Just Above Sunset
August 15, 2004 - Peri Bathous, or the Art of Sinking to the Profound

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Bob Patterson, who writes a weekly column for Just Above Sunset as “The World’s Laziest Journalist,” listens to Rush Limbaugh so the rest of us don’t have to.

He sent a quick email -


… Rush has just read something from a guy named Anderson at Thor books in New York (I believe I was introduced to him by Dennis) and the guy says it all boils down to one issue.  A male voter's sexual identity.  Men like Bush fight wars.  This is about war.  Sissies are for Kerry. Men are for Bush (hence: "Punch Protesters").  Men throw punches in friendly college games.  Are you a "girly-boy" or a Bush man!


Or would that be a Bushman?

The funny thing is that I had just read the Anderson item Rush Limbaugh loved so much.  The source of all this?

Duncan Maxwell Anderson, The New York Post, Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Anderson is blunt -


This November's election is about something everyone is thinking about, and almost no one is talking about. Words like "national security" are fig leaves for the real subject: manhood.

Why does manhood matter? Because we're at war. What kind of leader do you want when armed lunatics are trying to kill you and your family? Do you need a master of nuance or a leader of men? Do you want Alan Alda or Braveheart? (Hmm. Let me think.)


And Anderson goes on to point out the recent Democratic convention in Boston seemed to him “ he gaudiest display of militarism and macho talk since the Berlin Olympics of 1936” – and he was amazed because, as he says, the Democrats “successfully ran a draft-dodger for president twice, and which won't fund a candidate who doesn't bow to the feminist abortion-god.”


Yeah, what wimps.  Now the want to pretend they’re real men.

But Anderson says there is a reason for this – and it is 9/11 of course. And that caused a special kind of crisis -


The 9/11 attacks have precipitated a crisis of manhood that is shaking our society to its roots. But for so many years, we have been so entangled in the delicate sensibilities of feminism that we can't even put our confusion into words.

To state the crushingly obvious, war is a male thing. Even when directed by the occasional Maggie Thatcher or Joan of Arc, war is fought by men's rules, by men. At the same time, not all men are enthusiastic warriors; in peacetime, for the sake of civilization, there is a need for men who are contemplatives, diplomats, artists and even complainers.

Martial men are always eager to believe it's time for action, that the enemy is at the gates. It can make them seem crude and scary. But on 9/11, it was suddenly obvious that the everyday heroism of soldiers, firemen and cops was indispensable.

Meanwhile, the stock of intellectuals goes down in a life-or-death crisis, especially for those who weren't that brilliant to begin with. Some men claim the status of artists simply because they don't know how to change a tire. Men from the arty class can become parasites, making their try for greatness simply by throwing muck at men who are truly great.


Your see where this is going from what was emphasized here in bold.

Anderson of course lays into Michael Moore and all those kind of folk who raise issues – “… weenies like Moore, who resent the new importance of masculine men like George W. Bush.


It’s just resentment of the larger male member and higher levels of testosterone, you see.


And he goes after Kerry, who he says “has been trying to recast himself as a he-man” – but who Anderson says is, as we all know now from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, “no more than a timorous whiner who lied his way to several combat medals.”

As for that last matter, not one of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth actually served with Kerry in Vietnam - and Robert Perry, a Texas Republican who over the decades has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to the Bush family, funds them.  Yes, those who actually served with Kerry, and stood on stage with him in Boston, say Kerry did actually do those things for which he was awarded medals.  The Navy and the Defense Department say it is so.  But for the sake of argument, for the moment, accept the contention that the guys who were actually there are full of crap, even if they were there for the events, and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who weren’t there are telling the real truth.  And the Navy and Department of Defense are in on the deception.  You see why Kerry isn’t really a man – he’s just a timorous whiner.  Got it?

If so, then Anderson makes sense when he says -


For these times, in place of Kerry's limp salute and tedious 55-minute acceptance speech, I prefer Bush's terser words, on the phone to Vice President Dick Cheney on Sept. 11, 2001, on his way to the airport: "I heard about the Pentagon.  We're at war.  Somebody's gonna pay."


