I understand the conventional explanations for why CNN amended its rules to allow Carly Fiorina into the main Republican presidential debate later this month. Fiorina's gaining in the polls, and CNN's formula for inclusion in the main debate didn't take that into account. The GOP wants her there as a show of gender diversity. The GOP also wants her there because she attacks Hillary Clinton relentlessly.
I'm sure CNN and the GOP are thinking all that. But I also think The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty has a point:
In the enormous Republican field, she is the only one who has demonstrated anything that rivals the thrust-and-parry skills of front-runner Donald Trump -- another political outsider who comes from the business world. Trump dominated the main stage in Cleveland, in part because none of his rivals had any idea how to take him on....
In [the "undercard" debate in] Cleveland, she may have gotten off the best jab at Trump, even though she wasn't on the stage with him. Referring to a Washington Post report that former president Bill Clinton had called Trump while the New York real estate mogul was considering whether to run, Fiorina said: "I didn't get a phone call from Bill Clinton before I jumped in the race. Did any of you get a phone call from Bill Clinton? I didn't. Maybe it's because I hadn't given money to the foundation or donated to his wife's Senate campaign."
The other candidates seem to recognize that someone has to take on Trump.
If the GOP pressured CNN to change the rules in part so that Fiorina can take on Trump, I think that's hilarious.
After all, we've been told for years that the Democratic Party is the soft, nurturing, liberal party of femininity and the GOP is the conservative, traditionalist party of manly men. We've been told that the Democratic Party is the Mommy Party and the GOP is the Daddy Party. And we've heard conservatives endlessly extol the virtues of masculinity, which they claim is under constant assault from liberals and Democrats, whose worldview is creating a race of mutant, unmanly men.
Thus we have Mona Charen at National Review writing about the passengers who recently prevented a terrorist attack on a European train:
There’s one more thing to be said of the heroes on the train. They were men. So-called “traditional masculinity” is a major target of feminists on college campuses and elsewhere. That, they teach, is what creates the “rape culture.” The Obama administration has joined in (naturally). A government website urges that colleges “Promote an understanding of the ways in which traditional masculinity contributes to sexual assault and other forms of men’s violence against women.”
Men have been defamed and devalued in our society for decades. Their high spirits are punished in schools. Their natural protectiveness has been scorned as sexism.
The passengers on that French train are surely grateful that some manliness remains indomitable.
We have Fox's Brit Hume on Chris Christie, not long after the Bridgegate scandal broke:
When the Chris Christie bridge scandal erupted, Brit Hume, the Fox senior political analyst, said in Christie’s defense: “I would have to say that in this sort of feminized atmosphere in which we exist today, guys who are masculine and muscular like that in their private conduct, kind of old-fashioned tough guys, run some risks.”
He sought to clarify this way:
“By which I mean that men today have learned the lesson the hard way that if you act like a kind of an old-fashioned guy’s guy, you’re in constant danger of slipping out and saying something that’s going to get you in trouble and make you look like a sexist or make you look like you seem thuggish or whatever. That’s the atmosphere in which he operates. This guy is very much an old-fashioned masculine, muscular guy, and there are political risks associated with that. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but that’s how it is.”
We have Peggy Noonan shortly after 9/11:
... men are back. A certain style of manliness is once again being honored and celebrated in our country since Sept. 11. You might say it suddenly emerged from the rubble of the past quarter century, and emerged when a certain kind of man came forth to get our great country out of the fix it was in.
I am speaking of masculine men, men who push things and pull things and haul things and build things, men who charge up the stairs in a hundred pounds of gear and tell everyone else where to go to be safe. Men who are welders, who do construction, men who are cops and firemen. They are all of them, one way or another, the men who put the fire out, the men who are digging the rubble out, and the men who will build whatever takes its place.
... when we killed John Wayne, you know who we were left with. We were left with John Wayne's friendly-antagonist sidekick in the old John Ford movies, Barry Fitzgerald. The small, nervous, gossiping neighborhood commentator Barry Fitzgerald, who wanted to talk about everything and do nothing.
This was not progress. It was not improvement.
I missed John Wayne.
But now I think ... he's back.
Conservatives love manly men. Conservative candidates have traditionally promised to be the manly men who will keep us safe from everything bad.
And now we have fifteen conservative men running against a bully named Donald Trump -- including Christie, a guy we were old for years was tough as nails. And yet the Daddy Party may believe a woman is the only person who might be able to back the bully down.
Hilarious, I tell you.
UPDATE: Peggy Noonan's shaky grasp of history is fact-checked in the comments. See comment #2, from Impolitics.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog