National Review's new tough guy, Mark Hemingway

Seeking a concise and creative title to describe the faux masculinity warriors on the right.

Published September 5, 2007 4:59PM (EDT)

(updated below)

From Jonah Goldberg to Rich Lowry, National Review has long been renowned for its roster of tough-guy commentators -- real salt-of-the-earth conservative men who love to let you know what tough warriors they are. The latest addition to this impressive roster of traditional manliness is new staff writer Mark Hemingway.

In his article on Larry Craig last week, Hemingway noted that there was nothing surprising about Craig's homosexuality because he was "a member of 'The Singing Senators' barbershop." Today, in a post at The Corner, Hemingway linked to an article speculating that David Souter cried after being on the losing end of Bush v. Gore, and Hemingway wrote:

Did Souter cry over 2000 recount vote? [Mark Hemingway]

Of all the Supreme Court justices, I always suspected he was the sissy mary. Scalia probably waits outside his chamber to steal his lunch money.

Just initially -- as discovered by TS -- here is the Tough Guy and Defender of Traditional Masculine Virtues, Mark Hemingway:

Another picture is here. As has been noted many times before, those who have a never-ending need publicly to call into question the masculinity of others in order to make political points -- whether it be James Taranto, Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Reynolds -- are so frequently the precise antithesis of the virtues of traditional masculinity they accuse others of lacking. That this is so is neither surprising nor hard to decipher.

As I elaborate on below, the political exploitation of traditional masculinity themes by the likes of Hemingway and Rush Limbaugh -- and the central role such tactics play in the right-wing noise machine -- is a major subject of the book I am currently writing. As a result, I wrote Hemingway the following e-mail asking for him to elaborate on his comment regarding Souter (I have yet to receive a response, but will post it if and when I do):

Mr. Hemingway - I'm writing a piece for Salon on your blog item today regarding David Souter. I have a few questions:

(1) By "sissy mary," do you mean "homosexual" or just a girly-man?

(2) The new John Draper book reports that George Bush "is prone to bouts of crying caused by the stress of his job" and quotes Bush saying: "I've got God's shoulder to cry on. And I cry a lot. I do a lot of crying in this job. I'll bet I've shed more tears than you can count, as president. I'll shed some tomorrow."

Does that make George Bush a "sissy mary," too? If not, what's the difference?

(3) Do you consider yourself a "sissy mary," or traditionally masculine, or a tough guy? What in your life have you done that suggests you are something other than a "sissy mary"?

(4) When is the last time you cried?

(5) Do you think that your physical appearance (see here) has anything to do with your need to mock publicly the masculinity of others?

[I added one other question in a follow-up email: "The link above to your photo includes a passage you wrote for the Orange Commentator. How does that relate to what you said about Souter?").

I'd much rather write about your post (as well as your recent article about Larry Craig and cruising, which is of a piece with the post) with your input than without it. Thanks -

Glenn Greenwald

As I have argued several times before, the intense exploitation by the right-wing and the Republican Party of these cultural and gender-based themes (dutifully followed by our establishment media pundits) has played far more significant of a role in influencing both the outcome of elections and the perception of "conservatives" and "liberals" than any substantive policy disputes. The depiction of liberal and Democratic males as girly, elitist freaks (and the converse depiction of liberal women as emasculating he-men), contrasted with the iconic Republican Male Leader who is a courageous, wholesome, salt-of-the-earth warrior and tough guy pervades our entire political culture.

It would be bad enough if these cultural themes were actually true. The argument would still be compelling that such themes are petty and manipulative and engender a corrupted and shallow political process. But the reality is actually far worse than that, because this mythology of the Strong Male Right-wing Leader is based in rank fiction.

Virtually the entire top layer of Republican leaders, both political and media figures, are the very opposite of the virtues this movement claims to embody. From Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the rest of the right-wing noise machine, along with our brave neoconservative warmongers -- to say nothing of the likes of George Bush and Dick Cheney -- it is virtually impossible to locate genuine acts of strength, bravery, regular-guy wholesomeness, or any of the warrior attributes and virtues of traditional masculinity they claim to exude.

Indeed, as this Mark Hemingway "sissy mary" outburst illustrates, the opposite is almost always true. The gap between the Mythological Right-Wing Male Leader and the reality of their actual leaders is virtually infinite. Examining that gaping disconnect between what their leaders really are and what they pretend to be -- and highlighting the manipulative cultural themes the right-wing has wielded to win elections -- is the topic of my current book.

The book is scheduled to be released towards the end of the GOP primary season in March or April, as it will describe the artificial glorifying techniques certain to be used no matter who the Republican nominee is during the 2008 election. That is an extremely fast schedule for writing and publishing a book. I am well on my way towards completing the manuscript, but there is one important task that we have not yet been able to complete -- selection of a title.

Readers of this blog ought to be familiar with the basic argument and theme of the book, both from past writings here and my description today. Because we have not yet been able to find the right title, I am asking that anyone with a good title submit it by e-mail ( and/or in comments here. There will be some sort of prize for the person who submits the selected title and/or subtitle, along with express credit in the event that is desired.

Describe the mythological process by which the Right manufactures their tough guy, salt-of-the-earth warriors and uses those myths to manipulate our political culture and win elections. Put another way, what is sought is concise and creative shorthand to describe the Mark Hemingway Complex.

UPDATE: At the Corner, Hemingway replies and says:

Heavens to Murgatroid... [Mark Hemingway]

...It. Was. A. Joke. Though I applaud how Glenn Greenwald is able express his disdain for how I, and other NR writers, supposedly question the masculinity of liberals, by in turn questioning the masculinity of NR writers — I haven't seen contortions like that outside a Chinese circus. (Predicted Greenwald reaction: "Oh my goodness, he hates Asian people too!")

What an odd and unlikely coincidence that the one Supreme Court Justice who is unmarried and the subject of frequent insinuations that he is gay (as well as an Enemy of the Right) just happened to be the target of Hemingway's creepy feminizing phrase -- though purely as a "joke." Other super tough Churchillian (anonymous) guys on the Right made the same type of comment about the Souter Story with obvious seriousness ("Souter Cried Like A Girl"). That's how the Right functions.

From George Bush's codpiece and ranch brush clearing to "John Edwards, The Hair-Obsessed Faggot" to the "Practically Lactating" Al Gore, the Right (with an eager assist from their media enablers) has made masculinity and Tough Guy inconography a central part of its political identity. It even relies upon this Tough Guy posture to justify its attachment to war. Here, as but one of countless examples, is Jonah Goldberg's explanation in National Review for why he supported the war in Iraq:

Q: If you're a kid and you've had enough of the school bullies pants-ing you in the cafeteria, what's one of the smartest things you can do?

A: Punch one of them in the nose as hard as you can and then stand your ground.

And Jonah then approvingly quotes fellow tough guy Michael Ledeen as follows:

Well, I've long been an admirer of, if not a full-fledged subscriber to, what I call the "Ledeen Doctrine." I'm not sure my friend Michael Ledeen will thank me for ascribing authorship to him and he may have only been semi-serious when he crafted it, but here is the bedrock tenet of the Ledeen Doctrine in more or less his own words: "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business." That's at least how I remember Michael phrasing it at a speech at the American Enterprise Institute about a decade ago.

These types of Faux Tough Guy themes are used to do everything from justifying wars (those who oppose them are cowards who are not man enough to stand up to Al Qaeda) to demonizing liberals and Democrats as cowards and perverts. Here is Chris Matthews the other night fondly reminiscing and giggling with Pat Buchanan over how great the Right wields this weapon:

MATTHEWS: Pat, you are one of the greatest rhetoriticians of our life. You spoke down there in Houston in '92. I mention this because it was one of the great moments in the Republican Party. You're down -- great in a certain way. You're down there in Houston, talking about the whole Democratic Party "cross dressing".

BUCHANAN: Well, I...

MATTHEWS: Jean (sic) Kirkpatrick in '84 referred to the "San Francisco Democrats." Everybody got the giggle. We all get the giggle. But that puts your party at a higher standard. It has to behave itself...

BUCHANAN: Well, sure...

MATTHEWS: ... in terms of its own notion of values.

Everyone "gets the giggle." But as the recent Craig, Foley and Vitter scandals demonstrate, right-wing political figures who want to wrap themselves in the banner of wholesome Family Values and accuse opponents of being sexually perverted freaks are going to have their own behavior scrutinized for compliance with those standards. The same is true for those who seek to win political arguments and elections by claiming the mantle of traditional Tough Guy courage and strength and depicting their male opponents as gender-confused pansies and female opponents as emasculating, freakish dykes. How can anyone dispute that such considerations are relevant to those who engage in lowly tactics like this?

By Glenn Greenwald

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