One indication political discourse in this country is about as sophisticated as Jeff Foxworthy's humor is the endless series of articles we are bound to see between now and next year on the theme: "Is America ready for a (fill in the blank) president?" The blank could be woman, black, Mormon, over-the-hill Republican or some category still to be named by those otherwise unemployable pundits who dream up such useless cants.
The question we are not likely to see is whether America is ready for a gay or lesbian president. (Though there will be innuendos about Hillary.)
A more interesting, or at least amusing, query is: Which of our past presidents were in the closet? Statistics tell us that out of the 41 men who held the office before George W. Bush, at least four were likely of the same-sex persuasion.
Exhaustive research, followed by analysis of reams of evidence by a Tucson Weekly supercomputer kept in a secret location, reveals the truth. In our never-ending quest for the story behind the story, we had Charlie, the math wiz on television's Numb3rs, create an algorithm specifically for such emotion-laden matters. The results are irrefutable: The statistics are wrong. Nor four, but five past presidents kept their gayitude under wraps.
Working backwards (no pun intended) from most recent to earliest, consider the illustrious Richard Milhous Nixon. Everyone knows suspicions about long-time FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's sexual orientation are as plentiful as Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories; lesser known is the clandestine relationship between Dickie and J. Edgar. While the nation's attention was diverted by the sideshow of dreaded communists subverting our most sacred institutions of government, the two were busy arguing over the finer points of underwire bras. After Hoover's death, Nixon hinted at the relationship when he called Hoover his "closest personal friend in public life."
Like Nixon, Warren Gamaliel Harding's White House tenure was marked by scandals. Lucky for him, they merely involved corrupt and greedy members of his administration and not his sexual orientation. The Weekly's supercomputer points to his lack of children and reputed position as his mother's favorite child as incontrovertible proof of his gayhood. And there's one more thing: Harding owned a newspaper before becoming president and entrusted his wife, Florence, to manage the business. Rumor has it Florence spanked the newsboys when they were late with deliveries. Our computer tells us that wasn't the only spanking going on.
While there's no evidence our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, was a fan of corporal punishment, his confirmed melancholy indicates a tortured life wrestling with the demons of his repressed sexuality. While Pat Nixon and Florence Harding likely knew of their husbands' predilections and went along, Mary Todd probably only suspected her husband was gay. Since she could hardly "convert" him, she could at least make his life miserable, and this, she did, nagging him into depression. And while the official line on Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, is that he was a nutjob angry over the South's loss of the Civil War; the truth is, the handsome actor was Lincoln's secret lover and became enraged when Honest Abe failed to tell naggy Mary the truth about their relationship upon finishing that pesky business of saving the Union.
James Buchanan also failed to come clean about his long relationship with William Rufus de Vane King, whom he roomed with when both men came to Washington as senators. Earlier in his life, Buchanan had been romantically linked with Ann Coleman, and the two planned to wed. But Ann broke the engagement, and in a moment of operatic excess, committed suicide, reputedly after confirming rumors that he had been cavorting with other women. Our computer tells us those rumors involved men, and Annie simply couldn't handle it. Some reports mention letters Buchanan promised would reveal the truth about his broken engagement, but just before he died, the 15th president ordered the letters be destroyed.
The dandy Millard Fillmore and his wife, Abigail, were the first to actively gayify the White House. Fillmore was known for his love of fashion (an early Queer Eye), and his wife was responsible for the creation of the first permanent library in the White House. The couple also encouraged their offspring's musical talents. Fancy clothes, books and a shared love of music: Can anything be gayer than that?
Maybe years from now, when Americans are all grown-up and figure out the only relevant question is how well someone can do the job, we won't be subjected to idiotic speculation such as, "Is America ready for ... ?"