C'est la Vidal

Gore Vidal is tired of being searched. The first time it happened, on a January 8 flight from London to New York, authorities told the literary legend he was a random target. He found it annoying, because "you have to do a lot more holding your arms in the air than others do, and you don't get your boarding pass until the last minute." But the ritual seemed less random when it happened again on a flight from New York to L.A, and again on a flight back to New York.

Vidal, who is 76 and travels in a wheelchair, says the searches are a form of political harassment by the Bush administration, "which has a list of people they don't like."

So why him?

"I've said no for a long, long time to many public deeds committed by our various officers of government," he explains. Soon after 9-11, Vidal publicly denounced Bush as an illegally installed president using an illegitimate war on terror to destroy the last vestiges of our civil liberties. An essay to that effect was rejected by Vanity Fair, but is available in Vidal's new anthology, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Came to be So Hated (Nation Books).

So is the harassment part of a vast censorship campaign?

"I see it more as idle malice than as anything great and sinister," said Vidal, who seems to enjoy being a poster boy for the First Amendment. He ended a phone interview with the Voice by announcing that "a large white limo" had arrived to take him to Fox News.

A spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration, which oversees airline searches, did not respond to a request for comment.

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