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The Naked and the Red: Republicans Exposed

A Commentary by Froma Harrop

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Two is a coincidence, they say, but three is a trend. Hot body shots of three Washington politicians are all over the Internet. All three are of Republicans, and all three are men. Do we have a trend here or just a creepy coincidence?

The first exhibit is the 1982 Cosmopolitan magazine male centerfold featuring Scott Brown, the future U.S. senator from Massachusetts. In February, there emerged the sexy torso shot of Rep. Christopher Lee, from western New York state. He had sent it to a woman he "met" on Craigslist. Now, we have the June cover of Men's Health magazine starring a bare-chested Aaron Schock, the Republican rep from Peoria, Ill. A poll in The Huffington Post named Schock the "Hottest Freshman" in Congress. (He beat out Scott Brown.)

Political commentators of a serious vein might dismiss my observations as so much fluff -- a silly distraction from our lawmakers' heavy duties defending tax loopholes and killing health care reform. I would disagree. My male friends, no matter how ripped, don't go about parading their fabulous abs for anything other than comical effect. And if they have high corporate jobs, they don't even do that.

Perhaps by year 2054, politicians will routinely include nude layouts in their campaign literature. But by the most libertine standards of 2011, nakedness not tied to swimming -- even if just waist up -- smacks of exhibitionism. Something sociological is going on here.

Do note that these three cases differ in significant ways. Lee's was the most evil. He sent a staring-you-in-the-eye photo of his well-developed hairy chest while casing Craigslist for available women. He claimed to be 39, not his real 47, and said he was divorced, which he definitely is not (as of this writing, anyway). "I will not disappoint," he promised. When the picture crashed the news, Lee immediately resigned from the House.

Scott Brown's photo predated his entrance into politics. What also sets him apart from other Republican male peelers is that we see a lot more of him. He's just short of the full monty, actually.

Brown insists that he took the Cosmo gig to help pay for law school. (Guess there were no jobs scooping ice cream or painting houses in the Boston area.)

Later on, Brown worked as a model. Truth is, he looked darn good both in a tux and out of one, and he seems to be in a long, stable marriage. But face it: This man likes to display himself.

Schock's photo seems the most innocent. Men's Health is a physical fitness magazine, and the cover shows the youngest House member showing off his six-packs in a generally straightforward way, even though his pants are slung real low.

Also circulating, however, is another picture of Schock sitting by a pool in red bathing trunks, a devilish glint in his eye and a buxom woman leaning over his head. The photo has reportedly gone viral in gay circles. Almost 30, Schock is unmarried and, for the record, says he's straight.

So what's going on here? Here is my take: There's a macho strain in the Republican Party that some politicians use as license to publicly flaunt their sexuality (and for men, exploit the aphrodisiac of power) in service to pleasures of the flesh. Politicians of both parties cheat on their wives, but Republicans seem to advertise -- not that they don't have the goods.

Ah, these male gods. The Greek statue room has nothing on the Republican aisle of Congress.

The GOP Hunks of 2012 Calendar still has eight unclaimed months. Can hardly wait for Mr. April.

COPYRIGHT 2011 THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL CO.

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