That’s a man’s response.

Reaction on the web?  Over at Demagogue one finds this -


Let's think about [this]. Braveheart, a.k.a. Sir William Wallace, was a Scottish noble who battled the British in the late 13th century. His army beat back an English force in 1298, only to be soundly defeated a year later. Then, Wallace turned tail and ran...to France of all places! He was eventually tried for treason and executed. He even wore makeup for chrissakes! Lots of it.

Then, there's Alan Alda. His most famous role is that of Capt. Benjamin Franklin Pierce (patriotic name, that), a.k.a. Hawkeye. Hawkeye served at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (or M*A*S*H) during the Korean War. There, he proved to be cool under pressure and an excellent surgeon who saved countless lives. Moreover, he was adept at cutting through bureaucracy and red tape and good at exposing shoddy intelligence…. These would be welcome traits in a Commander-in-Chief. Finally, although the Korean conflict ended in a draw, it was not the complete rout that Braveheart experienced.


Yeah, yeah.  The election comes down to whether you want the hyper-masculine Mel Gibson leading us, or the effeminate Alan Alda.

Joseph, my expatriate friend now living in France comments -


I don't see what's so manly about sending other people to war; history is full of overprivileged sissies who did that. This is just an attempt to distract us from the fact that we were lied to, and that the principles in this war completely screwed it up. If that weren't true, this guy would argue that, rather than claiming that his dick is bigger.

And frankly, his claim that Republican's have a corner on the ability to wage war seems as spurious as the claim that republicans have a corner on fiscal responsibility.


As Joseph sees, even from France where he is once removed from all this, the Bush side, sensing there is not much good to say about the economy or the war or the environment or even their actual candidate, is dropping the discourse to a more basic level where they think they might get folks to vote for their guy on a psychosexual basis - as voting for Kerry and Edwards is denying your very manhood.  I always liked the title of Alexander Pope's mock epic - Peri Bathous, or the Art of Sinking to the Profound (1727).  This too is sinking to the profound.  But heck, when you run out of issues you can defend, well, what else are you going to do?

So the twin ideas here, since nothing else is working?


1.) If we don't keep Bush and Cheney in office, well, we're all going to die.


2.) Your political position is an outward and visible sign of your inward and spiritual... manliness - so vote for Bush or else you might just as well just go ahead and declare yourself a mincing interior decorator queen with a lisp who loves Broadway show tunes and thinks Barry Manilow is still a hunk.  Wimp.

But isn't the epicene Wayne Newton of Las Vegas a right-wing Republican?  Something to think about.

And Phillip Raines, from deep in Georgia, adds this riposte to Joseph in France -


Your points are most true.  This weekend a friend who described her self as an ex-Republican-now-converted said (and it is also most true) that the last thing she allied herself to was fiscal responsibility, and that is totally out the window.  Now it has become the party of religious fanatics and nave windbags - manly - with the backup of a gun.


I’m sure Anderson would say, “You got a problem with that, Bubba?  Maybe your gun isn’t big enough?”

Well, things are getting down to basics.  If you have no case on the issues and policies, go to a deeper level.  Tap those deep fears about sexual identity.  Hell, not much else is working for these guys.


Other reactions?  This also from Joseph in France who wonders about Anderson, the Post columnist, himself –


It's just the gnawing suspicion by some of us who have actually done things that demanded some moral and physical courage that guys like this - just sniping from behind a typewriter - would cry if you hit them.  How I miss the days when one could tell a blow-hard like this that we better "settle it outside" without getting arrested.

Talk is cheap.


Well, that’s pretty blunt.

And Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta adds this –


Anderson says the Democrats "successfully ran a draft-dodger for president twice..."

Excuse me, but so did the Republicans (George W. Bush) -- at least one time, and are threatening to do it again -- and this after having previously successfully put up a draft dodger for vice president (Dan Quayle).

