The Perception of Testosterone

Pat Ryan

We have less than 50 days left until the election. The troops out here on the ground are getting a bit discouraged and the boys at the coffee shop are joining their hero in a bit of open gloating. Kerry is successfully portrayed as a "girlie-man" and a "flip flopper". We know in our heart of hearts that these short hand attempts at character assassination are not totally without merit. The stentorian delivery of the Kerry stump speeches is starting to grate on the nerves, chief campaign adviser Bob Shrum continues to channel his babble about "the issues" and we are left with the feeble hope that John Kerry "always finishes strong". The Bushies are relaxed and confident. Having virtually no accomplishments to run on, they have decided that they are running for a first term and never mind the record. The white males that make up over 40% of the electorate are overwhelmingly happy to channel the swaggering bully image and the simplistic anti-everything-not-white-heterosexual-male message.

Since everyone else is doing it, here're some observations for the Kerry campaign.

1) George Bush is, in fact, a whimp himself. We've all seen his glassy eyed, frightened rigidity upon being faced with the 9/11 catastrophe. He is told of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center, goes on into the classroom on autopilot, then sits like a deer in the headlights for several minutes with My Pet Goat in hand, before fleeing to a midwestern airbase on Airforce One. No orders to scramble the fighters, no bold take charge moves, just an instinctive cringe followed by an equally instinctive move to get on top of any political damage ASAP.

Hammer him on this. He's a weak kneed punk bully, who will act decisively only after gathering and consulting with his homies, which in this case was several hours, (or perhaps several months) too late. Keep it simple. Try to roleplay a scenario where President Al Gore had acted in the same way and imagine what Rove and company would be saying about Gore's fitness to run this nation in a second term. It ain't rocket surgery.

2) The efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq has turned out to be total disasters. The facts are in hand.

Afghanistan is back in its preeminent spot as a supplier of opium to addicts around the world. Foreigners and government funcionaries are pretty much confined to Kabul and a few well defended enclaves in other cities. The trail to Bin Laden is icy cold. (I personally suspect that while US Marines are taking casualties in Afghanistan, Osama is kicking back on some large private estate in Peshawar, Pakistan.)

In Iraq we are in worse shape every month. The search for a compliant puppet regime and the rejection of any semblance of local demcracy has diverted the attention of the American viceroys from the threats posed by out-of-work Baathists, romantic wannabe Wahabist revolutionaries, and Shia clerics. Oil lines are attacked almost daily all over the country and the chance of anything turning out the way that Wolfie and Scooter predicted they would are vanishingly small.

Play this one as the hard headed pragmatist. Start marginalizing Allawi as yet another Neocon quisling. He is, after all, a former assassin for Hussein and was Chalabi's couterpart in providing disinformation to the British in the lead up to the war. Promote UN Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi's first choice for the spot, Hussain Shahristani, who sent ten years imprisoned by Hussein for refusing to run a nuclear weapons program.

I, for one am tired of hearing that there's "essentially no difference" in the positions of Kerry and Bush over the current situation in Iraq. This strategy allows Kerry to stay with most of his recent statements regarding Iraq, although he'll just have to ignore that little line about how he wouldn't do anything different in light of recent information.

Keep it simple. The ignorant whimp knuckles under to pressure from the same crap artists that jazzed up the false intelligence that got him into this mess.

Things are way more dangerous than they have ever been.
It's Bush's fault.
He's unfit to lead.
We can protect you.

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    Apropos of your first point, Al Gore in the most recent New Yorker observed:

    But I think his weakness is a moral weakness. I think he is a bully, and, like all bullies, he’s a coward when confronted with a force that he’s fearful of. His reaction to the extravagant and unbelievably selfish wish list of the wealthy interest groups that put him in the White House is obsequious. The degree of obsequiousness that is involved in saying ‘yes, yes, yes, yes, yes’ to whatever these people want, no matter the damage and harm done to the nation as a whole—that can come only from genuine moral cowardice. I don’t see any other explanation for it, because it’s not a question of principle. The only common denominator is each of the groups has a lot of money that they’re willing to put in service to his political fortunes and their ferocious and unyielding pursuit of public policies that benefit them at the expense of the nation

    And speaking of Al and again to your first point, when they debated in 2000, Bush seemed to shrink away from Gore in the third debate, as they roamed the stage. For anyone who instinctively understands machismo--who to watch out for in a rough-looking bar, say--Bush looked like a beta male at best. I couldn't understand how this didn't resonate with the macho white male hating set. But then, I can't understand a lot of things.

