bush’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, worked actively in an American bank to launder money for Hitler and the Nazi cause.
Hitler and Prescott Bush
Do you agree to Russell Banks’ assertion: ‘I have not seen an American politician awaken such excitement among young people since Bobby Kennedy in 1968; nobody since Bobby managed to motivate both rich and poor, blacks, whites, and Hispanics to join such an unprecedented coalition since Franklin Roosevelt’?
Yes, I do agree with it. I was a college student in 1968, when people like Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy were running for President on an anti-war platform. There were a lot of young people then, and now the children of the Baby Boomers also exist in great numbers. It’s the perfect time for the young to arrive on the scene, just as their grandparents, who were all too often susceptible to the appeal of racial and other identity divisions, are fading out of sight. Of course, we are worried about the safety of the candidate. We all know why the Kennedys and Martin Luther King were killed. It’s part of the reason a new coalition is necessary. Conservatives and Liberals alike recognize the problem of the military-industrial complex. Fifty-two percent of the U.S. budget goes to the military. If only ten percent went to health care, the people would be greatly served, as well as national economic interests.
How can someone make an Administration with that kind of coalition? What kind of economical politics will win the game among the supporters?
The major U.S. automakers will go out of business in five years if they don’t immediately respond to the need for high mileage, low emission cars. Green technology proves persuasive when gas is nearly $5 a gallon. The end of the old order is coming soon, because even traditionalists in the farmlands now see the impact of global warming. Agricultural products are the greatest single source of U.S. export wealth. When the crops fail due to floods and drought brought on by global warming, the game will be over for the Republican red state strategy. It’s already over. The new administration will make necessary compromises, and this will be persuasive to powerful interests like Big Oil. The shift will move away from the military-industrial nexus and toward the rebuilding of the country. No more Katrinas, no more failed bridges falling in Minneapolis, no more banking scandals (every Republican administration has one). There is now money to be made by doing the right thing.
Is Mr. Obama doing a withdrawal of US Army from Iraq really in 16 months?
There’s one big problem with Obama’s promise. Even when we stop fighting a war in Iraq, the U. S. will not abandon the four huge military bases it began building as soon as the country was occupied. Each of these bases houses 16,000 people. If you do an online search for “Iraq military bases,” you’ll see what I mean. This raises the question of how real Obama is. The U.S. now has military bases, often multiple bases, in 78 countries in the world. It is a relentless and ruthless world power, and the money it is spending to run the world is ruining the lives of its citizens. This is the first generation since WWII that the younger generation is expected to do worse than their parents, and it may be far worse. The country is in decline, because it has no moral standing and no concern for the well-being of its citizens. The oligarchy that runs it thinks globally, acts globally, and lives in gated communities. Why was Allende assassinated in Chile? Because Pepsi-Cola’s interests were threatened by nationalization. Things are pretty much the same today.
Allende at La Moneda in his death day
What do you expect from him regarding the crucial question of Cuba?
Obama will normalize relations with Cuba in his first term, and trade will begin.
What do you want him to do for the arts?
I hope for an ideal world in every area but this one. Our magazine stopped applying for government funds, city, state, or federal in the 1980s. I hope that funds go to all sorts of deserving and necessary groups, from dance groups to symphony orchestras. But the last thing a literary magazine needs is to spend time on building its own bureaucracy.
What is the legacy of George Walker Bush?
That’s an easy one: worst U. S. president in history. He can’t make a speech anywhere in the country without being attacked as a war criminal; that is, anywhere other than a military base. It will take years for the country to recover from his two terms in office.
Is a victory by McCain possible?
Unfortunately, yes. But the Democrats are now fully awakened to the situation and have learned how to raise money. Anything is possible with enough campaign money and a smart, well-organized candidate like Obama. McCain is very tired and easily irritated on the campaign trail. Even the fact that McCain is the Republican candidate shows how strong Obama is. McCain is as liberal as the Republicans can tolerate, and many Republicans are going to stay home during the next election, or vote for independent candidate Bob Barr. Ralph Nader is a potential spoiler for Obama, as he was for Gore in 2000. In the final analysis, the bitterness of the Bush experience is so high that, unless a major scandal falls at his feet, Obama is likely to win over 60% of the vote. Things can change quickly when the Republican noise machine begins working; thankfully, the Democrats have their own machines like MoveOn.org and the news team at MSNBC.
Will Latin America stay as the backyard of the US in a probable Obama administration?
The U. S. is unlikely to reduce its role as the watchdog of the Western Hemisphere, indeed of the world. At present, according to a web search we have 17 radar sites in Latin American and the Caribbean including Peru, Puerto Rico, and Columbia; “forward operating” permission to use bases in Ecuador, Aruba, Curaçao, and El Salvador; a major military outpost in Panama; Soto Cano Air Base in Palmerola, Honduras; and, of course, Guantanamo in Cuba, a major public relations and human rights disaster. The other aspect of U. S. interference and liability will be the use of certain parts of Latin America for low-wage manufacturing. The Monroe Doctrine still holds, that no rival will be allowed a foothold in the Western Hemisphere. It would be desirable for the CIA to stop overthrowing Latin American leaders at the behest of U. S. business institutions. At any rate, the idea that the U. S. is spreading freedom throughout the world has now been completely discredited under Bush. We are spreading political control and self-interest.
McCain used to say that Muslims will kill Americans under any conditions. Do you agree with this statement? Who are the real enemies of the US?
I don’t believe that Muslims as a whole are a threat to the U. S. or to Americans in general. But I would not feel safe to travel in Iraq right now. Remember the videotapes of Al Qaeda beheading Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter? It horrified the world to see that. But the men who beheaded him were fully masked, so we really don’t know for sure who was responsible. It’s quite possible that Al Qaeda and the so-called Islamist threat has been the creation of larger interests, in the absence of the Communist threat. Suddenly, following 1989, the U. S. had all these military bases and no excuse for occupying them. An enemy was desperately needed. So Paul Wolfowitz and the Neo-Cons came up with a game plan by which we could use fear of this largely imaginary enemy to further advance U. S. interests, especially in the Middle East; seize control of the world’s second largest oil reserves in Iraq; benefit global capitalism; and, quite significantly, advance the political position of Israel. Franklin Roosevelt said during the Great Depression, “All we have to fear is fear itself.” What we have to fear now is fear mongering by our own government. We have been told to fear Syria as a friend of Iran, and to fear Iran itself as nuclear power. But we send the Muslims our soldiers have captured in Iraq to be tortured at “black sites” in Syria, a Muslim country. The truth is that we have no major ideological rival. We have become our own worst enemy.
Paul Hoover’s blog