The Corner

Manliness and The Candidate

One of my regular correspondents sent me this email:

“After you folks at NRO had been called ‘girly-boys’ by Ann Coulter, and the cheap shot stuck in some quarters, one would think that, having been burned, you-all would not want to use similar language against others, especially as such low insults ought to be outside the bounds of political journalism in any case. But boy have you guys plunged into it, with Stephen Rhoads’s article attacking Edwards as unmanly, as having too high a voice, and as being deficient in testosterone. Not only that, but the article has three different titles, each one pushing the same insult in different words:

“First, on NRO’s main page: Steven Rhoads: John Edwards ain’t the man.”

“Then, at the top of NRO’s main page, where you describe Edwards as ‘Not Man Enough.’

“Finally, in the title of the article itself, where you reference Edward’s supposed lack of testosterone and call him a ‘boy.’”

My response: I read this email before reading the article, so I read the article with trepidation: I hate this my-candidate-is-more-manly-than-yours stuff, and I don’t even like Schwarzenegger’s various versions of the girlie-men put-down. But I think my correspondent is being too tough on the article. I’ve read plenty of articles about how voters favor tall candidates (as job interviewers favor tall applicants), and the authors neither endorse the proposition that taller candidates are better nor feel a need to disavow it. I think that perceptions of masculinity can be subrational influences on voters, and it’s fair to analyze how they will affect them. And I don’t see how you could do an article on the subject without having a headline of this sort. But maybe I’m missing something.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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