Sunday, July 22, 2007

Confronting a Super Macho Man

From Al Franken's book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right:

I Challenge Rich Lowry to a Fight

Rich Lowry is an editor at National Review. If you watch cable news, you've probably seen his head talking here or there, arguing the conservative position on some issue of the day. He's pretty young, I'd say about forty now. He's not bad, as these guys go. Fairly articulate. He even enjoyed a run as a semi-regular on The NewsHour.

One area where Lowry seems paleo-conservative, though, is in the realm of gender politics. When Massachusetts governor Jane Swift had twins, he called for her to step down. I agreed, but that was because she was a Republican.

As you may have figured out by now, I'm a bit of a C-SPAN junkie, and a couple of years ago, late at night, I caught Rich talking, I think, to some College Republicans. He was saying that Democrats had "feminized" politics. In fact, by making it okay for politicians to cry, Lowry said that we Democrats had "sissified" politics.

There seemed to be only one thing to do. The next day, I called the National Review and got Rich's direct line. I remember the conversation very clearly.

RICH: Hello

ME: Rich, Al Franken. How do you do?

RICH: Fine. To what do I owe the honor of your call?

ME: Well, I saw you on C-SPAN last night talking about how we Democrats had sisified politics. So, I thought I'd challenge you to a fight.

RICH:...A fight?

ME: Yeah. I figure the loser gives a thousand dollars to the winner's charity.

RICH: Where...where would we fight?

ME: In my parking garage.

RICH: Parking garage?

ME: Yeah.

RICH: What would the rules be?

ME: No rules. It's like Fight Club.

RICH: Fight Club?

ME: Yeah. No weapons or anything. The first to say "uncle" loses.

RICH: You want to fight me in a garage? With no rules?

ME: Yeah. If you win, I have to give to some nutty right-wing cause. If I win, you have to give to...I don't know, NARAL or Emily's List.

RICH: Can I ask you something?

ME: Sure.

RICH: Do you fight a lot?

ME: No, I have actually never been in a fight. But I wrestled in high school and I'm pretty confident I could beat you. Then again, I'm fifty and have a bad back. But I think I could take you. At any rate, I just don't want this "Democrats have sissified politics" to stand. So, I want to fight you.

RICH: Can I take a day or so to decide?

ME: Sure. Take your time. I just figured that anyone who said that Democrats had sissified politics would kind of have to fight.

RICH: I understand. How about if I sleep on it?

ME: Absolutely. I'll call you tomorrow.

RICH: Okay, sure.

It was an extremely satisfying phone call. Sizing Lowry up on TV, he seemed just a tad on the wimpy side, which had only been confirmed by his reaction: terrified. I was just a decent high school wrestler, but I was convinced I could take him down, then basically punch his ears till he called "uncle."

Later that day, I happened to tell my son, Joe, about the call. He thought it was a bad idea. "Dad, if he turns you down, he's going to feel like a total wimp."

"That's a good point, son. I couldn't allow him to challenge the manhood of we Democrats."

"Yeah, but it's not nice. If he says he won't do it, promise me you'll tell him you were kidding."


"It might make him feel like he's a little more off the hook."

"Okay, but if he backs out, I'll tell him I was kidding."

"But if he accepts?"

"I'll kick his ass," I said. Frankly, I think Joe was kind of impressed.

I called Lowry the next day. As I expected, he said, "I've decided this is something I don't want to do." Then he said something about crying himself to sleep the night before, which was a joke, but, of course, he was kidding on the square. So, I did what I promised Joe, and told Lowry that I had been kidding, and then suggested that we have lunch. We did and had a perfectly lovely time.

A few weeks later, Lowry was on The NewsHour. "Joe!" I shouted, "This is the guy!" Joe ran in from his room, and saw Jim Lehrer.

"Dad, he's like seventy."

"Not him. The guy he's talking to."

The shot cut to Lowry, and the moment my son saw him, Joe scoffed, "Aw, this guy? He's a wuss."

"Yeah, he is," I shrugged.

Joe just shook his head and went back to his room with, if possible, even less respect for his father.

But I'll tell you this. I've seen Rich Lowry on television plenty of times since then, and I think he's dropped the whole "Democrats have feminized politics" thing. But, if he hasn't, I'll be glad to meet him any time in my parking garage.