Sunday, August 6, 2017

Tough Enough

National Review's Kevin D. Williamson, continuing his discussion of the David Mamet fake toughness of Donald J. Trump, works himself into a funny rhetorical pickle on the subject of the genuinely tough, where he nominates the military heroes, Senator McCain and former president George H.W. Bush:
The fact that McCain has been something of a disappointment as a senator and a presidential candidate invites reflection upon the actual political value of personal toughness. George H. W. Bush finished flying a World War II combat mission while bleeding from a head wound in an airplane that was on fire before parachuting into the Pacific, where he evaded vengeful Japanese soldiers who were just then engaged in torturing and eating their prisoners. He was somehow lampooned as a “wimp” by the same media that had earlier accused him of being a bloodthirsty killer (it was alleged that he had strafed a Japanese lifeboat), and some conservatives joined in that, Pat Buchanan among them. The wimp flew 58 combat missions, whereas tough-guy Trump might play 58 holes of golf in an unusually active fortnight. But George H. W. Bush’s genuine toughness and courage was nearly irrelevant to his performance in office.
Given that Trump has visited a golf course 43 times in the first 14 fortnights/28 weeks of his presidency, or almost exactly 3 times per fortnight, I'd suggest he plays at least 54 holes in a normal fortnight. (Reporters aren't generally allowed to know when he's playing, and he's known to have claimed he was doing a meeting when he was actually on the course; more details and possibly different calculations here.) The 58 holes of an unusually active fortnight would be when he's interrupted on the fifth hole of a fourth round because he's required to do something presidential. That would indeed be unusual. He's so lazy he's been known to drive his cart across a putting green, something even an ignoramus like me can recognize as disgusting. Perhaps that is one reason he is reluctant to play on courses he doesn't own.

Anyway, if old Bush's real toughness didn't do anything to toughen up his presidency and war hero McCain has been "something of a disappointment" to Kevin Williamson in the 30 years of his political career, why should it matter whether Trump is tough like old Bush or merely fake-tough, like his son Commander Codpiece? Williamson, to be fair, doesn't seem to have engaged this question up to now, but I can quote his boss, editor-in-chief Rich "Starbursts" Lowry, on the Bush-Gore debate October 13 2000:
Bush was well-informed, confident, and even deft in his debate performance last night, but perhaps most importantly he was tough. Toughness is an under-appreciated virtue in American politics, one that Bush -- thanks to his compassionate conservatism -- has often avoided, to his own detriment. But last night a commonsensical tough-mindedness ran through almost all his answers. It was the skeleton on which he hung his entire performance, providing a coherence to his night that really was quite remarkable.
Fake-tough can be exactly what you want, sometimes, in the campaign, and a pro like Lowry can admire it as a real thing, which it is, like John Wayne's toughness, real performance art. Trump seems to me to be completely lacking in this kind of toughness, coming across as a needy, choleric, colicky baby, but Mike Allen and 60 million voters disagree, I guess. What do I know? If you ask me to come up with a Republican showing real toughness any time over the last 30 years, I might come up with the time old George Bush, going back on an idiotic campaign promise, decided on a tax hike for the good of the country in 1990, for which the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation gave him a Profiles in Courage Award. Or John McCain in the most becoming act of his career last week, when he and all his friends were voting on a bill they knew to be a dangerous fraud, and he alone had the courage, for once (because putting brain and heart above party is not something he does very often in a Senate vote), to vote no.

Of course those are exactly the things Williamson and Lowry and such don't like.

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