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Why Character Is the Only Issue - The Ornery American


Why Character Is the Only Issue
October 25, 2000

Candidates can promise all they want, but what do their promises mean? The answer is: Very little, even if the candidate means every promise he makes. Why?

1. Presidents can't pass laws.
Only Congress can do that. Congress gets to decide on most of the promises presidential candidates make. But turnabout is fair play -- each congressman is just one vote, so promises from congressional candidates are also dependent on who gets elected in other states and other districts.

2. Things change.
A promise made during the campaign may sound great then, but be utterly wrong as a course of action even three months later. If you tell the babysitter to drop your kid off at your house at five o'clock, only when the babysitter gets there the house is on fire, do you really want the babysitter to follow the original instructions?

3. We live in a big world.
No matter what issues seem important during a campaign, other nations and other forces outside of our government force the president and congress to deal with completely unforeseeable events. In the 1988 election, what were Bush's and Dukakis's positions on how to deal with the collapse of the Soviet Union?

4. A president's most important choices are people, not positions.
Who will lead our military and foreign policy, who will head cabinet offices and the White House staff, who will represent us to foreign countries, who will sit on the Supreme Court? Many things influence a president's appointments, but it all comes down to the kind of person the president is, and the kind of person he values.

5. One guy can't move the government.
The bureaucracy is filled with millions of people who all have one thing in common: They wanted the job. That means the EPA is full of environmentalists, the FBI is full of cops, the Education Department is full of education experts, and so on. The President doesn't have the power to fire most of them. They resist all changes that they disagree with -- so much for the president's promises.

If no president ends up keeping most of his promises, what does that mean? That they're all liars? Not at all. For instance, take George Bush -- the dad, not the son. He has taken years of abuse for "lying" about "no new taxes." But there is zero evidence that he did not mean the pledge when he made it. In fact, if he had been able to keep it, we might have had a balanced budget years earlier.   FOOTNOTE

In fact, though, because of points 1 and 2 above, Bush had no choice but to break that promise not to impose new taxes, because Congress refused even to negotiate with him about a budget until he had agreed that he would allow new taxes. Even then, he would have held out except it was obvious that the press intended to cover the impasse as being relentlessly Bush's fault. Public opinion was turned against him. When he broke that promise, it was the will of the people as manipulated by the press.

Then, counting on the forgetfulness of the people, the power elite "forgot" that they themselves had forced the tax increase on Bush. They crucified him for breaking that one promise. And since that tax increase arguably caused the recession that was manipulated todefeat Bush, it was, indeed, his downfall.   FOOTNOTE

But let's look at Bush himself. When he broke that promise he admitted it and never denied it later. Indeed, he didn't even bother reminding us during the '92 campaign that the Democrats and the press had forced his hand. He made the choice, he took responsibility, and he paid the price. No whining. No lying.

Now let's contrast Bush Sr. with his successor. Clinton had made all kinds of promises -- remember the middle class tax cut? -- and during the months after his election and before he was sworn in, his staff announced that promise after promise would not be fulfilled after all. "Now that we have looked at the facts," they said -- as if the facts had been invisible before November. It was a shocking display of arrogant contempt for the people, but the Clinton people correctly assumed that no matter how betrayed people might feel, it would be forgotten quickly because the power elite would leave it alone.

And they did, of course, even though most of the broken promises were made to them. I mean, Mr. Bill could have completely integrated gays into the military with a stroke of his pen. The pressure he was under was far less than the pressure Bush was under when he allowed Congress to raise taxes. And Clinton knew that the media elite would have supported him absolutely, painting any resistance from the military as some kind of sickness or evil, while Clinton would have been canonized. But he folded anyway, but did not admit it.

In fact, Clinton never admitted to breaking any of his promises, even though the only promises he ever kept were (1) the promise to veto any bill that threatened to limit the right of women to have their babies killed as long as the head had not yet emerged from the womb, and (2) whatever promises he made to the Chinese. Everybody else was stiffed, but we didn't care.

Why did we get so mad at Bush for breaking one promise, and gave Clinton a free ride for breaking almost all of them?

