Corn Pop, Creepy Cuomo, and the Democrats’ toxic masculinity crisis

Even President Biden’s male dog is an aggressive jerk

“Who’s a tough guy? You’re a tough guy!” Photo courtesy whitehouse.gov

My initial reaction upon learning that the first family’s dogs have been sent packing back to Delaware after the newest addition, a German Shepherd rescue, was involved in an “aggressive biting incident,” was mild horror. I’m already concerned about Joe Biden’s mental acuity, and the uncharitable part of me wonders if a guy who whiffs on picking out a puppy should be making decisions regarding, say, multilateral defense treaties. The much larger part of me, the part that wants to see my country successfully navigate the hazardous waters of modern international relations, chalks it up to a staff mistake. After all, picking out first canines isn’t exactly a cabinet level assignment.

Choosing the breed and name is, however, a presidential responsibility, and in the context of the image the first family presents to the world a small but not insignificant one. First pets (or in the case of a certain recent ex-President, the lack of them) help project the family’s personalities, presidents’ most of all. The relentlessly fashionable and hypoallergenic Obamas had fashionable, hypoallergenic Portuguese Water Dogs. The Clintons burnished their aw shucks routine with a goofy Chocolate Lab named Buddy. The Reagans had working and hunting dogs fit for their California ranchers made good personas. My favorite First Pet has to be George Washington’s Coonhound, Drunkard. We should nominate Drunkard the Dog to be the new mascot of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms immediately. At the very least he needs to be added to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But I digress.

Now comes Joe Biden, who named the family’s new German Shepherd Major. Major joined the family’s older German Shepherd, Champ. Which is where I sigh, shake my head, and mutter “of course.” Of course Joe Biden chose a breed famous for its physicality and martial prowess. Of course he named them Major and Champ. And of course one of them is an aggressive jerk. This is the same man who named one of his sons Hunter, who also turned out to be a toxically masculine reprobate. If the Bidens got a family hamster Joe would name it Patton and it would end up biting off a Secret Service agent’s pinkie.

Joe Biden is Exhibit A for the Democrats’ inveterate toxic masculinity, which boils down to a massive exercise in overcompensation. A while back I was talking with a friend about the 2020 presidential campaign, and the subject of Biden’s bizarre push-up challenge came up. During a town hall event in Des Moines, Iowa a man asked about Hunter’s activities in Ukraine and also inquired whether, at 77 years old, Biden was too old to be President. Uncomfortable questions to be sure, but hardly beyond the pale. Nevertheless, they triggered the former Veep, who jabbed the air with his finger and snapped, “Look, the reason I’m running is because I’ve been around a long time and I know more than most people know and I can get things done.” Then his boast shifted to the push-up challenge: “You want to check my shape, let’s do push-ups together. Let’s run. Let’s do whatever you want to do.”

It was peak Joe Biden, a career politician issuing a faux tough guy challenge to an average citizen while surrounded by machine gun toting Secret Service agents. This is a man who once dared a Detroit auto worker half a century his junior to “go outside” after the man questioned his gun control stance. He routinely told voters he wanted to “beat Donald Trump like a drum,” and even fantasized about traveling back in time to high school so he could take Trump behind the gym and “beat the hell out of him” (Trump, of course, gleefully responded in kind). Over the years he mused about “smacking him [Trump] in the jaw,” “popping him a good one,” and “throttling him.” The act is at once hilarious, pathetic, and toxic. It’s also dangerous.

Big Bad Joe’s Bat Shit Crazy Origin Story

Every super hero has an origin story. To appreciate Joe Biden’s tough guy routine, and to better understand the bigger problem of toxic masculinity that infects his party, you have to start with Big Bad Joe’s Bat Shit Crazy Origin Story. This is the infamous “Corn Pop” tale, in which Biden claims to have single-handedly thwarted four razor wielding gang members when he was a high school lifeguard. The story, which instantly joined Jimmy Carter’s killer rabbit in the pantheon of History’s Most Cuckoo Political Yarns, centered on a fellow named Corn Pop, whom Biden described “a bad dude” who “ran bad boys.”

I preface the story by saying that I grew up with an Irish grandfather. I know from blarney, and the Legend of Corn Pop meets the gold standard. It reminded me of exactly the kind of story John Patrick would tell at the bar at Honan’s in Tacoma, Washington after a couple-three whiskeys started to kick in. It’s so elaborately bonkers there’s even a slight possibility it’s true. I kind of hope it is, because it makes me like Joe Biden a little more. It is well worth two minutes of your life to watch him tell it himself.

