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Newsweek’s Definition of Toughness


I commented yesterday on Newsweek’s cover stunt trashing Romney as a wimp, noting that writer Michael Tomasky offered Romney one out: He would no longer be a wimp if he took on conservatives. The story referred back to an October 1987 Newsweek cover, much discussed at the time, that labeled the first George Bush a wimp, too.

Following a hunch, I looked up that article. It, too, faulted Bush for not standing up to the Right. “Bush refuses to publicly cross President Reagan — the one step that would more dramatically establish the vice president as his own man.” “As he runs the campaign gantlet and its debates, Bush will inevitably be called on to challenge his former boss. But he won’t.” The article concluded by wondering whether voters would, as a result, find Bush unsuitable for the presidency. In the event, voters chose Bush precisely because he ran for Reagan’s third term: The article’s analysis was 180 degrees off.

Normal people do not judge a person’s toughness by whether he gets in fights with conservatives, but that does seem to be the consistent view of Newsweek. Once again a Republican nominee with roots in the moderate wing of the party has chosen to ally himself with the Right, and once again the magazine is attacking him as a coward for making this choice. Nice to know that some things haven’t changed in 25 years.

P.S. See also this Patheos post, which suggests that Tomasky is indeed conforming to this script:

The heart of the piece centers on the positions that he takes, the way that he has pandered so consistently on important, important issues, issues on much we’d like to see our politicians have some kind of consistency, some kind of backbone.  He’s repeatedly just changed positions completely and pandered totally to the right wing.  When Rush Limbaugh says, “Jump,” he says, “How high?”  I think it’s a fair question to ask, is this the kind of person that we want to see in the White House?