Author’s note: For the indefinite future, all my digital articles will be short and shorter. Why? Because I’ve gotten myself ensnared in writing another book – a book that will appear after the next one. My next book – to be published in September by Cambridge University Press – is co-authored with Todd Pittinsky. It’s titled, Leaders Who Lust: Power, Money, Sex, Success, Legitimacy, Legacy.
Not one of our recent presidents – not Barack Obama, or George W. Bush, or Bill Clinton, or George H. W. Bush, or Ronald Reagan, or Jimmy Carter – has put a premium particularly on seeming manly. Each has seemed secure enough in his manhood to take it for granted. Similarly, though they all pursued policies that could be seen to be hostile, they seemed at least to do so reluctantly. None appeared to relish their hostility, or to equate it with being manly.
Donald Trump has been the exception to this general rule. To be seen to be manly has been all his life of supreme importance. In his adulthood it has been a running theme, whether it be vis-à-vis women, or vis-à-vis his competition in business, or, for that matter, in politics. Trump’s stance is invariably assertive. His behavior is relentlessly combative. And his language is atypically aggressive. Not for nothing does the word “dominate” dominate his vocabulary.
Trump mistakenly equates manliness with strength. The irony is by his calculation he is the least manly of all recent presidents. He is, that is, the least strong. Nowhere has this been so screamingly obvious as during the pandemic. The pandemic is the most serious public health crisis the United States has faced in over a century. Yet instead of seizing the reins, instead of taking control, the president of the United States, the federal government, abdicated control. He turned control of the corona virus crisis over to state and local authorities. In so doing he was many things. But, above all he was weak. Above all he was the opposite of strong. Above all he was anything other than the man he imagined.