Apparently, Barack Obama has a low VQ. That is, he has a low virility quotient.
Adam Gopnik is appalled to see the media, and especially the conservative media, denouncing our wise, thoughtful, judicious president as a wimp, a weakling… and dare we say it, slightly effeminate.
He writes, tongue in cheek:
Barack Obama is not a tough guy. Everybody rolls him. He’s a wimp, a weak sister; he won’t stand up for himself or his country. Vladimir Putin, a true tough guy, blows planes out of the air, won’t apologize, walks around half-naked. Life, it seems, is like a prison yard, and Obama cowers in a corner. “It would be a hellish thing to live with such timidity. … He’sscared of Vladimir Putin,” one Fox News contributor said about the President. But this kind of thing is not confined to the weirder fringes: Maureen Dowd pointed out a while ago that former fans of Obama “now make derogatory remarks about your manhood,” while the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page runs a kind of compendium of “weak sister” pieces every morning, urging the President, at one point, to make more “unambiguous threats”—making unambiguous threats evidently being the real man’s method of getting his way.
Of course, Gopnik explains that there is nothing wrong with being a woman. He might have added that great women leaders—see Margaret Thatcher—often have a very high VQ.
Before proceeding, we must underscore the fact that Democrats and their satraps in the media often denounce Republicans for having an excessively high VQ.
How often have Republicans been attacked as war-mongers, baby killers, torturers, sexual predators, mass murderers, serial killers and the like. Surely, the left-wing media wants the public to believe that Republicans are suffering from an excess of testosterone.
When conservative media outlets suggest that Obama has a low VQ they are simply engaging in the other side of the rhetorical tactic that Democrats have been using since the Vietnam War.
This blogger has not been trafficking in said rhetoric, but has often noted that Obama is disengaged from world events. He has failed to manage foreign policy… whether the Arab Spring, the war in Syria, the crisis in the Ukraine, what have you.
This morning in the Wall Street Journal Joseph Lieberman, surely not a member of the Neanderthal wing of the Republican party, explains that President Obama does not appear to be standing with our friends or against our enemies.
By appearing to support the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the Turks and the Qataris against Israel he seems to be doing anything but.
Gopnik believes that, when faced with crises, Obama veers toward reason:
Obama—contemptibly, in this view—offers off-ramps in the direction of reason even when faced with the most fanatical opponents, who are bent on revenge for mysterious, sectarian motives, and yet he still tries to appease them.
But, since when is reason or the thoughtful conduct of diplomacy a sign of either manliness or femininity?
Sending your Secretary of State to Cairo to revel in the election of Mohamed Morsi has nothing to do with reason. Trying to save Hamas has nothing to do with reason.
Obama’s problem has nothing to do with reason. A rational actor is an actor. He is engaged; he is conducting policy. As I and many others have often noted, Obama stands aside from crises because he does not have enough experience to know what to do.
True enough, his diehard supporters want us to believe that he is simply more rational than the rest of us, but the world, as Madeleine Albright recently said, is a mess and one reason is, the absence of leadership.
After caricaturing Obama’s critics as irrational warmongers Gopnik declares that Obama is doing the best that he can and that everyone knows it.
Examine Gopnik’s text:
The curious thing, though, is how much the talk about manliness—and Obama’s lack of it—is purely and entirely about appearances. In the current crisis over the downed Malaysian plane, all the emphasis is on how it looks or how it might be made to look—far more than on American interests and much less on simple empathy for the nightmarish fate of the people on board. The tough-talkers end up grudgingly admitting that what the President has done—as earlier, with Syria—is about all that you could do, given the circumstances. Their own solutions are either a further variant on the kinds of sanctions that are already in place—boycott the World Cup in Russia!—or else are too militarily reckless to be taken seriously. Not even John McCain actually thinks that we should start a war over whether Donetsk and Luhansk should be regarded as part of Ukraine or Russia. The tough guys basically just think that Obama should have looked scarier. The anti-effeminate have very little else to suggest by way of practical action—except making those unambiguous threats and, apparently, baring your teeth while you do.
The truth is more complex. Given the fact that Obama has persuaded the world that he is disengaged and disinterested, anything that he does will be seen as macho posturing.
Obama’s opponents feel obliged to suggest alternatives, and many of these alternatives do not inspire confidence. Unfortunately, given the president’s character, given the way he has presented himself on the world stage, no one would believe him if he suddenly stepped forward to take charge. Everyone would see it as posturing.
Obama does not need a higher VQ to sound more unambiguously pro-Israeli and stop his efforts to suck up to the Iranians. He needs enough understanding of the world and his role in it.
It wouldn’t make him look like a warmonger to stand up and lend his voice to those who have denounced the genocide being committed against Christians in Mosul.
True enough, the State Department has denounced ISIS for its ethnic cleansing, but what would prevent the president from adding his voice to the denunciations?
But, Gopnik asks, where did this cult to toughness come from? He answers, correctly that it goes back to the John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson administrations.
He does not quite say it, but next to Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy looked like a child, in over his head, out of his depth. It is well known that Kennedy provoked the Cuban missile crisis because he was afraid of looking weak. And that he got us involved in Vietnam because he was afraid of looking weak. Lyndon Johnson kept us in Vietnam for the same reason.
Could it be that you are afraid of appearing weak because you are weak? One must consider the possibility.
As it happened, President Eisenhower was offered the opportunity to intervene in Indochina in 1954, to save beleaguered French troops. He passed.
Given who he was, and given his reputation, he did not have to make any macho displays.
[I discussed this question at greater length in my book, Saving Face.]
The moral of the story is: don’t elect presidents who are short on experience and long on charisma. They might fool the American people, but they will not be able to fool other world leaders.
Given who Obama is, he had to display some machismo before his last election… as he did in killing Osama bin Laden and in conducting the drone war.
But, Obama belongs to a branch of the Democratic party that no longer fears being seen as weak. In fact, it wears the label as a badge of honor.
Unfortunately, Gopnik defines the choice between tough guys and wise guys. By tough guys he means guys who have to make a conspicuous display of their manliness because everyone knows that they are short a few VQ points. He does not recognize the category of men who have earned their reputation as leaders and do not need to indulge in macho posturing.
In Gopnik’s words:
We don’t need tough guys. We need wise guys. We’ve tried tough guys, and it always ends in tears. Tough guys you know right away because they’re never scared of a fight. Wise guys you only know in retrospect, when you remember that they quietly walked away from the fight that now has the tough guy in a hospital. Wise women do that, too.
Of course, it is not always a good thing to walk away from a fight.
Since we are trafficking in historical analogies, recall the American president who famously declared that he was “too proud to fight.”
In early 1915, after the Germans sunk the Lusitania there was a great hue and cry for Woodrow Wilson to defend American honor and to get involved in the Great War.
Wilson chose to stand aside and to avoid the fight… until 1918.
The war raged on, in a stalemate that killed millions of soldiers and that paved the way for the rise of Communism, Nazism and fascism.
Throughout it, former president Theodore Roosevelt excoriated the Wilson administration for being weak and ineffectual. He wanted it to intervene and to put an end to the slaughter.
Finally, in 1918 the Wilson administration sent our troops to Europe. They brought the war to an end in a few months.
You can say that Wilson was wise to avoid a fight. But, if you look at the millions who died while he was dithering and how quickly America’s presence put an end to the conflict, you would not be so quick to conclude that it is always good and wise to be “too proud to fight.”