Sunday, July 29, 2012

Does Character Matter in a President? Do Truth, Courage, and Decency Matter?...You Bet!

In a president, character is critical if not everything. I know liberal doctrine says, ‘nothing is black and white, everything is relative’, so how could anyone make such a statement? Many of America’s founding fathers commented on character. A few examples are telling. John Adams said in a letter to his wife, Abigail, on Nov. 2, 1800, “I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof”. Thomas Jefferson stated in a letter to Peter Carr on Aug. 19, 1785, “He who permits himself to tell a lie once finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions”. Thomas Paine wrote in The American Crisis 2, “A bad cause will ever be supported by bad means and bad men”.

Again, liberals/progressives will say these views are not applicable to society today which is much more diverse, multicultural and complicated. The quotes’ validity depend on one’s point of view or perspective...these statements are clearly judgmental! I say pure elitist nonsense! I say there is good and evil, there are truths and lies. A president who knows that honor, truth, good disposition, and lies are some of the components of character and important to leadership will serve America with greater distinction than someone who doesn’t! 

Character is the combination of traits and qualities that distinguishes one individual from another. Character can be either good or bad or on the continuum between good and bad; it is a set of ethic-based values that are not affiliated with any particular political party, culture, or religion. I believe a president can’t hire character’s most desired traits; i.e. honesty, trustworthiness, courage, kindness, loyalty, caring, decency, accountability, fairness, and responsibility unless he recognizes, practices, believes in, and understands these traits himself. In other words, at core, a president or candidate must be guided by a moral code, and a stringent set of ethics he applies daily.  

So how do we critically evaluate and determine character? Americans seem to instinctively know good character from bad, and we understand that “good” character is important. We seemed to understand that Franklyn Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and maybe John Kennedy had very positive character traits, strong moral codes and solid ethical foundations even if we didn’t always agree with their politics or decision making.

We Americans seem to learn about a candidates or president’s character “over time” in “bits and pieces” or when something “gets our antenna up”, causing us to pay attention even if only for a short period of time.  But when we must choose a president, how do we determine whether the necessary character traits are resident in a candidate?   Again many famous and respected Americans emphasized the need for character and our ‘need to know’ about character.  John Adams said in 1765, “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have the right…and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to the most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers”. Eleanor Roosevelt opined that, “Only a man's character is the real criterion of worth”; and Albert Einstein posited, “Most people say that it is the intellect which make a great [man]. They are wrong: it is character!

A careful examination of a president’s or candidates record; his actions, demeanor, statements, political campaign and the focus of those with whom he associates is a good starting point for discerning character.  We can also start by asking if the candidate’s campaign clearly outlines his history, positions and beliefs so an informed decision can be made.  We can ask if any tactics are being used to interfere with our ability to critically evaluate the candidate and his “real” beliefs, motives, character, strengths and weaknesses.  We can ask ourselves questions such as “does the candidate appear to be responsible…does he hold himself and his surrogates accountable…does he seem trustworthy…does he exhibit loyalty…is he fair and caring…does he listen and consider other points of view…is he plain spoken or always obfuscating, pettifogging and spinning…is he honest and factual in his statements…and will he treat allies, the opposition and the average Jane and Joe American equally, with integrity and fairness?

Using these questions and many of the components of good character as criteria, I can only conclude that Barack Obama lacks many of the traits so necessary in an effective leader.  He and his adherents have hidden much of his history and created a narrative more akin to fiction and fantasy than reality.  His past associations with people like Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Tony Rezko, and William Ayers are denied or minimized.  He demonizes the opposition directly or through surrogates with innuendo and smears; e.g. Stephanie Cutter’s ‘felony’ charge or VA State Senator Louise Lucas “racist rant” or his own suggestion of outsourcing on a massive scale et al.  He foments class warfare.  He pettifogs, spins, dissembles and lies.

The loyalty of his allies counts for little, witness his treatment of Mayor Cory Booker, Governor Edward Rendell or Senator Dianne Feinstein after they indicated disagreement with an action he’d taken.  We learn his inner most thoughts when he goes off script, “we need to spread the wealth around’, “you didn’t build that” or when he believes a statement cannot be heard such as sending assurances to Russian President V. Putin about greater flexibility post reelection or denigrating an important American ally and its leadership.

Must I continue?  Good character is an anathema to Barack Obama…the components of character and Barack Obama reside in separate universes.  I cannot reconcile the man with the tragedies he has inflicted on himself and the nation without considering his character and finding it wanting.  The knowledge of millions of Americans and mine is what has informed us “over time”, in “bits and pieces” of Barack Obama’s character deficiencies.  This knowledge will send him into retirement in November!  Yes, character is important…in fact it is the most important criterion!