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October 19, 2003 Other Mail

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Real men.  The only ones.  Republicans.  Dean and Clarke and the rest don't even have a chance....



I found a little something from the Wall Street Journal's daily web comments - "Opinion Journal" - regarding George Bush and Arnold Shwarzenegger who met face to face this last week out here in Southern California.  When I mentioned it to my friends it set off a flurry of email back and forth. 


You will find the specific comment at http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110004188 - and it is from James Taranto, the fellow who provides the Journal's commentary on the news and who is saying what about the news.   There is no answer to this.  And Bush has a lock on the next election, if Taranto is right.  He's onto something.  Taranto cites a previous opinion column in the Wall Street Journal.


"Jay Nordlinger was right on the money when he described the GOP as the manly party. The serene masculinity of the president and the governor-elect is especially appealing when compared with the other party, which is desperate to prove its manhood by fielding a presidential candidate who's served in uniform."


The Jay Nordlinger article mentioned above is contains curious items - "In Iowa a group of Hell's Angels rode into town, and Goernor Bush simply waded into them, hugging them, bonding with them, relishing them. Not every American politician could manage this, without affectation.:  Not just Bush but, "Donald Rumsfeld is almost a riot of manliness. ... Women of all sorts were open about their attraction to him."


The Jay Nordlinger article in full is Political Virility: Real men vote RepublicanWall Street Journal  Wednesday, September 17, 2003  URL: http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110004188


Here's more of what Nordlinger says

Many years ago Chris Matthews - now famous on TV - hit on an interesting formulation: He said the Democrats were the "mommy party" and the Republicans the "daddy party." That is, the Democrats were "nurturers," concerned with health policy and day care. The Republicans were "protectors," taking care of national security and other manly matters. This notion is obviously galling to some. But Mr. Matthews was on to something, and we now find ourselves in a "daddy party" time.


Republicans have seldom shied from an embrace of manliness. The New York Times recently ran a report on the new Bush re-election headquarters. It explained that the offices display two large photos: one of President Bush "sweating and looking rugged in a T-shirt and cowboy hat"; another of Ronald Reagan "also looking rugged in a cowboy hat." And all this was before Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to run for governor of California. Yup, that's the Republican Party.


Of course, George W. Bush is famous for his "compassionate conservatism." He is capable of great tenderness of expression, much of it related, no doubt, to his triumph over alcohol and his religious awakening. But Bush as hombre has been the dominant theme of his post-September 11 presidency.

I think you can see where this is going.

Mr. Bush's personality grates on some.  On many.  He is accused of machismo, belligerence, cowboyism.  For Europeans, in particular - and for European-like Americans - he is the very model of the swaggering, heedless, vulgar right-winger.  He said he wanted bin Laden "dead or alive."  About Saddam holdouts in Iraq, he declared, "Bring 'em on" - meaning, our boys are ready to confront them. This prompted a hue and cry among Mr. Bush's critics. As the Washington Post's Dana Milbank commented, "It's the sort of thing that sounds pretty shocking," although "often this sort of Old West rhetoric appeals to the American people."

Nordlinger of course has to explain the toughness as appropriate:

The last couple of years have been replete with Bush toughness - tough talk, tough action, toughness in a tough job. "They've got a problem on their hands," he said of the terrorists. "We're gonna find 'em. And if they're hidin', we're gonna smoke 'em out. And we'll bring 'em to justice."  


He can be cocky, certainly - sort of defiant-cocky, righteous-cocky.  In March 2002, he told an audience, "Obviously, as you well know, we found some of them [the terrorists] bunched up in the Shahikote Mountains [of Afghanistan]. And we sent our military in. And they're not bunched up anymore."  Badda-bing.

The Nordlinger goes on to talk about the vice president, Cheney, as the "daddy politician  a laconic Westerner, exuding an aura of competence, strength and dependability. You get the feeling that things are going to be all right if Mr. Cheney is on the case. Like his boss, he talks straight, in matter-of-fact tones."


