Thursday, September 08, 2016


When does character count in voting for a president? I was just discussing this today and decided to post on it.

I don't care if a president has a bad temper, as long as it is not so bad that he (yes, I know, or she) is impaired in carrying out their duties.

I do not care that they committed crimes when young, including substance abuse - even heroin, so long as I do not believe it is happening now and for a sufficient time I am willing to trust.

I do not care that they have told lies in their lives, because everyone has told some lies and made decisions on what lies they think are okay.

But, I do care that a candidate is a reflexive liar such we can't trust them. I do care that a candidate has committed crimes or done heinous things and not come to understand that it was wrong, because otherwise they have no reason not to do them or similar things in the future.

I do care that they do not seem to have sufficient courage to withstand criticism or face down tough foreign opponents.

I do care when a candidate is so needy of a subsection of the American people that they must pander to them. And I don't care whether it is John McCain, still among my favorite politicians, pandering to the religious right, the only pandering I've seen him do, or Hillary Clinton to minority groups, claiming she carries hot sauce in her pocket book (and I did not even know that was supposedly a black thing - though she said it to an approving black show when I saw her say it). Because you can't be president to everyone if you are treating some special.

It is this simple and complicated at the same time. In law and politics we rarely deal in absolutes, but in a very imperfect and sometimes volatile balancing act. Most social things are subject to qualifications and balancing including mundane things like how we treat friends or family differently from one another. Kant believed in categorical imperatives. You should never lie, even, for example, if it would cost someone their life. That's great in a philosophy book, but crazy in real life. In law, values, laws, policies are constantly being balanced. It is the same with character. Some character matters. Some doesn't. You can make rules, but they are also going to be subject to exceptions not to mention bias. I'm going to try for an abstract definition anyway, because it is a blog and I can post my opinion, even if others find it idiotic. That's why the blog's subtitle is My Thoughts. What Else?

Character matters when it is not just some quality in a candidate's personality, but when it leads to an inability for a substantial number of people to carry out their executive duties, whatever they may be, in a manner that is at least generally constitutional and is safe for the American people.

I said abstract. Now applied to the candidates, two candidates fail this abstract test for me, and it isn't even close. Leave aside policy and personality quirks we might not like (smirks, shouting, etc.), just their level of dishonesty alone is a disqualifier for both. You simply can't trust either at all.  I read an article today where a columnist, Charles Blow, a liberal who writes a lot about racial issues, went off on Trump's dishonesty. Amazingly, he started by saying that if you go by some fact checkers, what she says is partly true 22% of the time and mostly true 28% (I might have reversed them, but they are close enough). You might want to add that up and get 60%, but that is failing by a large measure to me. And I wouldn't count the first group. If you what you are saying isn't "mostly true," it isn't close enough to be called true. Only for politicians and maybe our own kids would we make such a weak-kneed category as partly true.

Trump panders to the anti-illegal immigration crowd, but sometimes also to a segment of the population that is general behind the times in their view of those who aren't in their racial group. I do not buy his excuses about his David Duke gaffe at all. He ran it back immediately afterwards, no doubt when one of his kids called him (I picture his daughter) and saying "Are you nuts?" But, there is no doubt in my mind he was not wanting to offend anyone among them who might like Duke.

She is the same, of course, with blacks. I am repulsed by Black Lives Matter and she panders to them, especially once she saw what happened to Democrat candidates who didn't. You can't pander to a group I think is fascist and expect me to even consider voting for you.

For me, this unfortunately only leaves Gary Johnson as a potential president. His character seems just fine to me. I do not care that he own a medical marijuana company, though I admit my own bias towards the non-medical usage of the product (though it should be legal). He seems honest. I was watching this a.m. when he didn't know what Aleppo was. I guess he thought it was some crazy Beltway anagram. But, at least he answered honestly. At least he didn't pretend or immediately make excuses. He should have said, okay, I screwed up, but it is not important. Syria isn't important (I disagree) or something like that. But, again, at least he didn't reflexively lie.

I disagree with him on several things, mostly because I'm a hawk and he's not, but also because he gives at least a pass to BLM, even if he isn't a real supporter. So, I will probably vote for him anyway. Sigh. Stupid parties.


  1. Not sure what your point is here, or even if you have one. Sorry. But do agree with your operational definition of character for politicians. It meets my very limited boundaries of what subset of character I give a crap about in politicos.

  2. You comment months later and expect me to remember my point. I think it was something like I don't really care if a candidate did some thing stupid in his life, even if criminal, so long as it doesn't stop him/her from standing up for the country or makes them pander too much. Thereabouts.


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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .