Maureen Dowd: Trump less macho than Clinton in some ways

Republican has tender ego, whereas Democrat is so tough she is known as ‘the Warrior’

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: on some foreign policy issues, it’s Hillary the Hawk against Donald the Quasi-Dove. Photographs: Damon Winter/Zach Gibson/The New York Times

It seems odd, in this era of gender fluidity, that we are headed toward the most stark X versus Y battle since Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Donald Trump exudes macho, wearing his trucker hat, retweeting bimbo cracks, swearing with abandon and bragging about the size of his manhood, his crowds, his hands, his poll margins, his bank account, his skyscrapers, his steaks and his "beautiful" wall.

He and his pallies Paul Manafort and Roger Stone seem like a latter-day Rat Pack, having a gas with tomatoes, twirls and ring-a-ding-ding. The beauty pageant impresario's coarse comments to Howard Stern, rating women on their breasts, fading beauty and ability to take the kids off his hands, reverberate through the campaign.

In Indiana, Trump boasted that "Iron" Mike Tyson and "all the tough guys" had endorsed him. The chair-throwing Bobby Knight backed Trump with the brass-knuckles encomium that Trump, like Harry Truman, would have the guts to drop the bomb. When his rallies become Fight Club, Trump boasts that it adds a little excitement.

Hillary Clinton's rallies, by contrast, can seem like a sorority rush reception hosted by Lena Dunham, or an endless episode of daytime talk show The View, with a girl-power soundtrack by Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato. The ultimate insider is portraying herself as an outsider because she's a woman, and the candidate who is considered steely is casting herself as cozy because she's a doting granny.


Empowerment gear

Her website is chockablock with empowerment gear, from a hot pink “woman’s card” to a “Make Herstory” T-shirt to a “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun-damental Rights” tote bag to “A Woman’s Place Is in the White House” throw pillow. She says her favourite shows are

The Good Wife


Madam Secretary


Downton Abbey

, and she did a guest shot on

Broad City


Trump’s most ardent supporters, white men, are facing off against Hillary’s most loyal supporters, black women.

Clinton and Trump have moved on to their mano a womano fight, leaving behind "the leftovers", as Trump labels deflated rivals. Already, it's unlovely. "It's going to be nasty, isn't it?" says Obama Pygmalion David Axelrod. "Put the small children away until November."

A peeved Jane Sanders called on the FBI to hurry up with the Hillary classified email investigation. A desperate Ted Cruz cut a deal with John Kasich, who then put a bag over his head and acted as if he didn't know Cruz.

Then Cruz latched on to Carly Cruella Fiorina, accomplishing the impossible: finding a Potemkin running mate who's even more odious. We can only hope that Cruz, who croons Broadway show tunes, and Carly, who breaks into song at the lectern, will start doing duets from Hamilton.

In one of the most gratifying moments of an unhinged campaign, former speaker of the House John Boehner told Stanford University students that Cruz was "Lucifer in the flesh". Satanists immediately objected, saying it was unfair to their deity.

Even though Trump is the one who has no governing experience, he will suggest that the first woman at the top of a major party ticket is unqualified by charging that she lacks “strength” and “stamina” and claiming that if she were a man, she would not get even 5 per cent of the vote.

Playing victim

During his unburdening at Stanford, Boehner imitated Clinton, saying, “Oh, I’m a woman, vote for me.” But such mockery merely plays into Clinton’s hands. As former

Jeb Bush

super PAC strategist Mike Murphy told MSNBC, “Her big judo move is playing the victim.”

And as former Jeb aide Tim Miller noted to CNN, Trump's numbers with women are so bad that the only way he can win is if he manages to repeal women's suffrage before November.

Once you get beyond the surface of the 2016 battle of the sexes, with its chest-thumping versus maternal hugging, there's a more intriguing gender dynamic. On some foreign policy issues, the roles are reversed for the candidates and their parties. It's Hillary the Hawk against Donald the Quasi-Dove. Just as Barack Obama seemed the more feminised candidate in 2008 because of his talk-it-out management style, his anti-war platform and his delicate eating habits, always watching his figure, so now, in some ways, Trump seems less macho than Hillary.

He has a tender ego, pouty tweets, needy temperament and obsession with hand sanitiser, whereas she is so tough and combat-hardened, she’s known by her staff as “the Warrior”.

The prime example of commander-in-chief judgment Trump offers is the fact that, like Obama, he thought the invasion of Iraq was a stupid idea. He can sound belligerent, of course, saying that he would bomb the expletive-deleted out of Isis and that he would think up new and imaginative ways to torture terrorists and kill their families. But he says that in most cases he would rather do the art of the deal than shock and awe.

“Unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct,” he said in his maiden foreign policy speech in Washington last week, adding, “A superpower understands that caution and restraint are really truly signs of strength.”

These Kumbaya lines had the neocons leaping into Hillary's muscular embrace. If the neocons get neophyte Republicans on the presidential ticket, they prefer ones like Dan Quayle, W and Sarah Palin, who are "educable", as Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, once said of Quayle. Trump may have a lot to learn about the issues, but he's not malleable.

In his new book, Alter Egos, New York Times White House correspondent Mark Landler makes the case that the former Goldwater Girl, the daughter of a navy petty officer and a staunch Republican, has long had hawkish tendencies, reflected in her support for military action in Iraq and Libya and a no-fly zone in Syria.

More muscular

“It’s bred in the bone,” Landler told me. “There’s no doubt that Hillary Clinton’s more muscular brand of US foreign policy is better matched to 2016 than it was to 2008,” Jake Sullivan, Hillary’s policy adviser both at the state department and in her campaign, told Landler.

But Hillary never expected to meet this mix of dove, hawk and isolationist. She thought she would face Marco Rubio, a more traditional conservative who would out-hawk her. Instead, she's meeting Trump, who is "a sheep in wolf's clothing", as Axelrod put it.

Like a free-swinging asymmetric boxer, Trump can keep Hillary off balance by punching from both the left and the right.

You can actually envision a foreign policy debate between Trump and Clinton that sounds oddly like the one that Obama and Clinton had in 2008, with Trump playing Obama, preening about his good judgment on Iraq, wanting an end to nation-building and thinking he could have a reset with Russia.

Despite gossip when she was first lady that she did not like people in uniform, the truth is the reverse: She gravitates toward “nail-eaters”, her aides told Landler, and loves the gruff, Irish, bearlike demeanor of Jack Keane, a retired four-star general and the resident hawk on Fox News who helped to define her views on military issues and is still in touch.

As secretary of state, she hit it off with Gen Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus. And she loved to have a stiff drink with Bob Gates and John McCain. She has a weakness for big, swaggering, rascally he-men. Like Donald Trump.

– (New York Times)