In addition to Nordlinger claiming women swoon over Donald Rumsfeld, he says, "Rumsfeld is, in fact, a throwback: to a time of crewcuts, stiff upper lips and moral clarity. He seems a character out of a World War II flick. Bill Clinton, by contrast, was more a Richard Gere kind of leader. Where Mr. Clinton feels pain, Mr. Rumsfeld is more likely to inflict it - on the country's enemies."


The whole point Nordlinger is making is that since September 11, many Americans have rediscovered the virtues of manliness in office. The Democrats have a job to do if they're to challenge the "daddy party" in this respect.


From my attorney friend on Wall Street I received this: "So all liberals are wimps, eh?  Good.  I'm damn proud of my wimpishness!"


So I goaded him back with this:

Ah, a real man wouldn't have uttered that last thought.  Someday someone will ask you where YOU were when it was time for this country to kick ass.  Regime change - Afghanistan and Iraq done, Cuba in the sites, Iran next then Syria, then Venezuela - is not for sissies.  The message is that there is no room here for touchy-feely folks who prefer talk and compromise.  So what are you going to do about it?  Be one of the Dean folks who talk about taking back the country?  Or what?

From Rick Brown in Atlanta I got this:

I agree with Nordlinger.

It goes along with my theory a while back, expressed here, about conservatives being combative competitors, while liberals are non-competitive cooperators. (It also explains why Ann Coulter always postures like a man. She's a tomboy and the last thing she wants to be is "one of the girls."  If you listen to what she says, there isn't that much thought in there that you can counter on an intellectual level, just bluster and challenging whether you, the listener, have the guts to turn off your brain and take what all the popular kids know is the tough path to victory.)

So why do I, a genuine guy, tend to vote democrat?  Maybe I'm not interested in impressing the guys, that I like girls more than I do boys?


Or maybe at some point, I became a grownup, retiring my cowboy hat after Hoppy died.

But most likely, it's that I dont want my country being run by someone who fits in that well with the Hell's Angels. I just think guys trying too hard to be guys aren't as good at running countries, which requires some level of thought, as they are at running motor cycle gangs, which only requires putting up a tough-guy front.

And from Bonnie in Boston this:

Speaking as a woman who loves men, this conversation sounds like real men talking!

For my money, the Bushies are unevolved males, stuck in the macho strut of late adolescence.  Clinton, perhaps, was our first feminist president, in that he tended to be more of a cooperator than a competitor.

The way I see it, collaboration and cooperation are necessary evolutionary behaviors if we are to survive on the planet.  And by we, I mean as many of us as possible, in all our various complexions and cultures.

Guys like Bush and Saddam retard our collective development.

Brotherhood is powerful, too

Well, I'm almost afraid to pass along what Frank Rick had to say in today's New York Times.  His piece is The right rides the Rat Pack revival from the Sunday, October 19th issue (it also appeared a day earlier in the Saturday International Herald Tribune).  URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/19/arts/19RICH.html - and it is amazing, even if it appears in the Arts section where Rich writes on entertainment and the media.


Just some samples:

Rush Limbaugh trades cigar boxes stuffed with cash for his fixes of "baby blues" in Palm Beach. Bill Bennett bets everything but the milk money on the slots in sex-drenched Vegas. A Kennedy-by-marriage movie-star-turned-governor freely admits to a "rowdy" past of soundstage gropings in Hollywood.


Ring-a-ding-ding! The Rat Pack is back! This is good news for the right, if not necessarily the United States.


... this year the right seems to have finally found its place in the klieg lights. It has not only chosen to countenance (and then some) pill-popping, gambling, boorish womanizing, seamy show-biz glitz and the Kennedy mythos - it has done so at the exact moment that the Rat Pack spirit is resurgent in the culture as a whole. While the Rat Pack belonged to the '60s, too, it belonged to the early, pre-Beatles, pre-Vietnam '60s - the conservative '60s. It's just the kind of hedonism that fits this moment - "swanky nightspots, sharp outfits, neat haircuts, stiff drinks and cigarette packs free of Surgeon General's Warnings," in the summation of Shawn Levy's nostalgic history, "Rat Pack Confidential."  ...


