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Opinion | Washington Manned Up and Let Us Down After 9/11

Yet many of my male colleagues did not see Powell’s case as limp and ginned up, simply an excuse to go kick some Arabs, any Arabs, so that they would never look at us cross-eyed again. The guys saw the case as strong. I asked a friend, a man who worked at another publication, about this macho invasion fever.

“Men love war,” he said, shrugging.

Unfortunately, the horrors this “shock and awe” crew unleashed did not shock the country enough to stamp out the mania of this self-defeating streak of hyper-masculinity.

After the respite of Barack Obama, Donald Trump became president. When Trump was running in the Republican primaries, focus groups reported that the quality voters most admired in the reality show star was “balls.” (He even referenced his anatomy during a debate.) His fans were posting memes of him as Rambo, quite an upgrade for Cadet Bone Spurs, and Trump himself tweeted a picture of himself as a shirtless Rocky. All this, even though he would later hit the White House bunker during the Black Lives Matter protests.

After riling up his supporters on Jan. 6 to swarm the Capitol, and telling them “we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you,” Rambo/Rocky retreated to the Oval Office to watch the chaos on TV.

Trump’s faux tough-guy routine led to the lethal political divide on masks, which undermined our ability to beat the virus. When Trump got Covid, he was happy to accept all the special medications he could get from his large team of doctors at Walter Reed. Yet he continued to act as though Covid was a minor annoyance, signaling to his red-state supporters that masks were for wimps.

Never one to miss a cheesy tableau of machismo, Trump is providing ringside commentary on a boxing match on 9/11 at the Hard Rock Casino in Florida between Evander Holyfield, 58, and Vitor Belfort, 44. During a promotional event for the Hasbeenpalooza, the 75-year-old bragged that he’d like to beat up the 78-year-old Joe Biden in the ring, that it would be his “easiest fight” and that Biden would “go down within the first few seconds.”

And though Biden does let slip the occasional schoolyard taunt, this president, blessedly, is not generally a hyper-masculine style of leader. He is digging his way out from under the damage caused by Republican predecessors who used that approach to mask their own insecurities and inadequacies.

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