Because we knew Clinton was a liar before we elected him. And we knew Bush was not a liar. We believed in Bush, and it hurt that he broke his promise because we actually expected him to keep it. Whereas with Mr. Bill, we knew he was a liar all along and he behaved exactly as we expected him to. When you elect liars, it's a little foolish to be outraged when they lie, isn't it? That's the only thing about the failure of the Senate to throw Clinton out of office that makes sense. In a way, impeaching him for behaving like the man we knew he was all along is hardly fair, is it?

The Character Test

There's a simple test of character that is easy to apply.

When Bill Clinton was charged with having sex with Monica Lewinsky, and during all the months that the scandal raged on, there were lots of Clinton supporters on TV saying, "There's no evidence," "This is just partisan entrapment," "It's a vast, right-wing conspiracy." But not once, not once did a single Friend of Bill step forward and say, "I know Bill Clinton, and he would never do this kind of thing." Not even his wife said that!

Mr. Bill's supporters tried their best to save him. But the thing they could not bring themselves to say in his defense was that having sex with White House interns was against his character. They knew who and what he was. They just didn't want him to be thrown out of office because of it.

Contrast this with Clarence Thomas. The moment Anita Hill's charges were brought forward, every woman that Clarence Thomas had worked with over the years, with the exception of Anita Hill and one other woman who had been fired for incompetence, every woman came forward and said, "I know Clarence Thomas, and he never acted this way with anyone, he was always courteous and scrupulously correct with all of us. We don't believe these charges. If he were this kind of man, we would know it, and we know he is not."

And here's the thing. When we heard Anita Hill and heard Clarence Thomas and watched them on TV, with no spinmeisters between us and the event, we believed Clarence Thomas. We knew perfectly well that the guys who crudely hit on women do it all the time and everybody around them knows it. We knew it was a laughable lie -- most of us, anyway. Or so the polls said.

It took years for the power elite to change our minds, as a people, so that most people now believe that Anita Hill was telling the truth. We didn't feel that way at the time. But after you've heard Leno make enough vicious slurs against Clarence Thomas, it's easy enough, if you don't think about it much, to start taking it as if there were some truth behind it.

But a lot of us still remember, and know that Clarence Thomas is an honorable man who has been badly treated. And we know what Anita Hill is, too. Because the people who knew them could not hide the truth.

Now let's take a contemporary example. George W. Bush -- Dubya -- was known to take a drink or two. Never a falling-down drunk, but he was part of the beer-drinking culture. But a decade or so ago, he realized during a run one morning after a particularly bad night-before that alcohol was interfering with his ability to be a good husband and father.

And he decided to quit drinking. Cold turkey, completely, permanently. And he says that he hasn't had a drink since.

Think about that. He says he hasn't had a drink in what, fifteen years?

That claim has been out there now for a long time, and despite the best efforts of his opponents to smear him, besides the press's desperate search for anything to hurt his credibility, not one person has come forward to say, "Come on, Dubya still likes a tall one now and then." Instead, all the people who know him, when asked, say that it's absolutely true: He simply doesn't drink alcohol anymore.

That's the character test, folks. Like his father, Dubya tells the truth about what he's done and what he's doing. If Dubya has to break a promise, he'll admit it and take the consequences. If he has to do something hard, he'll square with the American people and tell us what he's doing. How do I know this? Because that's the kind of man he is, as shown by his life, as attested by the people who know him.

The only thing complicating this simple test for us is that the power elite, the aristocracy that controls the media in this country, doesn't care about personal integrity or character (except when they're hiring a babysitter or lending money). So they goafter honorable people to destroy them, and cover up for dishonorable ones to protect them -- depending entirely on which team they play for.

That's why, even though the reporters who actually cover Gore day after day despise him for the liar he is -- but their papers are all endorsing him and the stories about Gore treat his lying as an endearing little foible.

And that's why, even though Dubya may well be our first teetotal candidate in a lo-o-o-ong time (maybe since George Romney!), he is relentlessly trashed on the comedy shows as a drunkard and druggie.

It's pretty funny, if the cost we pay as a people weren't so high. When the enemies of good men can't find any real dirt on them, they simply treat them as if they were guilty of the very things they are least guilty of.

Clarence Thomas, treated as a sexual predator, when in fact he is one of the least sexually predatory men in government.

George Bush Sr. called a liar over and over again, even though he is one of the most stand-up guys ever to hold the presidency.

