At 71, Bob Dylan is still a rascal and sly as a fox. In his latest interview with left-wing music rag Rolling Stone, he never takes the bait despite repeated attempts by his interviewer, Mikal Gilmore, to reel him in. Gilmore seems determined to get Dylan to endorse President Obama's bid for re-election, which the mag is actively promoting, and to agree with those on the left that all criticism of our 44th Commander-In-Chief is rooted in racism. After a lengthy rant about the Civil War ("It was suicidal. Four years of looting and plunder and murder done the American way") and slavery ("[T]he United States burned and destroyed itself for the sake of slavery"), Dylan is asked if he thought the election of Obama signaled a "shift" or "sea change" in the country.
"I don't have an opinion on that," Dylan says then states an opinion: "You have to change your heart if you want to change."
What about the reaction against Obama? Is racism to blame?
"They did the same thing to Bush, didn't they? They did the same thing to Clinton, too, and Jimmy Carter before that. . . Anybody who's going to take that job is going to be in for a rough time."
But Obama's been called a socialist, un-American . . .
"Eisenhower was accused of being un-American. And wasn't Nixon a socialist? Look what he did in China. They'll say bad things about the next guy, too."
Gilmore keeps pushing, trying to get Dylan to agree that racism could be the only reason for anyone to criticize the left's beloved Obama. "The point I'm making is perhaps lingering American resentments about race are resonant in the opposition to President Obama, which has not been a quiet opposition," he says.
Dylan: "You mean in the press? I don't know anybody that's personally saying this stuff that your'e just saying. The press says all kinds of stuff. I don't know what they would be saying. Or why they would be saying it. You can't believe what you read in the press anyway."
So, what does Dylan think of Obama who he met at least twice, most recently when receiving the Medal of Freedom at the White House?
"What do I think of him? I like him . . . He loves music. He's personable. He dresses good. What the f--- do you want me to say?"
Gilmore dredges up a comment that Dylan made on election night 2008 from the stage of the University of Minnesota. Noticing the Obama button on bassist Tony Garnier, Dylan said, "Tony likes to think it's a brand-new time right now. An age of light. Me, I was born in 1941 - that's the year they bombed Pearl Harbor. Well, I been living in a world of darkness ever since." Dylan then made a remark that strikes me as sarcastic: "But it looks like things are gonna change now."
Dylan: "I don't know what I said or didn't say . . . whatever was said, it was said for people in the hall that night. . . It wasn't said to be played on a record forever. . . You say things sometimes, you don't know what the hell you mean. But you're sincere when you say it."
And on it goes. Dylan is the absolute master when it comes to giving interviews in which nothing is revealed except the subject's disinterest in such interrogations.
© 2012 Brian W. Fairbanks
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