The RPs Debate: Presidential Leadership — John Y Provokes

Today, we launch a new feature at The Recovering Politician: The RPs Debate.  In this format, one of our contributors will make a provocative post, and others will jump in with their responses.  We will publish a new response every half hour. If you like it, we’ll try it again soon.  If not, at least some of us had a fun weekend arguing.

The Provocateur: John Y. Brown, III

When women kiss it always reminds me of prize fighters shaking hands. — HL Mencken.

I thought of this quote watching the Iowa presidential primary returns last week. I was thinking about the basic competitiveness among the men and women–with their own sex.

That quote made me laugh when I read if for the first time as a college student because, as a guy, I was just starting to notice that women were often more competitive than they seemed. Of course, women know this all along but young men– who tend only to notice round objects that can be thrown or resemble the shape of a sandwich or remote control — often miss subtler body language.

Fast forward another 20 years, and I begin to notice the subtler competitiveness among men. Oh, I suppose I always sensed it but never paid full attention to it — until recently. The put down, the standing slightly taller, the one upsmanship stories, the sarcastic joke that makes you a bad sport if you don’t laugh at yourself But there is another level…that is more concerning and more important among men. Fear of being replaced by a younger man….that mixes envy and fear and pride. The mature man becomes generative….a mentor. He accepts his new role with gusto and doesn’t try anymore to win foot races against younger men but to help coach him and teach him not only how to run faster but to be a better man, husband and father. Women, of course, experience this too but I’ve been thinking more about the male reaction to this pressure and it’s significance — to individuals, to families, and even to nations.

So, what does it look like in it’s most basic form? Like this (watch clip below)

After watching ask yourself this question: Would Mitt Romney have done better in Iowa last week if he was a little more like Tony Soprano in this scene? In short, does Romney lack a hard to define leadership trait that is mostly instinctive, crude, and primitive—but expected? I think so–but it’s not politically correct to suggest.

I’m completely puzzled by how a seemingly perfect candidate — on paper — can continue to be treated so tentatively and apprehensively by voters whose other choices seem — to me anyway — to be in a different league from Romney. Anyway, this is my pet theory this week for explaining the mild but clear case of Romney-phobia we saw at the polls last week.


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