'Harvard' Is Now Code for 'Effeminate'

Unpacking Romney's shots at Obama's education

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Harvard grad Mitt Romney took a shot at President Obama's foreign policy for being too ideologically compatible with  "that Harvard faculty lounge." Romney must not have hated the faculty too much -- he graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School and in the top five percent of his class from Harvard Business School. It's tricky running a campaign knocking your opponent for being a well-educated rich person when you are also a well-educated rich person. So what can Romney do? Call Obama effeminate.

Speaking before the Veterans of Foreign Wars' national conference Tuesday, Romney accused Obama of basing his military strategy on the ideas of professors instead of generals. Despite seeming a bit isolationist in a primary debate earlier this summer -- "Our troops shouldn't go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation. Only the Afghanis can win Afghanistan's independence from the Taliban" -- Romney attacked Obama's withdrawal plan, saying, "the President has chosen to disregard the counsel of the generals on the ground. I don't know of a single military advisor to President Obama who recommended the withdrawal plan the President chose..." And he condemned proposed cuts to the Pentagon budget as based on the idea that "America should become a lesser power." Romney continues:
It flows from the conviction that if we are weak, tyrants will choose to be weak as well; that if we could just talk more, engage more, pass more U.N. resolutions, that peace will break out.  That may be what they think in that Harvard faculty lounge, but it’s not what they know on the battlefield!
It's not that Obama went to Harvard -- it's that he would trust sissy professors over kickass Army warriors. Romney mocked Obama for vacationing on Martha's Vineyard, even though Romney himself was holding a fundraiser there. He's attacked Democrats for advocating "class warfare like some members of the administration want to do." So again, it's not about the money. It's about being a weak girly man. Remember how Sarah Palin's condemnation of "elites" often had a weird sexual undertone--"impotent, limp and gutless reporters"? In this class tension adapted for the campaign trail, there's a slight but discernible undercurrent of very heteronormative schoolyard jeering.
But if Romney wants the "I'm-manly-you're-not plan" to work, he'd better move fast, because it's already being used on him. Last week, the Boston Herald's Howie Carr's column comparing Romney to Rick Perry last week contained 26 comparisons between the two -- stuff like "Rick Perry goes to rodeos, Mitt Romney goes to Rodeo Drive," and "Perry’s critics say he's all hat, no cattle. Mitt Romney says, please, no hat, it'll muss my hair," and "Rick Perry is Bible Belt. Mitt Romney is Gucci belt." Almost every single one of Carr's comparisons implies that Perry is a hetero hero like John Wayne while Romney is a character from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. But Romney doesn't have to look like he's not rich to win this game. He just has to use all that money to buy a monster truck or something.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.