Along with everything else we’re dealing with, there’s the sad state of the strong man. Not the Strong Man, like the currently popular Putin. The actual strong man.
It’s good that our understanding of what it means to be a man has evolved. But there are some traditional values that remain valuable, like courage, integrity, humility, and using your strength to protect people, not to prey on them.
A bully is a sad imitation of that, and in reality is its opposite.
A bully is a weak, frightened boy in a man’s body, putting on a noisy show.
Trump is a classic bully. But as I’ve said before, he isn’t the cause of what’s gone wrong with our country, he’s a symptom, and that applies to the state of manhood as well. It’s not Trump’s fault that such a flagrantly phony “tough guy” could be taken for the real thing. The fault, dear Brutus, is in ourselves.
And so with Trump’s Secretary of State and former CIA Director, Mike Pompeo. NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly recently asked him the tough but fair questions any serious reporter would have asked, instead of only the safe ones he wanted to answer. He ended the interview and then yelled and swore at her for about 10 minutes.
She was just doing her job, and he fell apart.
The contrast between the two of them raises yet another traditional value of the truly strong man: capability. Bullies are typically incompetent. It’s one reason for their inner sense of weakness (along with the bullying they themselves have often suffered in childhood).
Pompeo, like his boss, checks the incompetence box too. He’s been in the public eye for a long time, but doesn’t seem to know that real reporters don’t make deals like the one he claims he had with Kelly. And as the record shows, he didn’t have such a deal.
He also doesn’t seem to know how “off the record” works: wishing his post-interview meltdown had been off the record doesn’t make it so.
And he didn’t know how to avoid humiliating himself even further by demanding that an experienced foreign affairs journalist with a Master’s in European Studies find Ukraine on an unlabeled map. I guess he thought that was hard, but she didn’t.
It was a classic bully’s move. Kelly shouldn’t have had to pass such a test, though she easily did.
But Pompeo, true to form for a bully, failed a mild test of the strength he can only pretend to have.