"you are no gentleman"

Who or what precisely, is a "gentleman"?

Before I get to this question, I thought I should disclose my test results from the "Which of the Seven Deadly Sins are You?" test which Glenn Reynolds linked earlier.

My result is Lust:


Actually, I'm not that way at all. I consider myself a gentleman. At least, I aspire to that. I was raised that way and I try to be polite and everything.

My lust is none of anybody's damned business. And as we all know, discussing lust is not polite.

It seems there's a fine line somewhere between a gentleman and a wimp, and unless I'm mistaken the lust factor is implicated -- at least, so it is in traditional morality.

Take this classic exchange from "Gone with the Wind"

Scarlett: Sir, you are no gentleman.

Rhett: And you, miss, are no lady.

Bear in mind that Ashley Wilkes, the target of Scarlett's affection, was a gentleman through and through. He did not lust after Scarlett, nor did he lust after any women other than his betrothed cousin Melanie. That he was unattainable was what made him so attractive to Scarlett. Yet because he did not lust after her or anyone other than his wife, he was a gentleman -- and quite possibly a wimp. Interestingly, he felt guilty about a "relationship" with Scarlett that wasn't even there in his mind, but only in Scarlett's. Because he was the man and a gentleman, he felt a certain sense of responsibility.

Rhett on the other hand, lusted freely. For whatever women he wanted, be they ladies of the night, or Scarlett O'Hara. The tragedy for him in the case of the latter was that his lust degenerated into genuine love, which he found quite difficult to control.

But in the initial stages, when he found himself accused of not being a gentleman, he freely admitted the truth -- that he was not. This core honesty is what makes non-gentleman Rhett Butler a more likable character (at least, someone the men can identify with) than gentleman Ashley Wilkes. While the latter is the target of Scarlett's tragically misplaced love, the tragedy is only compounded by the fact that he can't have a real affair with her, for if he did, she would have seen him as the wimp he was instead of waiting through hours of celluloid to finally discover what has been obvious to the audience from the start.

Scarlett's misplaced and unreciprocated lust for Ashley (which she mistakes for love) is mirrored by the misplaced and unreciprocated love and lust that Rhett feels for her. Rhett -- a hard-bitten realist -- knows the lust will wear off, and he desperately wants Scarlett to love him. But she imagines that she loves Ashley, when it's all just plain lust.

That's just about all I have to say about lust.

However, I want to return to the topic of gentlemen. Especially gentlemen in the context of the election.

I don't know whether Mitt Romney is a gentleman, and the issue concerns me. It should, because this goes to the heart of the character of a man who might become the next president of the United States.

By all appearances and accounts, Mitt Romney seems to be every inch the gentleman. He is always polite and poised, never loses his temper, and is, well, I hate to use an over-used expression, but as I've said before, he seems like Mr. Perfect.

I probably shouldn't have said that, and I know it sounds like an ad hominem type of attack (as if I'm suggesting that all Mr. Perfects seem too good to be true and therefore are), but I'm not alone in noticing this. Here's an anonymous Gateway Pundit commenter named Doug:

I don't deny that Romney 'supported(used loosely)' the Surge or that he proposed clear schedules. It's that he is a pandering weathervane who could not and cannot be trusted to do anything that is NOT politically expedient. If he were to have President instead of Bush the War would have been lost simply because he could not 'take the heat'. He would have 'moved on'. As I said ,'in context' his statements were quite popular in 'certain circles' as Mr. York elaborates in his opinion piece.

That is my essential problem with Mr.Perfect. And IMO it's a BIG BIG Problem. And that is probably why McCain can't abide the guy. And Mccain is right in this, even if he did go over the line in how he stated it.

McCain has the appearance of not being a gentleman. And in the national pageant that is so rapidly unfolding, he is engaged in political combat with someone most of us (myself included) assume to be a gentleman.

Romney is Mr. Perfect, and if he really is perfect, that's great. But what if he isn't?

That's why I'm writing this damned post when I'd rather be doing other things. And I'm writing it in spite of the fact that I hate to engage in personal attacks, or anything seeming like that.

Romney is the polite guy, and McCain is the rude bastard. Plus, McCain is the devious RINO, while Romney is the real conservative. That's the script that's going around right now, and it may all be true.

But what if it isn't?

It strikes me that Romney either is the real Mr. Perfect or he is not.

Does it matter? If he's putting on a show of being a super gentleman, and he's actually devious and duplicitous, that might be better than if he were a genuinely clueless, perfect gentleman. You know, "Presidential" and all that. It's one thing to appear to be a polished diplomat, but in the real world, a world full of evil men, underneath that polish there ideally should be that thing we call "character" in a president, because if there isn't we can get into a whole world of trouble. I'll take a devious bastard who has character over a superficial but polished coward with none, and I think most people would.

Bill Clinton represents a malignant absence of character coupled with cowardice, and let me stress that (fortunately) this is not what faces GOP voters right now. Not just yet.

Winston Churchill, in my view, represents that rare breed of individual who was not only a gentleman, but combined good character with that kind of ruthless, sometimes savage duplicity which is needed to deal with the real world.

While neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney comes close to the Churchillian level (well, Churchill did change his party affiliation, and McCain is tarred for thinking about it), I want to look at a couple of famous Churchill anecdotes.

