Character takes center stage in campaign


Michael Dukakis once declared during the 1988 presidential campaign that the issue that year was about “competence.”

Pure and simple, the Democratic nominee said. The voters would judge whether he or Vice President George H.W. Bush was competent enough to run the country.

Voters went for Bush.

This year, according to a Politico report, the issue is “character.”

It’s also about trustworthiness, which is an element of character.

Republican nominee Donald J. Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton are busy trading barrages over who between them is fit — or unfit — to become commander in chief.

So far it’s clear to me that the GOP nominee’s fitness poses the greater concern.

He fluffs a response to a question about the “nuclear triad.” He says he won’t rule out the use of nuclear weapons. He gives his tacit blessing for other nations to acquire nukes.

Then we have his litany of insults, put-downs and mocking of others. A reporter with a physical disability. His various nicknames and childish rejoinders. His statements about women, a distinguished U.S. senator/war hero. His assertion that a judge cannot adjudicate a case involving Trump University simply because of his ethnic heritage. His ridiculous and gratuitous attack against a Gold Star family.

Character? Does this suggest a candidate with character?

Sure, Hillary Clinton is hardly the paragon of virtue. She has her own character issues with which to deal. Again, though, to my eyes they pale in comparison to the astonishing demonstrations that Trump has put forth.

Character will become the signature issue of this campaign.

As Politico reports: “To be clear: The candidates’ brands of invective are not equivalent. Nothing can quite compare with Trump’s endless—and seemingly spontaneous—flow of crude characterizations of anyone who would cross him. For better or worse, Clinton’s attacks are much subtler, and probably more strategic, since her own high negative poll ratings make it imperative that she portray Trump as so unpredictable, and even unstable, as to be an unacceptable choice for president.”

This campaign is getting uglier by the day.

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