I recently sat down to interview Rick Perry, just before his bold 'Strong' campaign video took the internet by storm. Having seen a sneak preview, I asked him what his policy was for homosexuals in the military.
"Oh, ah'll kick them all out, of course. It's no place for that kind of thing, the military should be a place where men can be men, not forced to... I don't know... make daisy chains or whatever. Homosexuals, they can act as a distraction." The governor was still a little reluctant, a bit withdrawn. "I mean, how's a man supposed to relax in the shower when he doesn't know who could be checking him out? It just ain't civilized, that's what it ain't."
"But surely, the same should apply to women in the military?" I asked.
At this point Perry became more animated, and leaned towards me, putting his hand on my knee.
"Absolutely. Abs-o-lute-lee! And you know what? You know what my plan for fixing that problem is?"
I shook my head.
"Ban ugly women from the military."
"Ban... I'm sorry, what?"
"Ban ugly women from the military. One of the accusations thrown at me is that I have something against the gay community. I don't. I do not! I consider their lifestyle an abomination and, as a Christian, know that they'll burn in hell for all eternity, but I have nothing against them."
We were sat before a log fire in Perry's home, a setting that gave an atmospheric sense of the all-American manhood Governor Perry wishes to defend.
"Now, the experts have argued that having homosexuals in the military is a bad idea - after all, what are you supposed to do when they fall in love with you? It'd be awkward, and things could get all...icky...you know what I mean? I know that's not something I'd want to experience! And the same has to be true - has to be true! - with ugly women."
The governor gripped my leg more tightly, binding us together before the firelight, clearly excited by what he was saying.
"If beautiful women check you out, that's good! But no-one wants an ugger coming on to them, you know?" He laughed, a large, bold, rugged American laugh, the kind of laugh that frontiersmen like Jonny Appleseed would have laughed.
I thought about what he had said for a while, while Perry looked at me expectantly and excitedly, with those puppy-dog eyes of his. "But surely, that's wrong to discriminate in that way?" I said finally.
"Discriminate?" Perry leant back into his chair. "You sound like one of those pansy ass liberals. I thought you were a real American, Joe. Do you even like walking around in fields with horses?"
"Well, erm, yes, of course I am... and do..." I was quite flustered at this point. "Are you familiar with the Sacred Band of Thebes? Plato argued that an army made up of lovers would fight more intensely for each other, and the Theban commander Gorgidas...."
"I don't like all this fancy talk about the Secret Band of Phoebe," interrupted Perry. "I'm a simple man, with simple pleasures. All I know, is that the army is overseas to protect our nation's interests, not to give each other anal." Perry moved back towards me, grabbing hold of my leg again, this time the inside of my thigh. "In fact, my big idea," he leant forward, whispering to me conspiratorially, "is to abolish friendship in the military."
I looked deep into his eyes, barely two feet away.
"I'm sorry Mr. Governor, but I don't follow."
"Think about it! The argument that's been made is that being among the gays can be a distraction. Well, what about card games with the fellas, or random hijinks? My plan," he paused, and smiled a smile of personal pride at this point, "is to get rid of all the team-building exercises and the like, get them focused totally on their jobs."
"So...so you want an army of of amoral killing machines?"
"Absolutely!" He squeezed my leg tightly and grinned maniacally. "Just think how effective our military would be then!"