Ted Nugent's promise to be "either be dead or in jail by this time next year" if President Obama is reelected only highlights the conspicuous lack of a manly man's men in the 2012 presidential race.
For one month last year, it seemed like there was a good chance Texas Gov. Rick Perry would serve the yeehaw-finger-guns role, as a second even manlier helping of George W. Bush. He was compared to cowboy-hat-wearing presidents both real and imagined by Hollywood, his Air Force photo was placed next to Obama's college picture on message boards as an example of the cultural superiority of conservatism. But now Perry's presidential campaign is reimbursing donations instead of seeking them. Few outlets remain for the expression of macho conservatism, and Nugent is a poor substitute for Perry, not just because he's not actually running for public office. It's also because Nugent is not much of a real manly man.
Sure, Nugent will have to talk to the Secret Service after his threatening comments at the National Rifle Association convention this week. But the last time Nugent talked to the president's protectors, it was because they wanted to shoot at targets in his yard, Mother Jones' Josh Harkinson reports. At least, that's Nugent's version of the story -- he also said that he initially thought he was being raided: "I said, 'I've got a bunch of guys with McMillan assault rifles trained on the back of your head, so if this is a raid, you can just turn right back around.'"
This statement sets off the b.s. detectors. Nugent, who got a deferment to stay out of Vietnam, does not appear to have a record of actually shooting at humans. And while he might seem all red state in public, he's seems a little different in private. The Smoking Gun has posted his rider -- the thing celebrities attach to concert contracts that contains all kinds of silly demands, like Jennifer Lopez's infamous requirement for all-white furnishings. Manly conservative NRA-loving Nugent's rider reads:
"NOTE: The 2002 TED NUGENT tour is very environmentally conscious. PLEASE refrain from using any styrofoam or polystyrene cups, plates, or containers at any of your catering or dressing room settings. Also provide recycling containers for aluminum soft drink cans in the catering area as well as back stage."
There's also his snooty taste in food:
"NOTE: Absolutely no takeout meals will be deemed acceptable, i.e. McDonalds, Fish & Chips, Weinerworld, Chinese, Etc."
But Nugent might be the best conservatives will get. Other Republican presidential candidates this year tried, and mostly failed, to adopt the manly mantle. Tim Pawlenty made a lot of poop jokes. Newt Gingrich joked that you can't put a gun rack on a Chevy Volt -- which you can, but a real manly knows you wouldn't put one on even the most gas-guzzling sedan. That leaves Romney, who doesn't bother pretending to hunt anymore, like he did in the 2008 race. He said the word "gun" one time in his speech to the NRA. He has a car elevator and knows what a dressage horse is and can pronounce it correctly. And now that he's the likely nominee, he doesn't mind admitting he's not a beloved brawler, real or fake. Talking Points Memo's Pema Levy reports that in a speech in Charlotte Wednesday, Romney referenced poll numbers showing Obama is more likable than he is, saying, "Even if you like Barack Obama, we can’t afford Barack Obama." In other words, you don't have to have a beer with me, just vote for me.