You may not recall (it was a relatively short-lived campaign kerfuffle), but in August 2008, John McCain attacked Barack Obama for mentioning that one way people could save gas was by keeping their tires properly inflated. The McCain campaign started giving away tire gauges with "Obama's energy plan" printed on them, and sent their candidate out to hold a campaign event in front of a working oil rig, to demonstrate his commitment to drilling, baby, drilling.
In response, I wrote a column about how the obvious Freudian implications -- Obama as teeny-weeny tire gauge, McCain as big oil drill thrusting its shaft into the earth -- were not only too obvious to miss, but fit in with a long line of Republican campaigns alleging that their Democratic opponents were sissies. A number of conservatives mocked the column, finding the assertion that the McCain campaign was attempting to play on men's sexual insecurities to be simply ridiculous.
But this idea never goes away. Greg Sargent points out the emergence of a new meme, that "Obama's inability to halt the spill calls his manhood into question." One example: Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, whose former boss George W. Bush knew a thing or two about strutting around in costumes pretending to be a Real Man, has declared Obama's response "limp and weak." Maybe he should put on a flight suit?
-- Paul Waldman