You wrote that Hunter reminded the American public that we are supposed to have high expectations for our leaders, maybe even impossibly high expectations. Do you think the American public, today, views their leaders in that way?
I think there is a lot of idealism. I think a lot of what Occupy is is disappointed idealism. A lot of the people who thought, in Hunter terms, that Obama was the "Great Shark" who was going to come and right all the wrongs. And then they realized that he was very much, for all his good qualities, a conventional Democratic party politician, and all the negatives that that comes with. I think people were extremely disappointed, and that's why they're all out on the streets right now. There's a tremendous cynicism embedded in mainstream American politics right now, where people who are in Washington and live on Capitol Hill really don't think they have any obligation to be truly honest. They think that everything is a compromise. They've lost touch with what people actually want. And they really do want somebody who is idealistic.

That's how Obama seemed to win the last election.
Exactly. People have this image of him as somebody who had beliefs and, more than anything, stood for a certain kind of decency and intellectual sincerity, and it turned out that he mostly wasn't that. I think that's a lot of what prompted Occupy. That, and the continuing corruption and financial mess. But more than anything, it was that. Because a lot of those same people were out there in 2008, you see the same faces now.

Is there anyone today that's writing who could be viewed in the same way as he was?
No. Forget about journalism, we just haven't even had a writer like that. When was the last time everybody in this country was talking about a novel? I think his books were the last books like that. Even going back to before then, the '30s and '40s and '50s, there was always something that captured the public imagination, whether it was Catch 22 or Catcher in the Rye, we just sort've stopped having that. I think his books were among the last that seized the public imagination and became the focal point of the debate. Part of that is because people don't read as much, people have shorter attention spans, and television is so dominant. But, it's also, we just don't have that type of writer.

Rolling Stone Contributing Editor Matt Taibbi
Rolling Stone Contributing Editor Matt Taibbi

Do you think it's more a product of the culture we live in, or not having that writer?
I think it's both. I think if that writer existed, he'd have an audience. But we don't.

What do you think Thompson would say about Obama?
I think he'd be disappointed. I think he would've liked him at first. I think he would've wanted to believe in him. Obama would've been his McGovern in '08. And I think he would've been disappointed afterwards. I hope. That's my impression. He went through that cycle with a number of politicians, I guess Carter comes to mind. He really liked Carter at first, but then he got turned off to Carter over time. His tendency was to fall in love with politicians and then fall out of love after he got a good look at them.

That's what happens with everyone, it seems. We love 'em all, but then...
Right. That's the trick, though. You have to hold up under scrutiny. What's been so disappointing about these guys is that they don't even try. It's one thing to fail, but they didn't particularly try very hard. Somebody like Obama who had such an incredible opportunity to be that person, and he wasn't him.

Does that fall more on Obama or the political climate?
Ah, well, it's probably both. But I just always think about things where people say, on the finance front, "Oh, he doesn't understand this material. He has to trust his advisors. So that's why he's doing this and that." On the other hand, he's a constitutional lawyer and, with the Guantanamo Bay stuff, the rendition policies, drone attacks, all those things, he knows the difference between what's legal and what's not legal, what's constitutional and what's not constitutional, and he never put up a fight about it and he expressly said he would when he was campaigning. It's not like, you know, he tried to fight the good fight and he couldn't overcome the bureaucracy in Washington. There just was never a fight. He never tried. That's got to be on him.

If he wins, do you think he'll be tougher?
People always say that, but I don't know. I'm not going to hold my breath for that. If he didn't do it his first term... I mean, I just don't see it as a manner of strategy. These are moral absolutes. It's not right to assassinate innocent people. It's not right to jail people without due process. And he just did it. Whether it's good strategy or not, whether he has political reason to do it or not, he did it.

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