Southern Politics

Enumerating his wife’s eccentric but endearing traits in the offbeat love song, In Spite of Ourselves, John Prine notes that “convict movies make her horny.” You know what they say about “different strokes.” Weddings have the same effect on an old friend of mine, although he claims said effect is completely neutralized if they play jazz at the reception.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

It’s fair to say that most of us have probably heard of some fairly weird “turn ons” in our day, but leave it to Newton Leroy Gingrich to come up with a new aphrodisiac. Apparently, it’s good old-fashioned patriotism that gets the job done for him down there, or so he told the Christian Broadcasting Network yesterday as he tried to explain his mid-1990s affair (with a woman 23 years his junior) that came at the same time he was giving one William Jefferson Clinton down the country for his carryings on with a certain Ms. Lewinsky. Gingrich’s take on his own rather hypocritical extramarital hook-up at that point is that, “partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country…I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.” I suppose this means that it was the surging “Morning in America” euphoria of the forthcoming Reagan Revolution that led him to dump the first Ms. Newt while she was reportedly recovering from cancer in 1980 because he was then carrying on with the woman who would later serve as Ms. Newt II until the crusading excitement of the 1994 “Contract with America” got his hormones to raging once again, spurring his illicit entanglement with the attractive blonde who is now – at least until the Tea Party’s superpatriotic fervor inevitably sets her hubby’s loins astir once more— Ms. Newt III.

Say what you will about this former history professor-turned-congressman-turned-Speaker-of-the-House-then-turned-out-of-the-House-altogether, he’s always danced to his own tune. I can’t help but wonder, however, whether this link between patriotic zeal and unleashed lust is entirely peculiar to Newt. I mean, there were those legendary sotto voce southern tales of out-of-wedlock “camp-meeting” babies sired at revival meetings where the almost palpable presence of the Holy Spirit apparently moved the exhilarated young brothers and sisters to slip off into the bushes and do some downright unGodly things. I can’t say I’ve actually ever heard of similar reactions even to Kate Smith’s overpowering rendition of “God Bless America,” although let’s face it, Kate’s era was the late 1940s and ’50s when most people were certain that sex was definitely an instrument of communist subversion. For my part, I can certainly say in all candor that, other than instigating a franctic search for the “mute” button, Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” doesn’t do a thing for me.

Still, I wonder if Newt hasn’t let a mighty big cat out of the bag here. Does the trend over the last generation or so toward having the national anthem rendered totally unrecognizable by the likes of Christina Aguilera have roots in concerns over a mass group-grope breaking out at the Super Bowl? Is there any truth to the rumor that Viagra actually started out as a little red, white and blue pill? By any chance, does Hugh Hefner have John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” playing on continuous loop in his boudoir? Or maybe all he needs is a jump-start from Elton Britt’s country classic, “There’s a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere.”

Speaking of Viagra and boudoirs, where does this leave the aforementioned Bubba Clinton? If horniness is a correlate of dedication to country, then, by golly, it’s time for those other guys on Mt. Rushmore to move over and make room for a real patriot.

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Jim Cobb

Jim Cobb

Jim Cobb teaches history at the University of Georgia, where he is B. Phinizy Spalding Distinguished Professor in the History of the American South. His most recent book is the South and America Since World War II (Oxford University Press, 2010) He has been known to blog at www.cobbloviate.com.