On the right-wing editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, the celebration of the Rat Pack revival's cultural values began on the Schwarzenegger victory night. "He's cool," wrote the paper's deputy editorial page editor, Daniel Henninger, in his mash note to Arnold. "It looks as if the first party to get totally wired-in to a mega-celebrity is, incredibly, the GOP. Something weirdly attractive was coming off the Schwarzenegger camp's victory stage on TV 'round about midnight Tuesday."


To make his case, he swooned over Maria Shriver, Jay Leno's "funny introduction," Rob Lowe, Eunice and Sargent Shriver and "a sea of young, attractive faces." Somehow, Henninger missed Gary Busey, but never mind. "Liberal pundits will mock this scene unmercifully," his essay concluded, "but in terms of mass-market politics it was as hip as any politician could ever hope for." Mock this erotic fantasy? Coming from the same editorial page that devoted years to tut-tutting about the whereabouts of Clinton's penis?


Not me. The scene on that stage, as Henninger writes, is just too hip, too totally, incredibly wired. If Arnold strikes some Rat Pack purists as a faint echo of Peter Lawford's immigrant origins, dubious father and Kennedy connection, his movie career and sexual exploits both literally and figuratively outstrip those of his predecessor. Nor can anyone doubt that Leno, the official Schwarzenegger toastmaster, is a late-night wit on an uncanny par with his antecedent, Joey Bishop.


If only Limbaugh had found a way to join the election night tableau, it would have been complete: As we know from his brief but memorable run as a commentator on ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown," he can be more out of it than Sammy Davis, the candy man himself.


For Republicans with long memories, the party's new affection for Rat Pack naughtiness must feel like coming home.  ...


That the Rat Pack is part of the right's DNA only makes ideological sense. Conservatives are supposed to oppose big government's heavy-handed regulation of sex, drugs, gambling, taxes and smoking. If a guy wants to benefit from sweetheart deals with the mob - or Enron executives - it's a free country, isn't it? Somehow conservatism in the 1990's wandered from the Goldwater model, choosing instead to pry into bedrooms, campaign against Hollywood and preach like Billy Sunday. By at long last re-embracing its inner Dino, the right is returning to its ideological roots.

I spoke with my Wall Street attorney friend in New York today, Sunday the 19th, about this.  He heaved a sigh and pointed out that whatever one thinks of Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, Sammy Davis and Dean Martin the famous Rat Pack - they weren't actually running the country, formulating and executing foreign policy, rewriting the tax code or waging wars to effect regime change in countries that ticked them off.  Some things are fine for Las Vegas entertainers in the late fifties, but sneering and being cool is no way to run a country.


Well, how would the world have been different had Frank Sinatra run our Cold War efforts from the Sands in Las Vegas, swaggering around and cracking shallow jokes, giving everyone a slightly insulting, belittling nickname? 


Actually Franck Rich is on to something here.   That's how things are run now. 


And please, no jokes about the heist in the original version of the movie Oceans Eleven and Halliburton in Iraq!


The real men have returned.


And this is pretty unbeatable.  As I heard someone say on All Things Considered on National Public Radio:

Bush believes that if he continues to stay the course, that the American public will continue to support him, despite the growing numbers that believe the country is on the wrong track on both the economy and Iraq.  After all, people like strong and consistent leadership even if they disagree with the policies.  Can the big lie (Bush is a strong, capable leader) win out over common sense (the world is going to hell in a handbasket)? Clearly this is going to be the battlefield for the election next year.

Should be interesting....




By the way, Bill Nichols was onto this much earlier.  See June 29, 2003 Mail