POTUS 2008: the character question

How do the candidates stand up in terms of character? For instance, Guiliani has had two divorces, one nasty, Fred Thompson has a bit of a reputation as a womaniser. Some candidates have flip-flopped over policy (the precise policy itself being irrelevant for this thread). Clinton gained a lot by standing by her husband, but has things like Whitewater. Edwards is seen as a vacuous lawyer. And so on.

So tell me of the candidates characters.

Whitewater. Ummm, lessee, the special prosecutor went after that with everything he had and came up with a blowjob. It’s hard to say someone got special consideration when they lost money on an investment.

I’d say that Hillary and Obama have the “best” character. The rest have the baggage that most politcos have.

Does it matter? Some nasty people have been good presidents and some nice people have been lousy presidents.

Do you consider that a flaw? It was certainly hurled as an accusation at John Kerry in the last election, but I never heard any explanation of why it’s such a bad thing. To the contrary, I find George Bush’s utter refusal to reconsider his ideas and actions, to learn from his mistakes, to be one of his greatest flaws.

“I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” - Abraham Lincoln

Does anything bad to say about Obama’s character?

He is attacked for his inexperience, but not – as far as I know – for his character. The one adverse thing I’ve seen about him is that he previously used drugs, something I learned by his own admission in his first book.

“Vacuous”? By whom is he seen that way?

And is being a lawyer a character flaw now? Because when you look at a list of past presidents, an awful lot of them have “lawyer” on their resume. One would think that a familiarity with the law and its practical applications would be helpful, not a hindrance, and certainly not a “character flaw.”

The implication in the “flip-flopper” allegation is not that the candidate changed his mind as a result of a sober reconsideration of the merits of an issue, but that he saw a poll that indicated the growing popularity of X, and began adopting support for X in an effort to win the election.

And the danger for those who do the former is they get accused of the latter.

Doing what your constituents want is a character flaw?

It can be. Sometimes you have to do what is right, even when it might cost you politically.

See Johnson, Lyndon, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

It certainly can matter (especially if you define “character” right). Arguably, what kept Nixon from being a good president and brought about his downfall was his character flaws.

I dispute the OP’s implicit assumption of the primary importance of character. The content of a candidate’s politics, and his/her competency, are much more important considerations, IMO. It is better to be well governed by sinners than misgoverned by saints.

That said, I think that “socialist garden gnome” Dennis Kucinich leads the pack in character, based on his history. He’s had a couple of failed marriages, but you can’t point to anything really disgraceful in his life. More importantly, you can’t point to anything hypocritical. He has never wavered from living by his stated principles. He has plain fundamental honesty. He has a basic bedrock integrity. He has a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning.

I’d actually like to apologise for a particularly poor OP. I seemed to be concentrating on the negative when I’m more interested in the positive. E.g. Guiliani’s leadership after 9/11, Kerry’s personal courage, etc.

Fair enough but that’s a seperate subject. We had a huge thread about it in the Pit which seems to have been archived.

Obama has done weed and cocaine. He has a longstanding friendship with a gentleman named Tony Rezko who is under investigation for demanding kickbacks.

Bout it.

[irrelevant aside]
Whenever I see him, I think, “Don’t crush that dwarf, hand me the pliers.” :smiley:
[/irrelevant aside]

But Jimmy Carter by all accounts is a nice guy and his presidency was somewhat of a failure. Linking “character” with Presidential skills is a bit too random (not to mention wildly subjective) to be useful. If “character” includes marital fidelity, does that mean retroactively condemning FDR, Eisenhower and Clinton, while embracing the Bushes?

I recall an editorial cartoon from the 1992 election:

[picture of Thomas Jefferson]

He fooled around.

[picture of FDR]

He fooled around.

[picture of JFK]

He fooled around.

[picture of Nixon]

He was a perfect angel!

Bout it? Try replacing “under investigation” with “indicted”, and “friendship with a gentleman” with “engaged in shady real estate deal with”.

Do we not consider facts here anymore?

I’d say of all the candidates Hillary has the worst character flaws.

Of the well-known candidates I’d say Obama has the fewest character flaws.

I don’t have a problem so much with divorces, cheating on your spouse, using drugs as a young person and et cetera when it comes to a President.

Hillary has had several dealings with people who are on the wrong side of the law. During her 2000 New York Senate election one of her fund raisers was a convicted felon who underreported contributions she gained at a dinner by several hundred thousand dollars–the Clinton campaign ended up having to pay a $35,000 fine for this.

And of course the Hsu-controversy has been prominent recently, so it shows she has a pattern of using crooks to make money for her campaigns.


No wrongdoing on Obama’s part there.

No, not very damning – Obama just happened to work for that firm. No proof he was involved in anything shady.

The next bit, however, might be grounds for concern: