PHILADELPHIA — Sex scandals that have rocked all portions of our government in recent years have spurred a lot of talk on the campaign trail about getting back to the principles of our nation's Founding Fathers.
That sentiment may change if people read the new book, "One Nation Under Sex," by Larry Flynt and historian David Eisenbach, because men such as Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson would make Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer and Arnold Schwarzenegger seem like choirboys, and the partisan press of their era would make the tabloids of today read like children's books.
Flynt and Eisenbach, however, are not concerned about simply getting under the covers, or hiding in the closets, of the White House. Their book deals with how the private lives of politicians have affected the nation's public policies - how Franklin's womanizing helped the colonists gain the support of France, how President James Buchanan's alleged homosexuality helped bring about the Civil War, how Franklin Roosevelt's affair(s) forced shy wife Eleanor out of her shell to become one of the great first ladies.
Of course, there are whole chapters on Clinton and the Kennedys (according to the authors, John Kennedy said that he would get migraines if he didn't have sex with different women and brother Bobby Kennedy had an affair with Jackie after the president's death).
Flynt, the pornographer and activist, said in an interview earlier this month that he has always been interested in politics and that, when he was talking with his publisher about a book on the subject, the publisher "suggested I do it in a historical context."
He found a kindred spirit in Eisenbach, a Columbia University professor who created and hosted the History Channel program "The Beltway Unbuckled."
Flynt said their book is especially timely now, because with today's partisan anger fighting for control of the nation's agenda, "It's a lot like it was during the Revolution" when the Hamilton-led Federalists waged heated private and public battles with the Jefferson-led Republicans.
A primary topic of their disagreements? The role of the federal government in the nation's banking system.
During the early days of the country, the press played an active role going after politicians (the newspapers generally were in the pocket of one side or the other), but after a while such unseemly gossip-mongering gave way to the press protecting presidents (and athletes, movie stars, etc.). Everyone in the White House press corps knew who was having affairs - they just kept quiet. These days, it's again open season.
But such behavior has been going on forever with powerful men - "They have huge egos and need to be fed by sexual conquest," Flynt said - and voters would be silly to think it's ever going to stop.
Or that it should.
"Americans need to adopt one simple rule," the authors write. "Don't trust anyone who dedicates his or her life to stomping out other people's consensual sexual activities - it is pretty much guaranteed that lurking behind all the antisex zealotry are deep-seated sexual issues."