This is an era where we need less “manliness”

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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