Friday, September 19, 2003

We can all use a good laugh once in a while. Here's a good one:
Republicans have seldom shied from an embrace of manliness. The New York Times recently ran a report on the new Bush re-election headquarters. It explained that the offices display two large photos: one of President Bush "sweating and looking rugged in a T-shirt and cowboy hat"; another of Ronald Reagan "also looking rugged in a cowboy hat." And all this was before Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to run for governor of California. Yup, that's the Republican Party.

Of course, George W. Bush is famous for his "compassionate conservatism." He is capable of great tenderness of expression, much of it related, no doubt, to his triumph over alcohol and his religious awakening. But Bush as hombre has been the dominant theme of his post-September 11 presidency........


The last couple of years have been replete with Bush toughness--tough talk, tough action, toughness in a tough job. "They've got a problem on their hands," he said of the terrorists. "We're gonna find 'em. And if they're hidin', we're gonna smoke 'em out. And we'll bring 'em to justice." He is quite taken with this "smoking out" business. Standing in the White House with the governor of Louisiana, he said, "I know the governor likes to hunt rabbits down in Louisiana. Sometimes those rabbits think they can hide from the governor. But, eventually, he smokes 'em out and gets 'em. And that's exactly what's happening to Mr. bin Laden and all the murderers that he's trying to hide in Afghanistan."

He can be cocky, certainly--sort of defiant-cocky, righteous-cocky. In March 2002, he told an audience, "Obviously, as you well know, we found some of them [the terrorists] bunched up in the Shahikote Mountains [of Afghanistan]. And we sent our military in. And they're not bunched up anymore." Badda-bing.

So, that's our president. What of our vice president? Is he, too, a "daddy politician"? You bet, as Donald Rumsfeld would say. Dick Cheney is a laconic Westerner, exuding an aura of competence, strength and dependability. You get the feeling that things are going to be all right if Mr. Cheney is on the case. Like his boss, he talks straight, in matter-of-fact tones. His detractors enjoy reminding us that he received a deferment in the Vietnam War--he is on the liberals' list of "chicken hawks." But few serious people consider him anything other than a prime example of the tough-minded conservative.

Then there is the secretary of defense himself. Donald Rumsfeld is almost a riot of manliness, and his moment indeed arrived on September 11. He was in his office--briefing congressmen on, among other things, the threat of terrorism--when Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon's walls. Against the advice of some, he rushed to help the wounded. Not long after 9/11, I talked to some friends of his, in preparation for a piece. One of them said, "Look, we're not playing pitty-patty anymore. We have a foe that's proven deadly. People look for a different kind of person to run Washington--as far away from the Clinton type as you can get."

Go read the whole thing. It's a great way to get the weekend started.....