There's the incident where the drunken Churchill is confronted by an ugly Bessie Braddock:

One of the stories concerns his stumbling one night, after a few drinks, into the large unattractive Labor Member of Parliament, Bessie Braddock. An angry Bessie straightened her clothes and said "Sir Winston, you are drunk" to which he replied "and you Madam are ugly, but tomorrow I shall be sober."
MP Braddock's Wiki entry sums it up this way:
Braddock: "Mr. Churchill, this is a disgrace. You are quite drunk."

Churchill: "And you, madame, are ugly. As for my condition, it will pass by the morning. You, however, will still be ugly."

And then there was this:

...the actual exchange took place at Blenheim Palace some time between the First and second World Wars. The verbal combatants were Sir Winston Churchill and his political nemesis, Lady Nancy Astor. The two, both notable wits, were weekend guests of the Duke of Marlborough (Churchill's cousin). As the story goes, had been at each other's throats the whole time. Exasperated, Lady Astor finally said, "Winston, if I were your wife I'd put poison in your coffee."

"Nancy," Churchill replied, "if I were your husband I'd drink it."

Looking at the above two examples, many would say that Churchill behaved in a manner of something less than a gentleman, would they not? Especially in a modern context, imagine either Romney or McCain saying that a female member of Congress was ugly.

No gentleman would ever behave that way!

Certainly not to any lady.

And certainly not to a lady who loved the flag:

When criticised for having the Communist hammer and sickle flag on her car, Bessie described herself as "an international socialist" and noted that "the flag means a lot to me."
And a lady who looked like this:


You know what? With all due respect to the lady, I have to say that I think Churchill was right. I can't look at that picture with lust in my heart. And I say this as someone who does not enjoy engaging in personal insults.

Now, I am not about to get into the issue of whether Hillary Clinton has piano legs, but you can be damned sure that the most vicious forms of ad hominem nastiness and personal insults will be deployed by the Clintons against whoever the Republican candidate is, whether he be Romney or McCain.

This raises three issues:

  • Who is more vulnerable?
  • Who is better equipped to take it?
  • Who is better equipped to dish it?
  • To the extent that McCain is vulnerable to dirt, it mostly involves the decades old Keating scandal, plus the fact that his wife had a drug problem some years back. IMO, neither is serious enough or recent enough to stick.

    Romney, OTOH, is so squeaky clean that in a way it's a minus. The left will bring up his religion, as a way of making him look like some kind of nut, and the problem is, there's plenty of nutty-looking stuff for leftists like Lawrence O'Donnell to bring up.

    [Large and ungentlemanly O'Donnell quote omitted here.]

    No, I don't need to quote what he says, but trust me, it just goes on and on. The fact that Lawrence O'Donnell is seen as an anti-religious bigot makes it easy to dismiss his questions, but the questions won't stop with him.

    I've criticized selective anti-religious bigotry, but is it bigotry to inquire at all? The guy is running for president, right? Isn't this going to come up sooner or later in one form or another?

    What worries me about this is that so many of the conservative ideologues have blinders on. All that matters right now are the sins of McCain. If Romney wins, the left will begin its anti-Romney campaign in earnest, and then what?

    Will Romney continue to be a gentleman? Will it work? The Clintons fight plenty dirty, and I'm wondering whether he's going to treat Hillary like the lady that she most certainly is not -- and whether that will work. I'm also worried that he'll get so locked into having to act like a gentleman that he won't be able to be the hardball politician he'll have to be if he is to beat them. Whether he actually is a gentleman might not even matter, because the result would be the same.

    Frankly, I have no idea who or what Romney is (other than what he says, which is subject to change). He's so perfect that he leaves me guessing. Is he a clueless gentleman like Ashley Wilkes? Or is he only pretending to be that way? (I hope it's the latter, because I might have to vote for him.)

    McCain is not perfect, but he strikes me as more of a known quantity. He certainly is not locked into the role of pretending to be a gentleman.

    So what does all of this mean?

    The answer would seem to depend on whether we're supposed to be selecting the best candidate for president, or the more presidential candidate.

    posted by Eric on 02.05.08 at 12:34 AM


    Governors are trained to control their images for television - you can't judge them by their personas. Senators spend much time dealing with other senators, not so easy to fool, so sometimes they don't have a fake personality ready for the media.

    David Weisman   ·  February 5, 2008 1:07 AM

    Weren't George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams gentlemen, and didn't they fight like tigers for their liberty, which is now ours?

    Good men are more complex than evil men. A truly good man, who is also a gentleman, is a complete man because he is, and understands himself to be, both animal and spirit. The good and complete man has flaws, but he has within him a divine spark which makes him keep trying to do what is right. Rhett Butler, while not always a gentleman, was a good and complete man.

    Adolph Hitler was singularly an animal, where Ashley Wilkes struggled hard to be purely the spiritual man. Both were incomplete and both were tragic, but one more prone to evil than the other.

    I believe John McCain and Mitt Romney are both good and complete men, but they balance somewhat differently on the scale measuring animal and spirit. I pray that whichever one becomes our President, and I'm praying a corrolary prayer that it is one of them; he will fight like a tiger to preserve and secure our God-given liberty.

    Ronald   ·  February 5, 2008 6:04 PM

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