China just tricked Republicans into humiliating themselves
Donald Trump at the Victory thank you rally at the Hy-Vee Hall. (

It's a truth that should be self-evident: If you are emasculated by a balloon, you weren't so tough to begin with. Last week, a balloon that U.S. officials believe to be a Chinese surveillance device was spotted floating over Montana, likely to take pictures of military assets. In the grown-up world where President Joe Biden and Democrats live, this was a situation that called for a thoughtful, careful response. While displeased with the predicament, adults recognized that freaking out was not the answer. Instead, they waited until the balloon wasn't a direct threat to people and property underneath and shot it down over the ocean.

Meanwhile, Republicans — many in elected office who could be doing something useful with their time — saw the Chinese balloon as an opportunity for cringeworthy tough guy cosplay. Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance was just one of many, many Republicans who spent the Days of the Chinese Balloon ping-ponging between performative hysterics and childish games of dress-up where they pretended they were somehow going to shoot the balloon down.

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Truly, it's an insult to call this "cosplay." People who dress up like Thor at a comic book convention don't actually imagine someone mistakes them for a godlike superhero. But Republicans genuinely seem to think waving a gun around impotently at the sky while in a panic over a balloon somehow shows they are tough guys and Biden is not.

In truth, the whole debacle really just illustrated the opposite: Republicans are the epitome of overcompensation.

The gun-waving does not hide, but rather highlights how they are small, fearful, and painfully insecure —especially, it seems, when it comes to masculinity. The GOP is a political party singularly devoted to trying to shore up the fragile egos of a bunch of dudes who suspect everyone knows they aren't as manly as they claim to be.

Leading the pack, of course, was the small-fingered phony tough guy himself, Donald Trump.

"The Chinese would never have floated the Blimp ('Balloon') over the United States if I were President!!!" he screeched on his fake Twitter site, Truth Social.

Presumably, we're meant to believe his elaborate combover and spray tan would have created a manliness force field that repelled all floating objects. But, of course, it's a lie, as Jonathan Karl of ABC News reminded Sen. Marco "Once Pretended To Like Rap" Rubio, R-Fla., when he echoed Trump's lie on-air. In reality, U.S. officials claim the Chinese sent three balloons into U.S. airspace during Trump's presidency, none of which were shot down.

Trump reacted to this reminder like he always does, like a 5-year-old denying he's the one who drew kitty cat pictures on the wall on crayon, taking to Truth Social again to rave.

"China had too much respect for 'TRUMP' for this to have happened, and it NEVER did."

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That Republican voters mistake this man for John Wayne really showcases how it's a party built around the childish insecurities of people who really should be old enough to know better but who continue to confuse belligerence for grit.

The GOP is obviously a party of cowards who are constantly jumping at shadows. It's become exhausting to watch even an hour of Fox News and the long, long lists of all the things they expect their audiences to live in fear of, from "antifa" and Black Lives Matter to kids reading books with gay characters to big cities to transgender people to women who say rude things about anti-choice judges to "wokeness" to refugees seeking political asylum. They've complained when candy cartoons changed their shoe preference, Mr. Potato Head became just "Potato Head," women joined the Ghostbusters, people dyed their hair pink or purple and popular songs referenced female sexual arousal.

Of course, as fun as it is to laugh at these fools, there's a very real dark side to the politics of overcompensation. Quislings who want to pretend they're tough often do so in the most despicable way possible: Finding someone smaller to beat up on.

The first rule of MAGA: Never, ever pick on someone your own size.

As Melissa Ryan writes in the CtrlAltRightDelete newsletter, what really defines the MAGA base is that they "crave an authoritarian government that will punish their enemies" and "beat down vulnerable populations." So it's no surprise that they follow Trump, who bragged on tape about how he uses his status as a rich celebrity to sexually assault women, most of whom probably weigh less than half what he does. Or that they idolize Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who picks his targets mainly based on how powerless they are, which is why he's so focused on snatching books out of the hands of schoolchildren. Or that their new hero, Rep. George Santos, is a con man accused of stealing from old women and defrauding a disabled veteran. Or that they make excuses for the violence of David DePape, who is accused of trying to murder the elderly husband of then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Perhaps the most pitch-perfect illustration of what MAGA is all about came during Trump's presidency when he hid in a bunker in the White House while police tear-gassed peaceful protesters outside. Unlike those protesters, Trump has no physical courage of his own. He is such a weenie that he couldn't even stand to walk outside where he'd be heckled by the crowd of unarmed, peaceful protesters. But he feigned strength by sending someone else to enact violence for him — on a group of people who couldn't defend themselves, naturally. The first rule of MAGA: Never, ever pick on someone your own size.

This Chinese balloon nonsense is just the silliest iteration of this mentality. Shooting it down prematurely only meant risking civilian lives. Of course, the same sociopathic Republicans who discourage COVID-19 vaccinations don't care how many people they get killed for their political theatrics. In grown-up land, however, you don't go crushing innocent people to death in an impotent display of anger towards a helium-fueled spy machine that likely gathered less data than TikTok does by the minute. But Republicans don't care about the hard-nosed choices actual adults make. All they care about is masculinity make-believe, no matter what the cost.