Tammy Wynette injected the only note of reality into the race for the Democratic nomination, when she lashed out at Governor Clinton’s wife for saying she was not “some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.” Knowing nothing of country music—or of the country itself—the established press was quick to ridicule Wynette and quote the lyrics of “Stand By Your Man” as evidence against her. As usual, they got everything wrong. “Stand By Your Man” was not a paean to feminine, nonresistance but an anthem of loyalty. “But if you love him, you’ll forgive him, even though he’s hard to understand.”
The name for this sort of relationship used to be marriage, and it worked both ways. Loyalty did not include, for example, putting up with a tomcat who only comes home for R&R, and Tammy did not shrink from throwing husband George Jones out of her life. Unhappily, it has been the reckless and irresponsible Jones who has emerged as the most consistently satisfying singer in country music, if only because he has the best taste in picking songs that seem to comment on his own hapless existence.
George Bush, give the devil his due, understands some of this, and the President has for years pretended to an interest in country music, going so far as to attend last year’s CMA ceremony. Real people with votes—as opposed to drug addicts, boat people, and worldwide victims of discrimination—real people like country music and take it far more seriously than they do politicians. If Bill Clinton and the wife who only under pressure agreed to be called Mrs. Clinton don’t understand that, then they and their party are doomed to sit out another four years whining about the State of the Union Address of a Yalie who has learned how to wear flannel shirts, drop the g’s off his participles, and feign an affection for Merle and Randy and Jones. They know it’s as phony as a speech by Peggy Noonan, but you can’t help being flattered when the President of the world pretends to be an American.