Don't Judge Newt Gingrich for His ABBA Ring Tone

The 2012 presidential candidate uses ABBA's "Dancing Queen" as a ringtone.

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Republicans might still be mad at Newt Gingrich for some critical talk about Rep. Paul Ryan’s plans for Medicare (if you call "right-wing social engineering" critical talk). And surely there are Democrats still fuming at things Gingrich did as a congressman, not the least of which was taking control of the chamber away from Democrats for the first time in 40 years and becoming speaker. And then there are those moralists who have trouble with Gingrich’s ethical transgressions while he was in the House, or even with his affair with a staffer that occurred while he was lambasting former President Clinton for engaging in sexual activity with a White House intern.

[Vote now: Should Paul Ryan's budget plan become law?]

But please, don’t hate Newt because he likes ABBA.

Reporters following the 2012 presidential contender in Iowa learned an arguably embarrassing secret about Gingrich: His ringtone is "Dancing Queen."

OK, it’s kind of a stupid song. And it was kind of a stupid band—ridiculous costumes, vapid lyrics (and it’s not even clear the Swedish troupe understood what they were singing), and a high-fructose sugariness that threatens to inflict all of us with early-onset diabetes. But there’s a role for silly but catchy songs, and a ringtone is one of them—particularly when you’re in the midst of a crowded Republican primary field and trying to make peace with your party. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the GOP 2012 primary candidates.]

We all have our for-show tunes. If you call someone you’re hoping to date, you have jazz on in the background; an actual date might demand something more soulful. Invite your boss to dinner, and you might have something instrumental on the stereo. Drive your kids and their friends to a game, and you just might have something on that’s a bit more contemporary, just to prove you’re not a complete, out-of-touch dork.

But who among us has not given in to music that’s easy to play air guitar to, or to sing to while in the shower? Tom Cruise, in Risky Business, didn’t dance in his underwear to the soundtrack from La Boheme. Nostalgia is a powerful impetus, as well: Once, during one of Washington’s heavy snowstorms, I stayed up all night and ended up watching some made-for-cable-TV movie about the Partridge Family. I went online and bought some of the songs at 3 a.m. Only the next day, when I went for a walk, did I jerk my head in bafflement upon hearing David Cassidy signing, "I Think I Love You." It took me a minute to remember how it got there. Surely, middle-of-the-night music downloading is the cyber equivalent to drunk dialing—there should be a code you have to put in before you’re allowed to buy the songs. [See how Newt can win the GOP nomination.]

But they have a function, as Gingrich seems to understand. Just try running to even some of the best modern music; the beat doesn’t always work. ABBA and The Monkees and, yes, the Partridge Family, are great jogging bands. You just put your headphones on and hit the pavement.

And nobody has to know.

  • See a photo history of Newt Gingrich's career highlights.
  • Check out a slide show of the 2012 GOP primaries: Who's in and who's out.
  • See editorial cartoons about the 2012 GOP field.