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Opinion Al Gore was manly. Josh Hawley, not so much.

Al Gore's handling of the 2000 election might serve as a lesson on masculinity to Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). Gore is pictured in January 2001. (Larry Downing/Reuters)
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Let us now praise manly men. I give you. . . Al Gore?

He of the earth-tone suits might not come to mind as the poster boy for manliness, but U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton makes a compelling case.

Walton, named to the federal bench by George W. Bush, recently compared the former vice president’s manliness favorably to that of former president Donald Trump. Walton, during a plea hearing for one of the Jan. 6 insurrection defendants, contrasted Gore’s acceptance of the electoral college defeat in 2000 with Trump’s lies about voter fraud.

“Al Gore had a better case to argue than Mr. Trump, but he was a man about what happened to him,” Walton said. “He accepted it and walked away.”

That’s an admirable definition of manliness — characterized by honor, integrity and grace — and quite different from the view Josh Hawley promulgated last month when he claimed the “manly virtues” must be defended against a perceived “assault on manhood” by the left.

“We need men who will shoulder responsibility, men who will start and provide for families, men who will enter the covenant of marriage and then honor it,” the Republican senator from Missouri proclaimed.

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He decried “rambunctious” boys being treated for ADHD. He denounced a razor ad claiming that bullying and sexual harassment are not “the best a man can get.” He spoke of the “bright side of the aggression and competitiveness.” Hawley argued, “American men are and can be an unrivaled force for good in the world — if we can strengthen them, if we can empower them, if we can unleash them to be who they are made to be.”

Rambunctiousness, aggression, bullying? Such traits were at issue in Walton’s courtroom on Nov. 22 when he accepted a guilty plea from Adam Johnson, who had been photographed grinning and waving as he carried the lectern of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) through the U.S. Capitol. His plea agreement, CNN reported, said he proposed a bust of George Washington would be a “great battering ram” to break down the doors of the House chamber.

Hawley might understand such “manly” acts, because he is the guy who pumped his fist in solidarity with the seditionists on Jan. 6.

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The angry young senator was recycling a trope that has been around for three decades, since Republicans spoke of themselves as the stern and protective “daddy” party against the soft “mommy” party of Democrats. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former bodybuilder and California governor, liked to call Democrats “girly men” (a phrase he now regrets).

Trump had a whole new interpretation of manly virtues, including his right to “do anything” to women, including “grab ‘em” by the you-know-what. Trump on GOP rival Carly Fiorina: “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?” Trump on his daughter Ivanka: “She does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter perhaps I’d be dating her." Trump on women: “disgusting,” “slob,” “piece of ass,” “pig,” “dog,” “monster,” “bleeding,” “bimbo,” “nasty,” “blood coming out of her wherever.” He paid hush money to Stormy Daniels and said of sexual-assault accuser E. Jean Carroll: “She’s not my type.”

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Is this what Hawley had in mind when he gushed about his “appreciation” of Trump “and the leadership that he is giving to this country”? Hawley told a crowd in 2018: “When I think about President Trump, there’s one word that comes to mind. That word is ‘courage.’ ”

A manly virtue!

Republicans are calculating that if they stoke grievances against women, men fearful of losing breadwinner status will flock to the polls. So now we have 85 percent of House Republicans, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), voting against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. We also have five men (and one woman) on the Supreme Court, Republican appointees all, preparing to strip the right women have had for 50 years to end an unwanted pregnancy.

If toxic masculinity is worth doing, it’s apparently worth overdoing. Just days after a boy killed four students at his Michigan high school with a gun given to him by his parents, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) tweeted a photo of his family in front of the Christmas tree, all holding military-style guns. The caption: “Santa, please bring more ammo.” (Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) tweeted a copycat photo Tuesday.)

Conservative broadcaster Charlie Sykes, on MSNBC, said of the Massie photo: “In terms of the Second Amendment, I’m sorry to be offensive: That’s the equivalent of d--- pics.”

Sending photos to show off his, er, gun size may be Massie’s idea of manly virtue. I’m with those who think integrity and grace make a man, not guns and grievance. This, I suspect, is the manliness Judge Walton was talking about — and what is so lacking in Trump and his legions.