Sure, he's got the jutting jaw and centerfold looks. And he's got the truck. But does Scott Brown kill his own meat?
Of late, it seems, Republicans are determined to demonstrate political virility by displaying not just hunting trophies, but their fearlessness in carving up a fresh kill for the family table.
It may not qualify as a trend yet -- three's the charm -- but it is impossible to avert one's gaze from the blood surfacing in some politicians' photo albums.
Anybody can be a champion of the Second Amendment, but if you want to project the kind of tough leadership needed to combat terrorists and Wall Street, you'd best know how to bring home the bacon without a vacuum seal. "Show me the blood" seems to be the mantra in some quarters of the GOP.
It started with you-know-who from Alaska, who won carnivore hearts when it became known she could field dress a moose. More than a mere governor and mother, Sarah Palin could take down a 1,500-pound beast with a precision shot to the heart and gut her harvest before sundown.
"We eat, therefore we hunt," she said as she retired from the governorship. And off she went, leaving a freezer full of wild game for a season of book- peddling, speaking and other indoorsy activities.
Then came holiday greetings from Republican Marco Rubio, former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, who is in a primary battle against Gov. Charlie Crist for the U.S. Senate. We all have our version of the holiday dinner, but Rubio took us behind the scenes, tweeting photos of the 2009 Rubio family Christmas Eve pig.
It wasn't clear whether Rubio had killed the animal or wielded the butcher knife, but one photo shows a dead hog on a table as a man slices into its haunch. Another frame shows the creature gutted and suspended over a pool of blood.
"Warning, picture not for the faint of heart," Rubio graciously tweeted. Indeed.
Hunting isn't a new activity for politicians to pursue in public ways. President Teddy Roosevelt popularized the image of the president-frontiersman. Seeing the nation's father figure toting a weapon in the wild makes for good, masculine imagery.
Dutifully we process the message: He hunt food. He feed family. He good man.
A woman who can do it just as well pushes several buttons: pride in our pioneering foremothers and our modern multitasking sisters. There was Palin the mother with her five children in one frame, Palin the huntress admiring the kill that would fill her brood's tummies in the next.
Tough and touching is no easy feat for a female politician, but Palin pulled it off, raising the ante on GOP iconography. The message was clear: The Democratic "mommy" party of swooning dependents can't stand the sight of blood (and therefore can't be trusted to protect America). The Republican "father" party of virile warriors is strong, self-sufficient and unafraid.
No one who eats meat suffers illusions about what precedes the cuisine. Something has to die, as Palin noted, and animals humanely killed in the wild are preferable from nearly every standpoint to those factory- farmed. Gutting and gore are obviously part of the game, but must we be so proud?
I am a veteran defender of hunters. Although I prefer flora to the flesh, my freezer is full of game, thanks to the hunting faction of my household. And, it is largely thanks to hunters, the majority of whom are passionate conservationists, that we can boast plentiful wildlife in this country.
But there is, to my mind, an ethical difference between hunting for nourishment and exploiting the hunted for political gain. We may be animals ourselves, but we are also enlightened creatures of conscience, for whom killing should be the necessary means to a respectful end.
If I may be so gutsy: The politician-as-hunter cliche has bloody well run its course. We get it. Real women may hunt moose, as the Palin sampler reads, but real leaders don't strut their kill.
WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP