by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
One of the more puzzling aspects of modern Republican discourse is the equation of Donald Trump’s aggression with manliness and the slander of his (male) critics as feminine. As near as I can tell, the foundation of the argument is essentially stylistic and tactical. He’s verbally aggressive. He has swagger. …
… As for his critics? Well, if you’re a man and criticize Trump — especially on moral grounds — prepare for the allegation that you’re “pearl-clutching.” MAGA-world will call you “low-testosterone” or “dilettantish.” In fact, the accusation of weakness will often substitute for argument. After all, why argue the merits of a point when you can just accuse a man of wetting his panties?
But if we think this is new, the reflections on Bush’s life and political career remind us that it is not. The Right has long struggled with the notion that “toughness” requires a particular kind of angry public posture. As a colleague noted to me yesterday, one of the hallmarks of the Trump era is that the president makes old conflicts more “electric” rather than creating new ones.
It’s stunning to consider this when you consider the basic facts of Bush’s biography, but he battled the “wimp factor” and claims that he was “too nice” for much of his political career. It’s a sign of our fallen world that all too many people misinterpret the presence of manners as a lack of manliness. It’s destructive to our culture and body politic that all too many people interpret kindness as a lack of conviction. …
… As we raise our sons, who is the better model? Is it the “wimp” who enlisted in the Navy at age 18, became one of the service’s youngest aviators, was shot down over the Pacific and rescued, went on to a lifetime of public service (including the presidency), led the nation in war, and managed the fall of the Soviet Union with calmness, ending a great-power conflict without triggering a cataclysm?