“We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”― C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
There is perhaps no greater contrast between the quintessential (and nearly bygone) American masculinity and the feminized Pajama Boy we’ve come to know in recent years than the competing media narratives of Texas Governor Rick Perry and President Obama this week.
While President Obama has projected the image of a flaccid leader who is aloof, distant, and out of touch with the the humanitarian crisis at the Southern border — even appearing to laugh his way through a meeting with Perry and other Texas leaders — Governor Perry has exuded strength, seriousness of purpose, and muscular leadership. Perry has demanded accountability from the Obama administration and has proposed meaningful solutions to the border crisis — he wants the National Guard on the border immediately, strategic fencing, and drones in the air.
Obama, on the other hand, has attended fundraisers with Democrat high rollers, was photographed trolling bars in Denver with Colorado Governor Hickenlooper, and used a press conference to whine about Republican intransigence on immigration reform.
While Perry was storming the Rio Grande on a heavily armed Texas Highway Patrol boat (wearing a flak jacket and a LaRue Tactical ball cap … and likely packing something powerful on his hip), President Pajama Boy sipped hot tea at the Magnolia Cafe before tying up traffic across Central Texas as the presidential motorcade made its way to the Paramount Theatre, where President Obama complained about Republicans threatening to sue him.
It’s quite a stark contrast in both substance and style.
In Perry’s interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Wednesday, the country’s longest serving governor demonstrated that his flubbed debate performance in 2012 (perhaps as a result of post-back surgery pain medication) was not an accurate reflection of his intellect or ability to lead — it was more of a one-off. Perry expertly explained the border crisis and his proposed solutions. The professorial Perry strongly criticized President Obama but did so without vitriol. His “here’s how we fix it … let’s get this done” attitude projected confidence and decisive leadership.
An accomplished governor who is thoughtful, serious, and articulate — the former Texas A & M yell leader is an unapologetic cheerleader for his state and his country. A man who kills his own meat and makes you believe he would kill any terrorist who dares to cross into Texas on his watch — with his bare hands … or maybe with just a stern look. A man who easily transitions from a meeting with a the president of the United States — in a perfectly tailored suit and hipster glasses — to a border patrol boat on the dangerous Rio Grande. And who hasn’t imagined Rick Perry shirtless on horseback, knowing that if push came to shove he would face down Vladimir Putin — shirtless on horseback — in order to save the free world? And he’d win. (Don’t lie, you know you’ve imagined this.)
Perry reminds us that we’ve had a leadership void in this country. The United States has failed to project much more than a token of strength at least since “back in the day” when President Bush dared to call Islamic terrorists the “Axis of Evil” in the wake of the 9-11 attacks. And moral leadership? Morality has become a dirty word in Obama’s America.
Perry, the gun-slinging, tough-talking, God-fearing Texas governor, reminds us of what we’ve been missing: for too long we’ve had a president without a chest. In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis imagines a dystopian future without objective truth and divorced from natural law, where “men without chests” rule by their own unreflected whims and according to their own selfish motives. It seems we’ve arrived at that future, or dangerously close to it.
While Perry certainly has political acumen (he didn’t get to where he is today by being a political dolt) and he’s not unwilling to wield that power when necessary, one doesn’t get the sense that he’s a man for whom politics trumps principle. He’ll make compromises — to a certain extent — but there are lines he will not cross because there are objective truths in which he believes. He’s certainly proven that he’s a governor with a chest and he tantalizes us with visions of him as a president with a chest – a leader who would restore America to its rightful place on the world stage and govern with integrity.
It certainly looks as if Perry is setting the stage to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. If so, he’s off to a strong start by glaringly contrasting his style to that of the current president. The raw Americanisms and passionate defense of the Constitution in this 2010 speech by Perry remind us exactly why we had that brief dalliance with him in 2012: