This is an era where we need less “manliness”

Posted by: ST on March 21, 2006 at 1:55 pm

So says Ruth Marcus in today’s Washington Post:

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

“Manliness” is the unapologetic title of a new book by Harvey C. Mansfield, a conservative professor of government at Harvard University, which makes him a species as rare as a dissenting voice in the Bush White House. Mansfield’s thesis is that manliness, which he sums up as “confidence in the face of risk,” is a misunderstood and unappreciated attribute.

Manliness, he writes, “seeks and welcomes drama and prefers times of war, conflict, and risk.” It entails assertiveness, even stubbornness, and craves power and action. It explains why men, naturally inclined to assert that “our policy, our party, our regime is superior,” dominate in the political sphere.


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.

The administration’s manliness doesn’t stop at the water’s edge. Pushing another round of tax cuts in 2003, Vice President Cheney sounded like a warrior claiming tribute after victory in battle: “We won the midterms. This is our due,” Cheney reportedly said. After the 2004 election, Bush exuded the blustering self-assurance of a president who had political capital to spend — or thought he did — and wasn’t going to think twice before plunking down the whole pile on Social Security.

Mansfieldian manliness is present as well in Bush’s confident — overconfident — response to Hurricane Katrina (insert obligatory “Brownie” quote here). And the administration’s claim of almost unfettered executive power is the ultimate in manliness: how manly to conclude that Congress gave the go-ahead to ignore a law without it ever saying so; how even manlier to argue that your inherent authority as commander in chief would permit you to brush aside those bothersome congressional gnats if they tried to stop eavesdropping without a warrant.

Mansfield writes that he wants to “convince skeptical readers — above all, educated women” — that “irrational manliness deserves to be endorsed by reason.” Sorry, professor: You lose. 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.

But that’s just my view.

And hopefully not one shared by the masses.

I kinda like “manliness” – as it’s displayed by W, was displayed by Reagan, as well as former British PM Margaret Thatcher. We certainly could have used a little manliness in the 1990s. In fact, a little more manliness in the 1990s might have helped avert some of the problems we face today.

But that’s just my view :D

More: Read more commentary on this via Say Anything, Jack Kelly at Irish Pennants

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  • 13 Responses to “This is an era where we need less “manliness””


    1. andrew says:

      “The administration’s manliness doesn’t stop at the water’s edge.”

      Nor during all those vacations apparently.

    2. Karl says:

      Interesting concept. maybe the metrosexual is a greater threat then we realize….

    3. Severian says:

      Another culture shock issue. Manliness is bad? What kind of demented wimp thinks that? That’s like the idiots complaining “Bush is a cowboy!” Yeah, good thing too! Cowboys (and I don’t mean the brokeback kind) have lots of good characteristics, like honesty, straightforwardness, prone to not do much until something needs doing, and then do it and not talk it to death.

      I love it when Europeans complain about cowboys. Cowboy attitudes are not considered a negative to a lot of people in this country.

    4. Jim M says:

      We need to give most liberal men a big shot of testosterone and we would have to give them a shot because they haven’t the equipment to produce their own. I just can not see the word manliness and Liberal in the same sentence, Oh damn I just did!

    5. Baklava says:

      When Ruth wrote, “The prime example is the war in Iraq: the administration’s assertion of the right to engage in preemptive and unilateral war

      I’m again struck about how liberals are STUCk in the past. This is a 3 year old argument. They just can’t get past the fact that 3 years ago the president (with the support of Congress) went to war in Iraq. They disagreed with the decision and can’t get past it. Moving on what do we do. Do we what? Put Saddam back in power to please these folks? These people are mental I say. I don’t think it has anything to do with manliness. It’s an inability to accept reality, come up with a solution for tomorrow that is positive and act on it. Let history help with decisions. Let results of solutions be a guide.

      This is a sickness that liberals have across the spectrum. If you just give people fish, people will become dependant on the fish. Conservatives inherently know this. Does this make the Margaret Thatchers and Ronald Reagan’s manly? Maybe? But it displays a certain amount of common sense. Common sense is the key phrase here.

      Message to liberals. Comments like Ruth’s above display your inability to operate in the present. The decision to go to war was 3 years ago. What unselfish thing do we do now moving forward.

      If you watch the movie “Changing Lanes” with Samuel Jackson and Ben Afleck you can see what I’m talking about. The characters get embroiled in a battle with each other. They fail to see that they can’t control each other and are destroying each other. What happened has happened and they learn by the end of the movie that they can only control their own words and actions. They choose to do good with their own words and actions. While simplified a bit, I don’t get the Democrats preoccupation with trying to tear down everything as being “illegal”, “pre-emptive”, “lied”, etc. Bush is doing what he thinks is right. At the time Congress approved of the action with many Democrats voting for it. Now we are there and Congress continues to fund the action. We cannot act selfishly and let Iraqi’s down. It’d be the worst mistake of the century to do that. We removed their government and need to be competent and not negligent and return their country in a functioning state just like we did with Japan and Germany. Bush is not a micromanager. If you don’t like the occupation fine. Try to help the Pentagon reshape it’s hundreds of plans that it has already drawn up ready to present to the next president who needs options.

      For how large the Department of Defense is they have been doing pretty well. They have changed their game plan to better train Iraqi’s. They have changed the armoring of vehicles. They are combatting IED’s. They are changing daily to deal with the circumstances they are dealt with. Nobody in this world could say they would’ve planned and done any better because that is all monday morning quarterbacking.

      Monday morning quarterbacks aren’t manly.

    6. Bachbone says:

      Baklava – Not only are liberals “…STUCK in the past,” they are, to use Gen. Honore’s term, “stuck on stupid” in the past.

      Ms. Marcus probably also thinks Sen. Reid’s comment, “We killed the Patriot Act!” was exceptionally manly.

      Women like Ms. Marcus don’t want women to be ‘womanly,’ either. Any woman who wants to stay home and raise her kid(s) is a lashed with derisive bashing as being a traitor to her gender!

      Skewed perspective yields skewed thinking.

    7. steve says:

      Speaking of manliness bush said today,”I’m confident, I believe, I’m optimistic, we’ll succeed…”, in Iraq. His manliness reassured me about how sure he was??? And later bush said that Iran could not have the “capacity or knowledge” for making a nuclear bomb. How is he, in all of his manliness, going to enforce the “knowledge” part? Peace

    8. Dave says:

      I think what Miss Marcus is referring to is more arrogance and swaggering rather than the positive qualities of manliness. It’s the arrogance of Bush and his unwillingness to admit a mistake that is going to be his undoing. There are so many things he and his administration have been wrong about and they have yet to take responsibility for them. Saying that these issues are in the past ignores the point that they will continue to make mistakes in the future if they cannot learn from their past mistakes.

    9. Mr. K. says:

      When people start using sports analogies to help boost morale in Iraq, we’ve lost. This is looking more and more like parents in the stands rooting for the wimpy, scrawny kids getting pounded by the other team, saying “Just believe in yourself!” “Try harder!” “You can do it!” Sorry, sometimes it’s time to pack up the orange slices and move onto a game you actually can win.

    10. steve says:

      Mr. K., has seen the light and become one of the sons light. Amen. Peace

    11. Jim M says:

      Hey Mr. K are you French?