The clash of the Wilmington, Delaware teen titans began when Mr. Pop violated a pool safety rule related to the diving board. Joltin’ Joe never revealed the specific transgression, but apparently it involved Pomade and a swimming cap. Because of course it did. His memory of his reaction, however, was crystal: He shouted, “Hey Esther! You! Off the board, or I’ll come up and drag you off!” He meant Esther Williams, the famed synchronized swimmer, in what is my new favorite epithet. From now on when someone cuts me off on the 405 I’m not going to yell “f**k you!” I’m going to yell, “Hey, Esther! You!” Mr. Pop, no doubt thrown off his own game by the audacity of the admonition, climbed down from the diving board as instructed. Crisis averted. Except not, for in the next moment he challenged his antagoniste to “meet him outside” (Biden’s heroic labors often begin with the gauntlet being thrown thusly, someone challenging him to step outside a la John Huston).

To Joe the Lionhearted it was game on. Manhood challenged, gauntlet accepted. Only Pop wasn’t taking any chances. He had three other guys with him and they all had armed themselves with straight razors. Rusty straight razors, Biden hastened to point out. Though he didn’t name the others I like to imagine they were a brand conscious gang, so we’ll call them Honey Smack, Alphabit, and in keeping with the story’s overall tenor, Fruit Loop. This is the story’s Act II break. Next, in what must go down as one of the longest build-ups to a fight in history, before stepping outside for the climactic battle Biden consulted his own personal Mr. Miyagi, a pool mechanic named Bill. Biden went out of his way to point out that Bill was “the only other white guy” (a whole separate essay could be devoted to the cringe-inducing race aspects of the Corn Pop story). He cut off a six-foot length from a chain that “went across the deep end” and instructed his young grasshopper to wrap it around his fist. In a final touch Sensei Bill suggested that Biden warn the four (rusty!) razor-armed gangsters, “You may cut me, man, but I’m gonna wrap this chain around your head!” Do not take martial arts pointers from Sensei Bill.

Nevertheless the story progressed to its climax, when Joe Biden completed his transformation from mild-mannered teen lifeguard to Greater New Castle County Man, and – hang on a sec, did he say he was going to wrap the chain around the guy’s head? Huh? What does that even mean? How would you physically accomplish that feat? Even if you did, what would giving a guy a chain link hat accomplish in terms of winning a fight? Threatening to wrap a chain around someone’s neck, sure. That’s how good guys have dispatched bad guys in the movies for decades. Very cinematic. But “I’m gonna wrap this chain around your head”? That sounds like a guy who doesn’t know how to sound tough trying to sound tough. It reminds me of the scene in The 40-Year Old Virgin when Steve Carrell’s character, who has never touched a woman’s breast, describes a woman’s breast as feeling like a bag of sand.

Despite their overwhelming superiority in numbers and weaponry, and despite all logic, rationale, and common sense Sensie Bill’s ploy worked. Joe Biden walked out to the parking lot, his righteous Fist of Justice clad in glittering chain link, and fearlessly confronted four (rusty!) razor armed toughs who at this point had had enough time to plan and carry out an armored car heist, much less prepare to fight a skinny lifeguard four-to-one. The crowd leans in as the story reaches a fever pitch. The newly emergent Big Bad Joe rights the earlier wrong by courageously striding up to Corn Pop, looking him dead in the eye, and …. apologizing for calling him Esther. They all walk off arm in arm, new friends, Biden’s character arc complete and fully realized as Big Bad (But Nevertheless Magnanimous) Joe.

Worst damn ending since Orson Welles resolved War of the Worlds with the sniffles. I take back the blarney award. Come on, man!

Big Bad Joe reflects a deeper pathology among Democrats

Joe Biden’s tough guy act would be easy to laugh off except that it’s in keeping with a particularly noxious brand of toxic masculinity that’s plagued the Democrats for decades. In the modern era it goes all the way up to the party’s standard bearers. Joe Biden has Corn Pop and Major the Maniac. Barack Obama has bragged about breaking a classmate’s nose in high school after the person used a racial slur.

The former president recently repeated the story during an interview with Democrat booster and admitted fake tough guy Bruce Springsteen, who has completed his own story arc from Dancing in the Dark and Working on the Highway to celebrity podcasting and political messaging. Laughing, Obama told the singer, “I remember I popped him in the face and broke his nose. And we were in the locker room.”