  • Justin (unverified)

    Your "insight" is awful reminiscent of Farenheit 9/11. And it is indicative of why Bush will win in November. The Democratic Party is out of touch with the American people.

    Do not attack Bush because he's a wimp or corrupt or evil. The majority of Americans ignore these type of ad hominem attacks. Attack Bush where he's weakest, IRAQ. The war was unecessary, costly and is turning into a disaster. Even flag loving patriots can agree with these points.

    Its time BlueOregon admitted that the Republican party is better organized and smarter. And if Bush wins, I expect an apology from the Democratic Party for failing to put up a decent candidate.

  • Jesse (unverified)

    Frankly, the Republican party is more organized because they only have select few deciding its messages--then they hammer those messages regardless of truth. This, to me, sounds more terrifying than "smarter," but who am I?

    Indeed, they've been successful. Indeed, we sound like defenders at every step. What I think is that we ought to just stop with this anger business and turn it around and mock the silly prez.

    When he says Iraq is working, look at him, raise an eyebrow and say, "Do you really expect the American people to believe that?" Acknowledge the lie and let's move forward.

    Kerry oughta lighten up, relax and the leadership stuff will follow...cause I'm getting nervous enough for the lot of us.

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    When he says Iraq is working, look at him, raise an eyebrow and say, "Do you really expect the American people to believe that?" Acknowledge the lie and let's move forward.<

    I don't think that a raised eyebrow is going to cut it, Jesse. I do think that a) attacking his Iraq record on his own most recent definition of success and b)portraying him as a craven bully, will help Kerry out of the "me too" rut that he's in.

    "Kerry oughta lighten up, relax and the leadership stuff will follow<

    This is excellent advice in terms of Kerry's delivery, but the perception of the (perhaps) less informed Left and Right is that there's no "there" there. A very poor postion to be in at any point in the election cycle, and at under six weeks to go, we're all getting nervous.

  • Miles (unverified)

    Oh, you are so right. Kerry is utterly discouraging. If he pulls this one out I'll be amazed.

    Maybe the debates will provide a big moment or some kind of favorable comparison.... and Kerry will suddenly shine. "He's a good closer" blah blah blah.

    You know the taller candidate has won almost every election in US history.... (Carter an exception? Gore got more votes at least....) So how can Kerry lose?

    But even though Kerry is looking more and more like a loser, maybe we progressives should be careful about what we wish for, because if Kerry wins he's going to own Iraq and he doesn't have any more of a clue about what to do there than Bush does.

    Iraq is going to get really bad... endless American and Iraqi deaths. Would we rather have hapless Kerry, or hapless Bush with that milstone around his neck? "I wouldn't wish the occupation of Iraq on my best friend" or even on a sensible liberal politician.

    Maybe things just need to ripen?

    Yes yes, I know we can't afford 4 more years of Bush... but maybe people haven't had enough time to get truly sick of the "all corporations all the time" solution to the world's problems.

    So maybe we should just say... George Bush, it's your Iraq... good luck!

    Too depressing an analysis?

    Frankly, I think this is the deep game that Nader is playing. I don't approve, but you know, I understand the logic. What good is a Kerry victory for any progressive agenda?

    I know how bad Bush is, believe me. But what is Kerry? What can this guy do while running the occupation of Iraq, taking out the North Korean nuclear program, and hobnobbing withthe corporate donors on whom his re-election depends?

    Go Kerry... I guess.

  • brett (unverified)

    Larry King, July 8, 2004: Where were you [on 9/11]?

    John Kerry: I was in the Capitol. We'd just had a meeting -- we'd just come into a leadership meeting in Tom Daschle's office, looking out at the Capitol.

    And as I came in, Barbara Boxer and Harry Reid were standing there, and we watched the second plane come in to the building.

    And we shortly thereafter sat down at the table and then we just realized nobody could think, and then boom, right behind us, we saw the cloud of explosion at the Pentagon. And then word came from the White House, they were evacuating, and we were to evacuate, and so we immediately began the evacuation."


    Second plane hits the WTC: 9:03 Pentagon crash: 9:45

    42 minutes. I know, he wasn't President, but he didn't exactly leap into action, did he?

    Sorry, you're going to have to come up with something more substantive than "My Pet Goat" to win this election. And don't forge any more memos.

  • Georgia (unverified)

    Part of the problem, I believe, is that we are all getting so defensive and acting as if Kerry has already lost. We think, "Oh no. Bush is winning, Bush is winning." And with all of us thinking "Bush is winning" is it any wonder that he may? I just want to have hope. And that may be naive but I believe that it may actually be more helpful that all of the fear that tries to creep into my gut whenever I think about four more years of the Shrub. I mean, if optimism is supposed to win the election, maybe that means not just the candidate should be optimistic. Maybe we should all try, just a little, to think "Kerry can win this."

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    But even though Kerry is looking more and more like a loser...

    To whom? Polling shows that the slight statistical lead Kerry had a month ago may--may--now be tipping to Bush. But when Kerry was leading, no one was saying Bush was "looking more and more like a loser." This is the effect polling can have on creating perception, rather than just measuring it.

    The polls are mixed and the candidates are tied with 50 days left. Historically speaking, that bodes very badly for the incumbent. So why is everyone saying kerry's doomed? Looks to me like he's exactly where he hoped to be a year ago.

  • miles (unverified)

    "I just want to have hope."

    I guess I'm just trying to have hope even if Kerry does lose....

    I hate the way Kerry is running his campaign... but he isn't trying to convince ME to vote for him... I'm going to do that no matter what. He's trying to convince a few hundred thousand people in a few swing states who ACTUALLY STILL HAVEN"T MADE UP THEIR MINDS (can you imagine how such people thing? I, frankly, can't. Do you KNOW any people like that?)

    Now if you ask me, I don't see him doing a very good job of speaking to such people.... but what do I know?

    I do have hope. I think Kerry might win. For one thing he's taller than Bush. :-)

    But I console myself with the thought that he and we are going to be in quite a pickle if he does, and that therefore losing isn't all that different from winning as far as progressive politics are concerned. Will still be a powerful unipolar world dominating empire, controlled by large corporations on a one dollar/one vote basis, with a corrupt campaign finance system, etc. etc. Plus, we'll have John Kerry there trying to make it just a little bit better and sucking all the oxygen out of any effort to make real structural change.

    But saying stuff like that is not good campaign salesmanship, I admit. Go Kerry!

    We all desire to live in hope... some of us have darker personalities than others... sometimes singing the blues is the only thing that gets you through the hard times.

    Go Kerry!

    But the political blues make a lousy campaign theme, and "happy days are here again" is the more acceptable melody. Should it be? I don't know. I accept it. I accept that we must all sing it.

    Go Kerry!

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    Justin, you said, "It's time BlueOregon admitted..."

    Again, BlueOregon isn't a person. It's not even an organization. We don't endorse candidates or causes or running shoes. (Maybe for a few million bucks, though...)

    BlueOregon is a collection of 25+ columnists, plus everyone that posts comments to the site. With over 50,000 page views and over 1300 comments posted, that's a lot of people. It even includes you, Justin.

    Thanks for participating.

  • brett (unverified)

    The white males that make up over 40% of the electorate are overwhelmingly happy to channel the swaggering bully image and the simplistic anti-everything-not-white-heterosexual-male message.

