The actor who played Cooter on Dukes of Hazzard is joining the ranks of spurned ex-wives and disillusioned Congressional staffers to emerge, still furious, from Newt Gingrich’s past.
Ben L. Jones, who played the dopey mechanic on the hit 1980s television show, served two terms in the Georgia House delegation between 1988 and 1992, losing to Gingrich in a comeback bid 1994. He brought ethics charges against Gingrich that same year, a step that led to Gingrich’s losing the speakership.
Jones is back on the Newt warpath because “people are calling me about it asking me questions,” he said.
Speaking from his home in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, Jones, who now has a rockabilly band and occasionally does political commentary on television and in print, reflected on Newt’s comeback.
“It speaks to his ambitions,” he said. “He is the most ambitious person I ever met. He would probably like to be emperor of the planet if there was such a position.”
Gingrich is a “demagogue” who “appeals to the worst in people, their fears,” Jones said. “If he were to become the President of the United States it would be disastrous to our country,” he said.
“It would be the worst thing politically to ever happen to our nation. He’s not worthy of the position,” he said.
Jones thinks this is partly because Gingrich is not “especially bright,” and partly because he’s “the most overrated public figure I’ve ever known.”
But though Newt “cannot be destroyed by conventional weapons,” Jones is not worried about his actually being the GOP candidate. For one thing, “he sort of peaked after this past week,” and for another, the “Republican elders are all starting to weigh in” in fear of Gingrich actually winning the nomination.
Those elders include Bob Dole, whom Jones ran into in the green room of Hardball a while back. “If you’d beaten that SOB” in 1994, Jones said Dole told him, “I might have been president.”
When he’s not trying to stop Newt, Jones said he prefers to focus on his show business career and the fact that Dukes of Hazzard recently celebrated its 33rd anniversary.
“Being Cooter’s a lot more fun than being a congressman running against Newt Gingrich,” he said.