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“Great” Presidents: They’re Good for the Soul!

Scroll to the end of the audio of this Federalist Society debate on “Executive Discretion & the Rule of Law” for the following gem from the unsatirizable Harvey Mansfield:

Q: is the type of [presidential] greatness you’re talking about consistent with separation of powers [and is it] necessarily good for individuals?

A: ….Is it always good for the individual? No, if by good for the individual you mean make him more wealthy or more secure, but… what… what is good for your soul? what is good for your soul is something that enlarges it and makes it respect itself more and it gives you something to be proud of–and that’s what a great president does in our country. Our greatness is wrapped up in our great presidents.

Huh. And here I thought the ostensible purpose of the national government was to make the individual more prosperous and secure. And I thought that tasks like enlarging the soul and making it, er, respect itself more, were beyond the purview of the federal government’s chief magistrate, who was to have “no particle of spiritual jurisdiction.”

Shows how much I know. I mean, until HM published Manliness a few years back, I was inclined to doubt that you could learn much on the subject from some twee, tweed-jacketed fellow whose own bio brags that “he has hardly left Harvard since his first arrival in 1949.”

05/13/2008 | Arts and Culture, Cult of the Presidency | 6 Comments

Daddy Party

Now that Jim Webb has won the Democratic nomination for VA Senate, I expect Harvey Mansfield, Rich Lowry, and everybody else in the jock-sniffing Republican Cult of Masculinity to endorse him. I mean, he’s no wrestling coach, but Webb’s plenty tough nonetheless.

Jim Webb was a platoon leader, a rifle platoon commander and he was also a company commander. He won the Navy Cross, which is the nation’s second highest award for battlefield gallantry after the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Marine Corps very rarely awards the Congressional Medal of Honor to anybody that survives the experience. He won two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, several Purple Hearts. Webb is one of the toughest people I’ve ever met and remains so to this day.

That’s from a Booknotes interview with Robert Timberg, author of Nightingale’s Song, which tells the story of five Annapolis grads who went to Vietnam: Webb, Ollie North, Bud McFarland, John Poindexter, and John McCain.

Of course, Republicans-for-the-Strenuous-Life may be withholding their endorsement because Webb dropped the Annapolis boxing championship to Ollie North:

TIMBERG: The boxing story — Jim Webb and Ollie North, same class — Class of 1968 — never really liked one another. It was like they were oil and water. At any rate, North had been in a terrible car accident in his plebe year and it was questionable whether he could ever return to the academy. By an enormous force of will and rehabilitation, he managed to come back and he was in Jim Webb’s class. Both of them were boxers, but Webb had been boxing for years, almost from the time he was 12, 13. And he was very, very good. North was what somebody called a good Saturday night boxer. I mean, he just seemed to rise to the occasion. Webb, on the other hand, knew he could — under ordinary circumstances — could just take North apart. But Ollie had knee braces from his car accident.

People went up to Webb and said, “Hey, Jimmy, you hit Ollie too hard, you might kill him.” And Webb knew this was baloney. How — I mean, no one was going to let somebody in the ring with a steel plate in his head, which is one of the things he had heard. But somehow Webb got himself psyched out in this and when you box — particularly when you box at the academy, because no one is a great stylist, you’ve got to go in there and you’ve got to meet — you’ve got to fight to win, you’ve got to have — you’ve got to be psychologically attuned to taking your classmate’s head off, if you will. And Webb wasn’t. I mean, he went in there, he was tentative, he was very stylish. He ducked, he moved and North looked kind of sloppy. But North landed some punches and this fight ended up with Ollie North beating Jim Webb in a fight that everybody else felt Jim Webb was going to win hands-down.

Me, I’m still waiting for the Rich-Lowry/Al Franken cage match to happen. WAR Franken!

06/14/2006 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“The Sadness of Crews”

I see my site has gone blank, so I suppose I should blog again. I missed the last few minutes of last night’s Sopranos due to a tragic Tivo mishap, but what I saw was terrific. In a sort of Sopranos-meets-Harvey Mansfield script, it explored the theme of masculinity and alpha male hierarchies. (Come to think of it, I’d like to see Paulie Walnuts meet Harvey Mansfield).

You had Johnny Sack (understandably) breaking down in tears in front of the families assembled, as federal marshalls cuff him and ruin his daughter’s wedding. But these aren’t guys raised on the Free to Be You and Me album, and it is most definitely not “Alright to Cry.” In the post-arrest confab, you’re expecting sympathy for the Don. But Sack’s lieutenant Phil Leotardo has only contempt, saying that his estimation of John Sacrimoni as a man has plummeted: “To cry like a woman–it’s a disgrace.”

Throughout the episode, you see Tony taking note of younger wiseguys’ biceps, lamenting that he used to bench three bills, and worrying that even fat Bobby Bacala is getting fit. And you see Tony taking this all in. And even though he’s come out of the coma half-longing to be the workaday schlump of the dream sequence, watching his kids grow up, and too fat and happy to intimidate even Buddhist monks–he realizes that as long as he’s perched atop this chimp pyramid, displays of dominance are not optional. So later at Satriale’s he starts a fight with the toughest young chimp, “Muscles Marinara,” beats him to the ground, and vomits his breakfast into the pork store’s toilet.

There’s a lot of vomiting in this season. It has something to do with existential dread and nausea, but I bailed on the English major early in college, so I don’t know quite what.

04/10/2006 | Uncategorized | Comments Off on “The Sadness of Crews”


I don’t know from V for Vendetta, not having seen it yet. But if wingers are going to condemn any movie that has the hero blowing up buildings, they’re going to have to junk one of their favorites. Not long ago, watching Spike, the Network for Harvey Mansfield, I caught the early ’80s Cold War classic Red Dawn, where half the cast of Outsiders does battle with the combined Soviet/Cuban forces occupying America. Most of what Swayze and his Wolverines do is classic guerrilla stuff–directed at the commie military itself. But there’s one scene that jumped out at me as a little edgy in the post-9/11 world. Jennifer Grey, the gal from Dirty Dancing, pre-nose-job, strolls into the “Soviet-American Friendship Center,” where all sorts of civilians are milling around. She leaves a minute or so later, in a hurry, just before the place blows up.

Interesting trivia: RD director John Milius is apparently a genuine ‘winger. He also wrote the line “Go ahead, make my day,” and served as the Coen Brothers’ inspiration for the John Goodman character in the Big Lebowski.

03/20/2006 | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Wolverines!