Post picks up “weak Kilgore” meme.

In today’s Washington Post, reporter Gordon Morse picks up the weak-Kilgore meme in his coverage of the presumed Republican nominee in the Virginia governor’s race, in a whole article completely dedicated to the topic of Kaine’s dominance and Kilgore’s passivity and submission. [On page B08 of the paper — I’ll replace this with a link when I can find it on their website.]

Kilgore is perfectly capable of cooking up a plate to satisfy the Republican red-meat eaters: state-sanctioned prayer, lower taxes, more executions. But when he emerges from the kitchen for a personal appearance, the effect dissipates. Think of a Tennessee version of Mr. Rogers.

Virginia Republicans generally have leaned toward exuberant militants such as now Sen. George Allen and former governor James S. Gilmore. They like the unambiguous point of view, the swagger, the readiness to mix it up and dish it out. In Kilgore, they get more diffidence than defiance. Kilgore is game, but someone must hand him the right script.

Kilgore and Kaine have twice appeared together in Richmond before an annual gathering of Associated Press editors and reporters. In both instances, Kaine was the cagey aggressor and Kilgore the befuddled victim.

This is perfect. Kilgore is cast as feminine (cooking meat for the men, rarely emerging from the kitchen), “Mr. Rogers,” “diffident,” implied as the opposite of a “militant” (read as “man”) like Gilmore and Allen, the “befuddled victim” to presumed Democratic nominee Tim Kaine’s “cagey aggressor.” The whole article continues like this, referring to “Kilgore’s handlers,” “adolescent eye-rolling,” his “fumbling,” “incoherence,” and “sputtering.”

Best of all, when the author talks to Kaine’s campaign manager, Mike Henry, Henry says the perfect thing: he describes Kilgore as “weak.”

Morse has captured the dynamic perfectly and cuttingly, addressing the real matter of Kilgore, which is not how the man talks, but the impression of puffery, overcompensation, passivity, and weakness that he projects, of which his vocal demeanor is merely a cue.

It will be interesting to see what happens from here.

5 thoughts on “Post picks up “weak Kilgore” meme.”

  1. So far, Kilgore appears to be trying to make Kaine look weak by showing him to be afraid to execute criminals. The problem is that Kaine can just flip this to talk about how he has the courage of his convictions, etc. I think that the 2004 cycle showed that many voters have respect for people who disagree with them, but aren’t afraid to stick to their guns.

    Kilgore’s main problem is going to be that Kaine’s team is going to press him on the “weakness” issue until the day of the election, and Kilgore is going to have to defend himself through surrogates and in paid TV advertising. Because of how he presents, he can’t just look into the camera and demostrate the requisite testosterone to satisfy anyone of his alpha male-ness.

    Hence the Howell/Wadhams team, who are going to savage Kaine relentlessly, trying to put him on the defensive and take the attention off Kilgore. Still, I think that Kaine’s team should be able to maintain the upper hand on toughness, given that Kaine can spend the entire campaign daring Kilgore to debate him. It’s obvious that Kilgore will try to avoid that, and that will keep the onus on him.

  2. Hence the Howell/Wadhams team, who are going to savage Kaine relentlessly, trying to put him on the defensive and take the attention off Kilgore. Still, I think that Kaine’s team should be able to maintain the upper hand on toughness, given that Kaine can spend the entire campaign daring Kilgore to debate him. It’s obvious that Kilgore will try to avoid that, and that will keep the onus on him.

    I wrote on your blog, but think it’s worth repeating here, that it is this presumed offensive that makes me want to stay on the offensive against Kilgore. These guys just came in, and they haven’t had time to go on the offensive yet, but they’re going to. I’m not about to sit around and wait for the opponents to fire the first shot before we begin the battle. They’ve got way more firepower than, at least, I do, so I’m not about to give them the advantage.

    Thanks for your comments. They’re astute, insightful, and interesting.

  3. I think the track record of Wadhams and Howell speaks for itself. The combination of the South Dakota Politics web initiative and the Cleland affair should leave no one on the left with any illusions about their strategies and tactics. It also seems clear that more and more offense in campaigns these days is being played by people who are more loosely related to the campaigns, sometimes only by their sympathies and interests. Your role here is not without precedent, and certainly isn’t the subject of any substantive complaint from the right.

  4. How is equating femininity with weakness and passivity not totally offensive?

    Femininity is the trait of behaving in ways consistent with the common concept of how a female behaves. Whether or not you and I like it, the common concept of how a female behaves is both weak, and passive. My fiancee, who has her degree in Women’s Studies from UVa, agrees with this entirely. That impression is one of the more weighty matters addressed by the great names in feminism. First-wave feminists had no problem with that public impression. Second-wave feminists rejected it altogether. Third-wave feminists rejected the prior rejection, saying that it was OK for them to be weak and passive if they wanted to be.

    If you find that equation “totally offensive,” then you’d likely qualify as a second-wave feminists, along the lines of Gloria Steinem.

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