    Who's being simplistic? You can't convince people without understanding them, and if you really believe what you wrote here, you don't understand them at all.

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    Miles said: "I'm going to do that no matter what. He's trying to convince a few hundred thousand people in a few swing states who ACTUALLY STILL HAVEN"T MADE UP THEIR MINDS (can you imagine how such people thing? I, frankly, can't. Do you KNOW any people like that?) "

    I had always wondered whether there really was such a thing as an undecided voter, I mean really - until last week. I work with seniors a lot and I was walking up to this house and the first thing I noticed was a bumper sticker - you know the one -"marriage =...." Purchased through the 700 Club, of course! I rolled my eyes, then forgot about it as it had nothing to do with why I was there.

    It turned out to be a very long meeting with these folks, during which time I got to know a lot about them. Somehow, inadvertantly, we got on the subject of politics (really hard not to do this time of an election year). "Oh no." I thought "Be tactful." But no, they were bashing Bush just as hard as any blogger. Why? Well, it's obvious. There's the Medicare Prescription drug card that they won't benefit from (most seniors won't) but they have to pay for with their 17% Medicare premium increase. That's why. The fact that their retirement (they ain't earning anymore money) is shrinking due to low interest rates and the cost of living. Fiscally, they HATE Bush. Personally, they HATE Bush. What about socially? Socially, they don't like Kerry. These folks are social conservatives. Not that I back their views, but who the hell are they supposed to vote for? These people give money to Billy Graham, for God's sake (pun completely intended). Who is there that would truly represent this demographic? I have a feeling they'll wind up voting for Kerry just because they hate Bush with such a passion and are so angry with how they've been treated (and I think you'll find a lot of right-wing seniors voting from their social security check, medicine cabinet, and retirement fund rather than along party lines).

    But still... this is the undecided voter. Kerry needs to find a way to reach these folks and fast.

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    I like to think that with two dittohead brothers, a fundamentalist christian father (who in is mid 70s started a new career as a prison guard), and 30 years of work as a welder and equipment maintence mechanic, I do have some insight into the minds of "angry white males". These guys are mostly ethical, compassionate, brave, and hard working. They are also willfully ignorant, supportive of all manner of right winged goofiness, prone to accept conspiracy theories or right wing dogma without one bit of curiosity about the motives and truthfulness of the self aggrandizing "tough guys" that they idolize.

    I also cultivate friendships with very thoughtful and rational conservatives, and my son-in-law (who was a philosophy major in college) is just one example of this group. Conversation and debate with the latter is a challenge and a joy.

  • Justin (unverified)


    I know... ...BlueOregon is just a group of minds, who happen to think alike. But there are times that the blog sounds like the mouthpiece of the Democratic Party. Its an interesting blog though, I just wish there were a RedOregon to provide some balance.

  • brett (unverified)

    Pat, good to hear. It's beyond dispute that there are such things as white males who "are overwhelmingly happy to channel the swaggering bully image and the simplistic anti-everything-not-white-heterosexual-male message." It's also beyond dispute that there are white males who don't fit that pattern. Not all of us gringotes are dittoheads. Especially here.

  • Randy (unverified)

    Most days I eat breakfast in a cafe where anywhere from 6 - 10 older white males of varying levels of intelligence gather for coffee, gossip and chat.

    As I read my paper I listen with one ear.

    I don't know what their testerone levels are these days, but their comments do carry an edge. And you know what -- to a man they are pissed at Bush.

    I suspect there are more of them around the country than there are Wall Street warlords who get off on the macho poser in the White House -- and come election day, their votes count equally with their younger counterparts.

    So I do have hope. I suspect the debates will be pivotal.

  • john (unverified)

    There's almost no chance of the Congress turning Democratic. If Kerry is elected, it will be domestic stalemate. He will sign no legislation. His Iraq policy can't be substantially different than Bush's. His European "friends and allies" will show their true colors and make Kerry the fool.

    But if Bush is re-elected, he'll pass more legislation, such as the bloated medicare bill, and increase the deficit. Go Kerry.

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