Too Much Manliness in the White House

Ruth Marcus has an article in the Washington Post today in which she criticizes President Bush for being too manly. Yes, too manly. She writes her article as a response to Harvey Mansfield’s belief that manliness is underemployed in today’s world. Ms. Marcus disagrees.

This is how she sees things:

I have a new theory about what’s behind everything that’s wrong with the Bush administration: manliness…

…Think about it this way: Is a trait exemplified by reluctance to ask directions — “for it is out of manliness that men do not like to ask for directions when lost,” Mansfield writes — really what you want in a government deciding whether to take a country to war?

The undisputed manliness of the Bush White House stands in contrast to its predecessors and wannabes. If Republicans are the Daddy Party and Democrats the Mommy Party, the Clinton White House often operated like Mansfield’s vision of an estrogen-fueled kaffeeklatsch: indecisive and undisciplined. (Okay, there were some unfortunate, testosterone-filled moments, too.) Bill Clinton’s would-be successor, Al Gore, was mocked for enlisting Naomi Wolf to help him emerge as an alpha male; after that, French-speaking John Kerry had to give up windsurfing and don hunting gear to prove he was a real man. And Bush’s father, of course, had to battle the Wimp Factor. Mansfield recalls Thatcher’s manly admonition to 41 on the eve of the Persian Gulf War: “Don’t go wobbly on me, George.”

No wimpiness worries now. This is an administration headed by a cowboy boot-wearing brush-clearer, backstopped by a quail-shooting fly fisherman comfortable with long stretches of manly silence — very “Brokeback Mountain,” except this crowd considers itself too manly for such PC Hollywood fare. “I would be glad to talk about ranchin’, but I haven’t seen the movie,” Bush told a questioner.

There are, no doubt, comforting aspects to the manly presidency; think Bush with a bullhorn on top of the smoldering ruins of the twin towers. After a terrorist attack, no one’s looking for a sensitive New Age president. Even now, being a strong leader polls at the top of qualities that voters most admire in Bush.

But the manliness of the Bush White House has a darker side that has proved more curse than advantage. The prime example is the war in Iraq: the administration’s assertion of the right to engage in preemptive and unilateral war; the resolute avoidance of debate about the “slam-dunk” intelligence on weapons of mass destruction; the determined lack of introspection or self-doubt about the course of the war; and the swaggering dismissal of dissenting views as the carping of those not on the team.

I love how she ends her piece:

What this country could use is a little less manliness — and a little more of what you would describe as womanly qualities: restraint, introspection, a desire for consensus, maybe even a touch of self-doubt.

These characteristics would surely instill fear into the al Qaeda terrorists who want to kill us.

I guess she prefers the metrosexuality of John Kerry and John Edwards: perfectly coiffed, neatly pressed, and ready for a very stressful day on the slopes.

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