By Debbie Siegelbaum - 05/16/11 10:50 PM EDT
Publisher Larry Flynt loves uncovering a good scandal, and his new book — One Nation Under Sex: How the Private Lives of Presidents, First Ladies and Their Lovers Changed the Course of American History — proves our nation’s past is fraught with them.
The author, civil liberties advocate and Democratic Party contributor, known best as the founder of Hustler magazine, revealed to The Hill his thoughts on political indiscretions, changing roles for women and what he sees in store for the GOP.
Q: Why did you decide to write this book now?
For over 30 years, I’ve been outing corrupt politicians, usually involving sex scandals. I thought it would be interesting to go back to the days of our Founding Fathers and find out if these same scandals existed. And they did, just as intense. And they were used in some of their early campaigns against them. So it took two years. My co-author, David Eisenbach — he’s a history professor at Columbia. He worked with me on it, and we did exhaustive research … We established in the book how many of these first ladies, mistresses, lovers have actually affected both domestic and foreign policy. That’s very important. When you think of presidents having affairs, you don’t necessarily think about whomever he’s having an affair with affecting foreign policy, but it’s happened.
Q: Such as?
One recent example is Bill Clinton. In 1997, he wanted to go after al Qaeda and [Osama] bin Laden, and there was so much heat on him over the [Monica] Lewinsky scandal, everyone said, “You’ve got to stay away from it. They’re going to accuse you of wagging the dog.”
Q: Do you think uncovering sex scandals adds to the public discourse, or distracts us — and politicians — from the issues?
[Sex] is so intertwined in the fabric of our culture, something that has that strong an effect on people, you can’t get away from it. But it puts politicians in a different category. Most politicians have huge egos. They have to feed that ego, usually with conquests of young women, and we’ve seen it time and time again. And it’s just the ones we were able to find out about — who knows what goes on that we’re not able to find out about? … I would like to see people be willing to accept the fact that it plays such an enormous part in our lives. And just because somebody has a mistress doesn’t mean they’re not a good politician. And I’m the first guy to defend a philandering president, because I think if you can fight two wars and balance the budget at the same time, you should be able to sleep with whomever you want to.
Q: What about a female president in the White House?
I find that women in many cases are much better managers than men. … Many have stepped up to the plate in the business world, and it makes me feel a lot better. I’ve always been bothered my whole life that women work for about 75 percent of what a man gets paid. I always think that’s so unfair. We need things to be more equitable. So when you see women getting promoted, especially to a top position, when you see them sitting on the board of directors, that’s very encouraging. You know, there are a lot of foreign countries out there that have female leaders: Brazil, Germany, a lot of them.
Q: Are there any GOP presidential candidates in 2012 that you would like to see get the nomination because of the potential for scandal?
You know, that’s the Republicans’ problem. They don’t have anybody. There’s an old political saying, “You can’t beat somebody with nobody.” The Republicans need to find a smart, charismatic guy within the system to run against Obama if they have any kind of chance at all. And I don’t see them moving in that direction. People like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, [Mike] Huckabee and [Newt] Gingrich — those people aren’t going anywhere. It’s a sideshow, that’s what it is.
Q: Any thoughts on fellow mogul Donald Trump?
This guy will lie when the truth sounds better. Anything he says, just divide by two. … He makes statements that have no foundation, and he’s always reminding people what his net worth is, what a smart guy he is, how he went to the best schools. I’m always wary when people start bragging about themselves like that. I am very, very wary.