And at least Bill Clinton resisted going to Vietnam on principled objection to the war, unlike Quayle, who said he was in favor of the war but had better things to do (which was to become a lawyer). In any event, unlike the other two, Clinton wouldn't have had a rich relative to fall back on, even if he had wanted to try that route.

But were Bush and Quayle technically "draft dodgers"?

Let me clue you -- there is no such technical term as "draft dodger," it's merely slang for those who pulled whatever tricks they could so they wouldn't be carted off to a war zone, especially one any more dangerous than Alabama or Indiana, and especially one where they take strict attendance.

I'm about two years older than George, but we are still in that same generation of American males, both anti- and pro-war, who knew by heart the list of ways to get out of going to Vietnam. At or near the top of the list was getting into your state's National Guard, but you knew that was virtually out of the question, since sons of rich guys and others of influence always seemed to get there first. And even if they ever arrived after you, they often seemed to jump the list to the top, which is something else that this Bush has been accused of doing.

Do I have personal knowledge that these two guys used their influence to get out of going to Vietnam? No, just heard the rumors. But having watched these guys over the years, I have to take those rumors seriously.



Note that this topic also came up in the August 5th edition of The Economist (UK) – under the title It's a man's world.

Yes, that’s the title of an old Wilson Pickett soul tune – and I do have a recording of that song being covered by Patricia Kaas, the French pop singer, who does it in Alsatian-accented English of all things (the album also has her singing Lyle Lovett’s “Simple Song” in her French translation, and a duet with James Taylor – his “I Don’t Want to be Lonely Tonight.”)  But I digress.

The Economist?


Let's call it the testosterone election. John Kerry never misses a chance to surround himself with he-man veterans. George Bush looks happiest when addressing crowds of pumped-up soldiers. Mr Bush likes to spend his free time clearing brush on his Texas ranch, dressed in a sweaty T-shirt and a cowboy hat. Mr Kerry likes to spend his riding Harleys or slaughtering wildlife. Both potential leaders of the western world seem to be remarkably proud of falling off their mountain bikes.

It is all a far cry from the Clinton era. …


Indeed it is.

But this is key now -


The politics of manliness is trickier for the Democrats than the Republicans. The Democrats have traditionally played the “Mommy Party” to the Republicans' “Daddy Party”, in Chris Matthews's phrase, more interested in nurturing children than fighting wars. The Democratic Party is the natural home of effete thespians and quiche-eating intellectuals, not to mention feminists. The Republican Party is the natural home of macho men—erstwhile wrestlers such as Dennis Hastert and Donald Rumsfeld, football stars like Jack Kemp and J.C. Watts and, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The body-builder-turned-governor recently attacked “girlie men”. He was referring to state legislators who, in his view, were too cowed by vested interests—particularly trade unions and trial lawyers—to do the decent thing and vote for his budget. Politically correct California immediately slammed the governor for homophobia and indifference to the transgendered community, among other sins. But Arnie had put his finger on a debate at the heart of this election: who are the real men and who are the girlie men?

The Republicans are determined to paint Mr Kerry as a Frenchified wimp in macho garb (the Botoxed Brahmin even opposes the death penalty, for Pierre's sake).


And that settles that.

Except there is little difference.  Kerry is much like Bush.


Both Messrs Kerry and Bush are products of a preppie establishment that once put a premium on the manly virtues of athleticism and civic leadership. Mr Kerry shone at soccer and hockey at St Paul's and Yale, and once tried to fly a plane under the Golden Gate bridge. Mr Bush was a sports-loving frat boy who partied hard and regarded academics as wimps. Both men are devotees of hunting, shooting and fishing. Neither is particularly at home with Mr Clinton's metrosexual buddies.

Moreover, they are vying for leadership of a country that, for all the quibbles, is reconciled to the exercise of “hard” military power…

… Robert Kagan, argued that “America is from Mars and Europe is from Venus”. The American half of that will remain true whoever wins the White House on November 2nd.


No girly-men metrosexuals allowed any longer.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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