Like Bangin’ Biden’s story, Iron Man Obama’s is hard to swallow. For starters, it takes some doing to break someone’s nose. Unless it’s a sucker punch (not a good look on anyone, least of all a former leader of the free world) it’s extremely difficult to land that precise a blow. Professional fighters go entire bouts pummeling the stuffing out of each other without breaking each other’s beaks. Hell, Ken Norton shattered Muhammad Ali’s jaw in his 1971 upset of the champ, but not his nose. So the notion that Obama did it with a single, spontaneous swing – like Corn Pop, it’s possible but unlikely. Also, you have to hit someone hard to break their nose. As in violently. And a broken nose tends to be a fairly gruesome injury involving copious amounts of blood and often visible physical deformation.

Which is only part of the point. Obama wasn’t just laughing and bragging about violent behavior and inflicting physical pain on another human being, which is bad enough. He was bragging about doing it to a teammate and friend, a person he admitted probably didn’t even understand the significance of the word he used. Who does that, even if they’re in the right? Let’s assume the rest of Obama’s story is, erm, “true,” and that he at least had the moral high ground in the situation. It’s still positively demented to laugh about the violent consequences, much less about inflicting serious, potentially permanent physical harm, much less about doing it to a friend. It’s borderline psychotic.

Two kinds of people fantasize and brag about violence: Lunatics and cowards. Actual, normal tough guys, at least the ones who aren’t paid professionally to wail on each other for others’ entertainment, generally go out of their way to avoid physical violence. When they do encounter it, it is not something boast worthy. And even in the rare instance when it’s justified, the average person is positively traumatized by inflicting physical harm on another person. Again, to brag about it is madness.

And that’s where the problem goes from the largely cosmetic to something far more insidious. By definition a president is going to kill people. Probably lots of them, in a variety of ways, many of them horrifying by any reasonable moral standard. A wartime president gives orders that lead to the deaths of tens or even hundreds of thousands in combat. As a citizen, I want that person, male or female, to at least have taken a real punch once or twice in their own lives. At the absolute bare irreducible minimum I expect them to respect violence enough to not make up stories about it to pad their own egos. A person in their 50, 60s, or 70s who treats the idea of violence casually should not be the one sending 18, 19, and 20 year olds into harm’s way.

Yet this preening machismo has long been a Democrat calling card, even among those with otherwise legitimate military experience. We can go back to John Kerry’s cringey speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, where he declared “I’m John Kerry, and I’m reporting for duty.” The haughty Boston Brahman never missed a chance to remind people that he didn’t just serve in Vietnam, he saw combat, leading a Wall Street Journal editor to dub him “John Kerry, who by the way served in Vietnam.” Again, most combat veterans, including those who have become presidents, don’t boast of their combat experience. And then there was the infamous “Dukakis in a Tank” picture that sank the campaign of the Massachusetts governor and Army veteran.

Political pro tip: If you’ve never driven a tank, don’t pretend to drive a tank.

There are real world consequences to these Democrat men’s physical puffery. It leads to bad judgment, bad decisions, and bad policy. A telephone tough guy may actually start to believe his own schtick, particularly when he’s been coddled by enablers and surrounded by yes men. Andrew Cuomo clearly believes he’s a real life tough guy despite the fact that he’s probably never so much as been in a frat house scuffle. That’s not just a personal or political problem but a fatal weak spot for people in his position. Someone whose toughness is an act, someone whose scars are superficial if not applied like makeup is profoundly dangerous. When a leader doesn’t understand violence, violence is easier to unleash. It’s the difference between LBJ and Dwight D. Eisenhower, who spent a good deal of his presidency devising ways to avoid conflict with the Soviet bloc.

It leads to real life catastrophes the “red line” in Syria, one of the worst foreign policy blunders in recent U.S. history. When Bashar al-Assad called Obama’s bluff and unleashed chemical weapons on his own people Obama blinked, giving a giant green light to bad actors and adversaries not just in the region but globally. The consequences have been measured in hundreds of thousands of lives. Of course, Obama did prove a downright enthusiastic drone assassin. He ordered hundreds, possibly thousands of killings, including of American citizens, from the sanitized safety of the Situation Room. A literal telephone tough guy.

Terrifying, deadly, but not tough. Photo courtesy DoD

LBJ, a confirmed coward who lied about his one actual combat experience during WWII, felt enormous pressure to show his backbone in the escalating Vietnam crisis. Alas, becoming commander in chief did not surgically insert a spine into the bombastic Texan, who spent the next six years fighting a war via public opinion polls and surrounding himself with flattering toadies. By the time the war was over 58,000 Americans and some one million Vietnamese had paid the price of his constant indecision and contradictory policies with their lives.

