Victor Davis Hanson: Character Must Be Weighed Against Achieving Political Objectives
Personal character should rank high among traits for evaluating a presidential candidate, but we live in the real world and we should be cognizant of the difference in the two parties’ respective approaches to character. The Republicans feel that control of the personal appetites is essential to political office. And therefore, they audit and censor their own when they don’t meet that standard, whether it’s sexual appetites, or whether it’s ethical breaches. The Democrats believe in a cosmic utopian agenda of egalitarianism, quality, fraternity. And because they feel that their ends are more exalted than are the Republicans’, they’re willing to justify any means necessary almost to get to them.
How that translates into the real political world is something along the lines that Trump’s supposed vulgarity and crudity — in some cases actual rather than supposed — becomes a felony in the eyes of Republican establishment figures to such a degree that they cannot vote for him.
Hillary’s indicative — it’s not a subjunctive but indicative mood — that whether she’s rigged the cattle futures market when she started out; whether she was fired from the Watergate community for unethical behavior; whether it’s “Troopergate”; whether it’s demonizing women who were not adulterous, but victims of sexual assault from her husband; whether it was her personal server; whether it was the Clinton foundation scandals; whether it was these, I think, very deplorable $250,000 fees to Wall Street and other foreign banks that pose conflict of interest. All of these demerits are considered by the left as not disqualifying on her part.
To put it in other terms, Bernie Sanders will say, “Yes. The Democratic establishment rigged — in their own words — the nomination process against me.” Or he will say, “Yes, Hillary Clinton ridiculed my supporters as prolonged adolescents in their basements of their parents’ homes.” Or, “She [Hillary Clinton] confirmed my suspicions that she talks one way to Wall Street, another way to us. However I’m still going to vote for her.” Carly Fiorina or Jeb Bush conversely would say that Trump’s vulgarity is just beyond the pale.
We live in a real world, and we’re not going to see 50 foreign policy analysts that were in Democratic administrations write a letter, as their Republican counterparts did, professing inability to support their party’s candidate. That’s just the way it works out.
And so I think that the bottom line is, Republicans have to be attuned to character, but they also have to realize they’re in a race for power and an agenda with other people who don’t value it at all. And for some Republicans, that reality causes them to value character all the more greatly. For other Republicans, that reality explains why Republicans continue to lose presidential races.
Featured Image: President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talk in the Oval Office following their lunch, Nov. 29, 2012 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)