I don’t know how long this link will be free (NY Times charges for their archives) but it is such a good interview, I’ll reprint it here:
Now that the country is awash in Reagan nostalgia, some observers are predicting that you will enter politics. Would you like to be president of the United States?
I would be unelectable. I’m an atheist. As we all know, that is something people won’t accept.
What would you do if Senator Kerry asked you to be his vice president?
I would question his sanity.
Do you ever go to church?
No. I visit my wife’s sangha.
So you sometimes practice Buddhism?
I don’t claim anything. But my sympathies would be in that direction. I admire the fact that the central core of Buddhist teaching involves mindfulness and loving kindness and compassion.
Your father has been eulogized as a model of genuineness. But did you see any schism between his public and private selves?
In private, you got what you got in public. He treated everyone the same. He was just a very warm man, and he worked hard to impress upon his children the value of kindness. He was biologically incapable of gossip. There was no smallness in him.
Do you think you were a thorn in his side during his presidency?
But you and Patti were constantly getting into trouble. Didn’t she later pose nude for Playboy?
I never really talked to Patti about it. She said that she had done it, and what do you say to your sister who poses in the nude? It’s not like you are really itching to see photographs of your sister naked. I mean, it’s just something that is not too exciting.
How did your father react when you joined the Joffrey Ballet?
That was fine with him. He wanted us to be happy, and if that meant leaving Yale University as a freshman and studying ballet, his first move was to call Gene Kelly and find out where the best place to study would be.
Do you and your wife, Doria, have children?
No. We have three cats. It’s like having children, but there is no tuition involved.
Aren’t you working in television these days?
I am a correspondent for MSNBC. They hired me primarily to do election coverage for them. We’re not rich. Doria’s a clinical psychologist. I mow my own lawn.
Doesn’t your mom help you out financially?
Of course not. My father felt that children should make their own way.
How do you account for all the glowing obituaries of him?
I think it was a relief for Americans to look at pictures of something besides men on leashes. If you are going to call yourself a Christian — and I don’t — then you have to ask yourself a fundamental question, and that is: Whom would Jesus torture? Whom would Jesus drag around on a dog’s leash? How can Christians tolerate it? It is unconscionable. It has put our young men and women who are over there, fighting a war that they should not have been asked to fight — it has put them in greater danger.
Did you vote for Bush in the last election?
No. I did not.
How did your mother feel about being ushered to her seat by President Bush?
Well, he did a better job than Dick Cheney did when he came to the rotunda. I felt so bad. Cheney brought my mother up to the casket, so she could pay her respects. She is in her 80’s, and she has glaucoma and has trouble seeing. There were steps, and he left her there. He just stood there, letting her flounder. I don’t think he’s a mindful human being. That’s probably the nicest way I can put it.
How serious is your mother’s glaucoma?
I don’t know the specifics. She can still see. You may have noticed that she was wearing large glasses at one point.
She seemed very moved by the tributes to your father.
I have to say that flying on Air Force One sort of spoils you for coach on a regular airline. They did all sorts of little things that were very nice for my mother. They put towels with my father’s monogram in the
No, cloth! Burgundy terry towels.
Wow. Why can’t they run the United States with that kind of efficiency?
That’s a good question. One thing that Buddhism teaches you is that every moment is an opportunity to change. And we will have a moment in November to make a big change.