The irony is that Bill Clinton, whose toxicity takes a different form, arguably was the most sensible modern Democrat president when it came to use of force. He never tried to convince anyone he was physically tough, yet his commitment to the air war against Slobodan Milosevic and the Serbs in Kosovo almost certainly prevented a wider regional or even general war. Ironically, even his worst foreign policy blunder, refusing to dispatch a Marine Expeditionary Unit to Rwanda in the opening days and weeks of the genocide, was a result not of cowardice but over caution.

Creepy Cuomo and the coming reckoning

Which brings us back to Andrew Cuomo. As a princeling raised safe within the castle gates and eventually affianced to the daughter of another “royal” family, the Kennedys, overcompensation was all but inevitable in him, not to mention his little brother (the less said about Chris “Fredo” Cuomo and his fake weightlifting on CNN, the better). Toss in the unearned sense of entitlement and you have yourself the most toxic masculine sludge since Joe Kennedy taught his boys that beautiful women were prizes to which they were entitled by virtue of the wealth and privilege. In fact Andy of Albany may be the biggest telephone tough guy in recent political history, who postures himself as an old fashioned bare knuckled New York brawler. Which he was, kind of, as long as his people and a pliant media had his back.

It’s been nothing short of an object lesson to watch the Democrats fall over themselves to try and put their own personal spin on the situation. Like so many political legacies Cuomo stumbled badly when – with apologies to another pair of make believe Bad Boys – shit got real. His executive order to send COVID patients back into nursing homes caused as many as 15,000 unnecessary deaths, half of which his staff have since admitting to attempting to cover up. He’s been exposed as a serial harasser of women, an intransigent bully, and a political charlatan.

Creepy Cuomo in his element. Photo courtesy UK Telegraph

And yet. And yet, as of today there is an excellent chance that he will survive politically, and possibly even secure a fourth term. In the process the scandal is ripping open the civil war inside the Party of Women, with roughly half the party calling for his head and the other half pleading to “hear the facts.” I can’t help but think this is partly due to the fact that three years into the #MeToo era, the long overdue reckoning has claimed far more liberal careers than conservative ones. In Hollywood and Silicon Valley, bastions of do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do feminism, it’s been a veritable bloodbath, and rightly so. The hypocrisy of the men in those industries was poisonous, their comeuppance long, long postdated (also, let’s be crystal: women are far from innocent lambs in all this – for every powerful male sexual predator there were women who eagerly assisted, enabled, and covered for them; some of those women, like the monstrous Ghislaine Maxwell, arguably are even worse than the men, because they are the ones who groom victims and earn their trust before throwing them to the wolves).

One could go a step further and suggest that the entire history of the modern Democrat Party is steeped in toxic masculinity. The Kennedys, who perversely remain the archetypal modern Democrats, were some of history’s most notorious abusers of women, culminating with one of the most grotesque chapters in political history, Chappaquiddick. Abuse and even sexual violence weren’t merely commonplace, they were as quotidian as breakfast. During his last birthday party, aboard the family yacht in May 1962, a stone sober JFK assaulted a female guest while Jackie was literally ten feet away. The woman described it firsthand as “a pretty strenuous attack.”

And of course there is an extensive list of modern Democrat luminaries who have been accused or proven to have committed all manner of sexual assault up to and including violent rapes, many of whom remained in the party’s good graces until the very end and some of whom remain in positions of power today: People like Harvey Weinstein, Ed Buck, Jeffrey Epstein, Anthony Wiener, Bill Clinton, Gavin Newsom, Eric Garcetti, John Edwards, Al Franken, Eliot Spitzer, John Conyers, and on and on.

Which is where the Democrats’ toxic masculinity problem becomes an existential one for the party itself: Many liberal men have used feminism as a cloak for their own personal bad behavior. Serial predator, Epstein pal, and credibly accused rapist Bill Clinton is Exhibit A. In spite of a well-documented, three decade track record of predation the Democrats nevertheless were willing – eager, even – to welcome him back into the White House as First Gentleman.

Like racism, misogyny and sexual exploitation are written into the Democrats’ DNA. Four of the seven Democrat presidents over the last century were not just philanderers, but confirmed exploiters and even abusers of women. Not once or twice, not isolated incidents. It was central to the identity and life experiences of FDR, JFK, LBJ, and Bill Clinton, all of whom remain not just in the party’s good graces, but essential to its identity and governing philosophy.

The question is, does a party with all that baggage have a future in the 21st century? It is increasingly difficult to see an affirmative answer to that question, much less a path forward.

I recommend they start with a guinea pig named Duncan.

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