Jonah Goldberg: Common Sense and Intellectual Consistency are the Keys to Evaluating Character in a Candidate

Editor’s Note: The following essay was adapted from an interview with Jonah Goldberg conducted in October 2016. It has been modified for clarity.

I don’t think that there is some sort of magical algorithm or technique to measuring the character of a presidential candidate. I think that one does it the same way that serious people come to conclusions about any public figure’s character and integrity: One reads deeply about the person. One uses critical analysis to measure the legitimacy of claims and counterclaims about the person. I do not think one has to come up with some sort of silver bullet checklist. Basic common sense and intellectual consistency are perfectly valid techniques.

But one might look specifically at how much a candidate has honored his or her word in the past. One might look at the testimonials of people that he or she has done business with, whether it’s in politics or in the private sector. One could look at the consistency of explanations that the candidate has offered to explain his or her positions and past deeds, and whether they hold up to scrutiny.

This is a task that tracks very closely with the way in which scholars look and judge historical figures. It’s a prudential question. Everyone’s definition of what character is is going to vary, but I think we can all agree upon certain basic benchmarks about how we are going to go about looking at the question. And the way we do that is with facts, reason and argument.

Featured Image: George Fox refusing to take the oath at Houlker Hall, A.D. 1663, by John Pettie R.A (Wikimedia Commons)

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