Political Hay

The Year of the Horny Politician

A seducer will say whatever it takes.

By 4.13.07

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The blogs buzz with discussions of the current crop of presidential aspirants on the Republican side. Who said what about guns, about abortion, about campaign finance reform? Who believed what, when? Who espoused what point of view at what stage of his political career, and who flip-flopped, and who said something stupid and indefensible? Who's on the knife-edge of conservative sympathy now, and who looks good?

When Al Gore named Joe Liebermann his running mate in the 2004 election, Joe Liebermann's principled positions -- more or less conservative positions -- on such things as affirmative action and school choice came under scrutiny. With a goofy grin on his face, Joe Lieberman cheerfully shoveled away all his former positions with both hands. He met with Maxine Waters and other panjandrums of liberalism. He kissed Al Sharpton's ring. He did everything but genuflect to the popes of left.

"Man, this guy is the horniest politician I've ever seen," said Chris Mathews on one of his broadcasts.

LET THE LUBRICIOUS, LUSCIOUS FIGURE of the presidency saunter by any career politician, and he's liable to go as crazy as a teenage boy in the presence of a budding cheerleader. One whiff of the dizzying rich perfume of that office can set the sanest veteran all a twitter. His face reddens. His tongue loosens. He'll say anything.

He will cast heavy, self-righteous sighs. He will declare himself "a lifelong hunter." He will say poor women have a right to tax-funded abortions. He will deplore cutting taxes "on the backs of the poor." He will forget where Poland is. He will look at his watch in the middle of a debate.

Just as in high school, the coolest guy will get the girl -- meaning, the guy who manages to keep his shoes tied, not spill gravy on his tie, and maintain a reasonably dignified manner of speech.

THOSE OF US IN THE COMMENTARIAT have to remember that the desire for office plays a far more important role than does ideology. Candidates will never pay as much attention to the niceties of policy as we do. Very few candidates run to prove a point, and those almost always lose -- see Theodore Roosevelt, John Anderson, Ralph Nader, and many another.

We find ourselves in the not-very-nice role of trying to trip up the cool, popular guys. It isn't any wonder that the public finds journalists even less attractive than politicians. Picking a candidate is like choosing a set of tennis grips. You can't have every shot, just the ones you can execute the best.

So we have to choose. There's Giuliani, a take-no-prisoners ball-buster who does what he wants, no matter what. There's Romney, a cool, experienced executive with no real national experience. There's the rock-ribbed patriot McCain with his carelessness of the Constitution. There's the unproven but telegenic and persuasive Fred Thompson with his easy, inspiring manner. But they'll all go goofy for the sake of the great girl.

Robert Duvall, as a production executive, had a fabulous line in the film, Network. Responding to criticism that his new news show was trashy, he bellowed, "I got a big, big-titted hit here!"

Picture Bill Clinton at the Arkansas State House on election night, 1992. The loudspeakers were blaring the Clintons' signature rock and roll tune, "Don't Stop Thinkin' About Tomorrow," by Fleetwood Mac. Bill and Hill were beaming from the balcony. If Bill Clinton hadn't been such a consummate political pro, he might have said something just like Robert Duvall's character.

He got the gorgeous girl, and he was about to do her ten ways from Sunday. You think he'd let any policy considerations get in the way?

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About the Author

Lawrence Henry writes every week from North Andover, Massachusetts.