Thursday, March 13, 2008

E.T.: Eliot's Testosterone

I liked Eliot Spitzer. Of course, I didn't have to work with him on a daily basis, which I understand could be a problem. He was the first governor in US history to introduce legislation that would grant same-gender couples equal rights. That takes balls. He was a tough, uncompromising prosecutor who went after Wall Street tycoons like a bulldog after a rat. That also takes balls. Unfortunately, his balls took him places he shouldn't have been, such as to bed with high-priced call girls. Oh, how precipitously the mighty have fallen.

It's easy to say that power corrupts. That's more-or-less conventional wisdom today. But is it true? Or is there something about American politics that weeds out those personalities less likely to fall prey to the testosterone trap?

Perhaps I should clearly define what I mean by the "testosterone trap". By that term, I mean simply that, in an age of perpetual fear, the very quality in a (male) candidate most likely to assure success is also that most likely to lead to his moral downfall. The evidence for this proposition is overwhelming. Just think of all the successful politicians who, in recent years, have been disgraced (or, at least, embarrassed) by their philandering. I hardly need to list them here.

What is this quality so necessary to political good fortune? To be rather crude about it, it's having bigger balls than your rivals. It's about frat boy behavior, John Wayne's swagger, frequent use of profanity, bluster, bellicosity, and belligerence. Why, even women candidates fall prey to the testosterone trap. Think of Golda Meir; the "Iron Lady", Margaret Thatcher; and, now, Hillary Clinton. Ms. Clinton is even suggesting, implicitly, that she has more "balls" when it comes to standing up to terrorism than her Democratic rival, Barack Obama. (Think of her emphasis on "experience" as a euphemism for "balls". I mean, really, does Hillary have THAT MUCH more experience in foreign policy or homeland security than Barack? Does the image she wants you to have in your mind when you think of her taking that call at 3am conjure up hair curlers and Oil of Olay?)

No one falls into the testosterone trap more whole-heartedly than John McCain. He even takes wife, Cindy, his icon of "I'm a better man than you", with him wherever he goes, like a favorite briefcase. His hair-trigger temper and harrowing grimace make him a fearsome opponent, even to the likes of "Islamic terrorists". No wonder that recent polls show him running well ahead of Hillary and Barack in the category of "most likely to kick the crap out of anybody who messes with the US".

I wonder how Jesus would do in a run for the presidency of our "Christian Nation"? I'm sure that his advisers would tone-down his talk of turning the other cheek and loving our enemies and play up his throwing the money-changers out of the temple. Language like "suffer the little children" would have to go and he would simply have to chuck the passivity and macho up. (I just realized that this makes two days in a row that I have mentioned Jesus; if I'm not careful, some people may get the impression that I'm a Bible-thumper.)

Here's a new dot for you: when you're all alone with your thoughts and your paper ballot or touch-screen voting machine, ask yourself if what you want in a president is a tough daddy who can beat up your best friend's daddy (along with his own wife and kids) or that other guy--or gal--who bears a slight resemblance disposition-wise to that swishy kid back in high school. Perhaps if we looked for qualities in our leaders similar to those we seek in our lovers, we'd have leaders who don't need so many lovers.


Dan said...

Perhaps it's a genetic thing. Those who have had "balls" produced more offspring than the timid amongst us?

As Nicholas Wade relates in "Before the Dawn," --

"Genghis's interest in procreation was shared by his sons, one of whom is credited with 40 sons. It seems to have been a deliberate policy of Genghis and his heirs to father as many children as possible....From the proportion of Mongol royal house Y chromosomes in their sample, Tyler-Smith and his colleagues have been able to calculate just how well Genghis succeeded in his procreative program. An astonishing 8% of males throughout the former lands of the Mongol empire carry the Y chromosome of Genghis Khan. This amounts to a total of 16 million men, or about 0.5% fo the world's total."

legacyguy said...

Dan, thanks for your comment.

It could be genetics, as you say. It could be testosterone levels. It could be vanity or insecurity. It could be a loveless or sexless marriage. There are many possibilities. Thanks for educating me on one.

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