And now Dubya, mocked as a drunken party-boy even though he drinks less than any of the people who attack him.

The character test cuts both ways. We know a lot about these men because of what their friends say -- and don't say -- about them.

And we also know a lot about the people who attack them anyway.

Remember 1992. When they just couldn't make Clinton's sexual predations go away, what did they do? They managed to find someone willing to say that some woman who was on a presidential trip to Switzerland (if I remember aright) was spotted going to Bush's hotel room late at night and <titter titter> you know what that means. This got lots of play in the press, along with even more spurious charges about Eisenhower and Jefferson and, of course, the absolutely true charges about Kennedy, so that people would think, "Oh, they're all like that, not just Clinton."

Well, it was a lie. They're not all like that.

But count on it. There's going to be some kind of October surprise, preferably in the last week before the election. Somebody is going to "leak" to the press some charge about Dubya, designed to discredit him. Yeah, I know, they already tried to get us to buy the story from a felon that Dubya had a cocaine arrest covered up because of his dad's power, but that one didn't play. That won't stop them.

The story they come up with doesn't have to hold up. It just has to hang there long enough to cause people to waver, to doubt. My guess it will be on the character issue, precisely because that is the place where Fibber Gore is a joke and Dubya is strong.

My guess is that it will be a charge that Dubya is drinking after all, or it will be an attempt to prove that he is also a liar, just like Gore.

But they'll use whatever they can get to attack Dubya's character.

That's the sad thing about having one party knowingly nominate a candidate who has no character. Because they know the other guy has character, he can't retaliate in kind!

That's one of the things that made them so mad about Nixon. There was not one thing Nixon did that Kennedy and Johnson had not already done, and worse. Every dirty trick was matched by dirtier ones. Every misuse of the IRS to harass political enemies, every misuse of FBI data to control opponents, had already been done by JFK and LBJ.

So when Nixon did the same things, they just couldn't bear it. Conservatives were supposed to have morals. That was our playbook.

I've seen 'em, liberals laughing hysterically at the dirty tricks played on Nixon by Kennedy's people, and then moments later speaking of Nixon with outrage because of much milder dirty tricks he played on Humphrey and McGovern. Funny when our guys do it, evil and unbearable when their guys do it.

Well, they don't have to worry. Dubya's no Nixon. There'll be no false charges against Gore's character in the last couple of weeks.

But then again, there don't need to be any. The truth that we already know should be enough.

Not one friend of Al, not one, not even Tipper, has stood up and said, "I know Al Gore, and you have it all wrong, he never lies, he's an honest man, truth matters to him more than anything, you're just misinterpreting him."

Not one person has stood up and declared, "That memo is a forgery. Al Gore would never enter into a secret agreement with a foreign power to break the laws of the United States and conceal a secret treaty from the very Congress that has to ratify foreign treaties before they're legal. Even if Bill Clinton asked him to do such a thing, Gore would refuse to do it, because it would be wrong, and it would violate his oath of office."

The silence is deafening.

Ouch. That right wing conspiracy reaches everywhere, don't it?

Responses to Why Character Is the Only Issue

The state department has put several U.S. bases on the highest state of alert because of "specific threats." I know it is possible for threats to be present after the attack on the USS Cole. But, because of Clinton's record, I must wonder if this is real.

What a terrible shame for U.S. citizens to be leery of what the president says, but I do. After "The Dress" episode in Afghanistan, who can trust him. There was a time when people of this country hardly questioned the president when a threat was present. Now we must.

It is becoming very possible Bush will win the election. Now Clinton has developed a need for the country to be protected. And, of course, only Mr. Bill can drive away the monsters. But, wait, Al Gore will be part of the glorious decision to save our country with our big strong president. This way Mr. Al will look presidential. You see, Mr. Al really is best suited to lead this country. (Though when Mr. Bill ran for president he was only a governor and had no foreign policy experience, kind of like Bush.)

I predict Clinton will bomb someone three or four days before the election to help Mr. Al win. How could the country possibly turn from it's leader during an emergency? The country must stick together.

This emergency must last three or four days so Mr. Al can be seen "handling" it. I am afraid a lot of innocent people will die so Clinton will have his legacy. I do not want to believe he is such a monster, but he is. If this happens, our countries may never recover from what Clinton unleashes.

-- Jeff A. from NC

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