Monday, March 29, 2004

On Lies and Manliness

This Presidential election will be all about manliness. The cultural indicators are all abuzz with what it means to be a man and quien es mas macho: upcoming films include extreme renderings of ancient events surrounding the conquests of Alexander and Troy; commentators and intellectuals wrestle with the idea, from George Will to philosopher Harvey Mansfield. Tina Brown has spent the past two weeks on Topic A delving -- rather deeply -- into the "daddy party" and the "mommy party," and how our psychological orientation towards our parents influence the party we go in for.

Even Bill Clinton at the Democratic even last week went on to say of the Republicans and their highly irresponsible deficit spending after the surplus, "They're the 'mature party,' they're the daddy party. They remind me of teenagers that got their inheritance too soon and couldn't wait to blow it."

And, of course, the issue is not masculinity per se, but the mask of masculinity and the fear of terrorism. Even Hillary Clinton coveted a Senate Arms Services seat. This was a key strategic move on the part of Clinton, revealing that she is concerned about the fact that she has no military record in this post 9/11 age, and is, perhaps, hinting at her future national ambitions.

Anti-Bush Democrats, perhaps rightly, were instantly won over to Kerry's -- your -- hypermasculine veteran-issues appeal after Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt beat each other into oblivion in Iowa. Fortune was on your side, and you supplied the manliness issue, John Kerry, well played.

The candidate who appears to be the more manly, more credible in defending the country from future terrorist attacks (which is why the Clarke-Rice debate is at center stage) is most likely to win the general election and the most coveted position in the world, Presidency of the World's Last Superpower.

The American image of the masculine has changed. The slim and patrician Uncle Sam is now buff, drives an SUV, has 50 Cent blaring on the radio; he voted for Schwarzenegger over the lamb-like ineffective Gray Davis (ineffective is the new evil in Buff Hypermasculine America). September 11, in many ways, transformed us into a warrior culture, and the War on terrorism influences all aspects of our society. Firemen, rather than movie stars or athletes, are considered role models, for instance. Working class soldiers returning for shore leave last Memorial Day weekend were greeted in New York like rock stars by leggy Manolo Blahnik-clad urbane Sex and the City types, looking for love. When was the last time that happened? Who flipped the script?

Award-winning WWII historian Paul Fussell's new book;The Boys Last Crusade sums up things nicely, saying, "there has been a return, especially in popular culture, to military romanticism, which, if not implying that war is really good for you, does suggest that it contains desirable elements."

But what of Lies? Men lie about sex all the time; in fact, to men, lying about sex is not truly a lie, it is a way of life, for further reference see President Clinton. But the debate on lies on the political Left is not about sex, but of higher, more important matters: namely, whether or not George Bush lied and if, in saying so outright and boldly they can gain votes in the Midwest, the Southwest and the South.

The moderate left does not want to risk being too bold on this issue, while the Far Left and Far Right have no problem is using the incendiary word: "lie."

The Corsair counsels the Kerry Camp to avoid the use of lie when speaking of the President. It smacks of looniness, to be frank. The Far Left and the Far Right are polarized against George Bush to such a degree as to be illogical: let them be so. They will never vote for Bush and many will vote for you. Do not turn off centrists by using the overheated rhetoric of the ultra-partisans. Also, for the record, the Corsair does not mistake incompetence for conscious lying.

Tim Robbins on MSNBC says of Bush's Vulcans: "I did some research on (The Vulcans in the cabinet: like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz) and I found out about some of the philosophy they adhere to a kind of elitist philosophy that there are different truths for different people. The idea of the noble lie; that concept exists in the philosophies of some of these people. So I just started writing these characters and that's kind of where the play started. Then I thought, this is fun to write but there is another story here, and that's the soldiers who are serving the country."

Although Robbin's heart is in the right place (or, rather "left" place, as it were), this is a dangerously simplistic view of Leo Strauss' intricate and complicated philosophy of the world. Avoid falling into this trap and allow partisans to make their points -- as surrogates -- without becoming entangled in their faulty logic.
Frankly, The Corsair believes that Wolfowitz himself misreads both Plato and Strauss, but that's another story not for here.

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