Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Character in Politics - Nothing More Important"

                                     Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“Character in Politics – Nothing More Important”
July 23, 2014

Elizabeth Warren was the star at the annual Netroots Nation conference in Detroit last week. Netroots Nation is the largest gathering of left wing activists, the Left’s answer to those on the extreme Right of the Republican Party. A kiss on the cheek by the Massachusetts squaw, after her talk, left a gay-rights activist “verklempt.” “I want to bottle her and take her everywhere,” said Debby Dingell. (As an aside and totally irrelevant to the subject at hand, Ms. Dingell, wife of retiring Congressman John Dingell, is running for the seat her husband is vacating after 59 years, and which his father occupied for twenty-two years before that. Perhaps, like 19th Century European royalty, a Dingell feels entitled to represent Michigan’s 15th District!)

Liars can be found in abundance in Washington. In fact, it may be that the ability to fabricate is woven into the fabric of a politician. But there are few you can tell whoppers with such aplomb, while exuding such innocence, as the senior Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren. Standing before a crowd of adoring worshippers, as she did recently in Detroit, she shamelessly called out Republicans for “rigging” the system. Yet “rigging” is exactly what she did in securing her teaching job at Harvard Law School. She brazenly lied, claiming to be of Cherokee descent, in order to be considered a minority. And Harvard, arguably home of the nation’s finest law school, never bothered to investigate her claim. She lied to get to Harvard. She lied to secure her Senate seat. She is a student of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals in political warfare – don’t debate your opponent; demonize the person, freeze the image, personalize the target in whatever slanderous way you choose and then polarize the pulverized individual to avoid any possibility of sympathy. History is replete with political leaders like Ms. Warren, but very few of them served in a democratic republic.

What is it about the illiberal left wing of the Democrat Party that likes people for what they symbolize, rather than for who they really are? Such attitudes mean we nominate and elect people with little understanding of their true underlying character. Barack Obama was elected President because he had great oratorical skills that allowed him to promise much, but neither the Press (other than some on the right wing), nor most people inquired into his background. His lack of experience in any leadership roles, or, for that matter, his very limited time in Washington was ignored. His associations with those like his minister Jeremiah Wright and mentors like Frank Marshall Davis, Edward Said, Derrick Bell and Bill Ayers did not ring alarm bells. People saw the package, and not the contents. He was intelligent, articulate, good looking, and African American. Voting for him allowed people to feel sanctimonious, and cleansed from any deep-rooted tinge of racial prejudice they might previously have felt.

Prejudice still plays a role in our daily lives. But, as a nation, we have come a long ways in the past fifty years. Biases toward people because of race, gender, sexual orientation or religion still affect the way many of us act and vote. We should not let personal biases of any kind influence our decisions. But reverse discrimination is not uncommon and is equally pernicious, though more generally accepted. People should be judged by their character and their ideas, not for what they symbolize.

It is fascinating to note that conservative women rarely campaign on gender, and very few get support from women’s rights organizations. Margaret Thatcher was never part of the woman’s liberation movement. Her success, as a politician and as Prime Minister, was due to her ideas and her character. The same could be said of Israel’s Golda Meir. Condoleezza Rice, who has been slandered by feminist groups, was nominated as Secretary of State not because she was a woman and African-American, but because she was qualified. Jan Brewer, Susan Martinez, Mary Fallin and Nikki Haley are Republican women governors of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and South Carolina respectively. They ran and were elected based on their character and the ideas they espoused, not because they were women.

After speaking in Detroit to huzzas of “Run, Liz, run,” Elizabeth Warren signed copies of her mis-titled autobiography, “A Fighting Chance,” while fans held signs of “Ready for Warren,” an obvious takeoff on the Political Action Committee, Ready for Hillary. Women’s rights advocates came out in droves for female Democrat candidates, but when a successful Republican women politician appears they find endless excuses for not supporting her. What is remarkable is that Ms. Warren’s fans don’t care about her lies. Character plays no role in their support. Ends justify means. And Ms. Warren displays no embarrassment for having succeeded on a flotilla of falsehoods. Her ‘fighting chance’ was not a fighting chance. She used deceit and hyperbole to succeed.

The left wing of the Democrat Party has become less liberal, in the classical sense of the word. As the state assumes more responsibility for the welfare of its citizens, by definition people give up some basic freedoms. It is a trade-off. In January 1941, Franklin Roosevelt gave his “four freedom’s” speech. He added freedom from want and freedom from fear to the existing freedom’s to speak and to worship. Freedom from want meant bigger government, meaning that people would be less free to keep what they earned. Those are trades that civilized societies accept, and intelligent people can debate exactly how big government should become. But there is now a more threatening movement underway that would have profound implications for our nation and its government if it succeeds. With the Supreme Court’s recent decisions in defense of free political speech, there is a movement in the Senate to amend the First Amendment, allowing Congress to limit campaign funding and free speech in political campaigns. Permitting passage of such a bill (which I believe is unlikely) would be equivalent to allowing the nose of an authoritarian camel to enter the tent. If spending on elections were controlled by Congress, one can only imagine how polarized our system would become. Full disclosure about all contributors to campaigns, whether direct contributions or through PACs, is the best answer.

As Elizabeth Warren tests the political waters – and it would be my guess that she will run, as she is the natural political descendant of Barack Obama – voters should keep in mind that the most important aspect of any candidate is character. Candidates of both parties will say almost anything to get elected. Supporters of almost any view can find evidence in one speech or another that supports their position. What does not change, but what requires some effort to discover, is the character of the candidate. By character, I mean the way the individual thinks, feels and behaves.

The most important ingredient of character is integrity, but good character embodies honesty in one’s dealings, respect for the opinions of others, loyalty to one’s friends, being ethical in one’s behavior and virtuous in one’s life, and being considered trustworthy by all those with whom one is in contact. The consequence is a good reputation. Friends and foes always know where a man of character stands, and is never be surprised by the individual’s actions and/or reactions. (By-the-by, political correctness is not an aspect of good character.)

There is risk, of course, of trying to learn too much about any candidate, or of uncovering too many details of their past life. We may discover we are unable to find anyone who lives up to our standards for President. In considering those who might aspire to the job, conservatives should not rely only on Fox News or other right wing outlets, and progressives should not depend on the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC or network TV. All of media is slanted. But fortunately, and thanks to the internet, there are myriad sources of news. But sifting through numerous sources requires effort on the part of the electorate. It is the single most important reason why emphasis needs to be placed on education.

An educated electorate is democracy’s best defense. If we allow government to become too authoritarian, we risk losing the freedoms we have had for over two hundred years; the effect would be devastating. There is no way anyone, including a Vice President, can fully prepare for the job as President of the U.S. The job and its demands are unique. The President of the United States is the most powerful person on earth. That is why the one trait that we should always look for in a potential candidate, no matter our personal political preferences, is character.

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