He didn’t call any names, but Obama did mention the Sunday TV talk shows, where 2008 presidential rival Sen. John McCain frequently holds forth. It’s a rare interview that doesn’t find the bellicose Arizonian, who’s supported all 14 of the nation’s last three wars, yearning to bomb somebody.
“Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian army?” Obama asked. He added that steady diplomatic and economic pressure is more likely to restrain Putin than futile military gestures.
Talk like that invariably stimulates what Calvin Trillin dubbed the “Sabbath Gasbags” to question the president’s virility. On “Meet the Press,” hairy-chested he-man David Brooks, the New York Times columnist who thought invading Iraq was a terrific idea, opined that “Obama, whether deservedly or not, does have a — I’ll say it crudely — a manhood problem ... Is he tough enough to stand up to somebody like Assad, somebody like Putin?”
NBC’s Chuck Todd went all canine on him. Obama’s critics, he said, don’t actually disagree so much with the president’s policy decisions as they think, “He’s not alpha dog enough. His rhetoric isn’t tough enough.”
Now me, I don’t miss junior high school at all, but let’s get basic. Back in 1956, when Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who liberated Europe from the Nazis, declined to engage the Russian army in its own back yard. Nobody questioned Ike’s masculinity.
When the Soviets crushed the “Prague Spring” rebellion in 1968, everybody understood there wasn’t a sane thing the U.S. could do about it. Everybody was extra careful not to mention LBJ’s manliness for fear he might decide to whip ... well, to make a public spectacle of it.