Tag Archives: character matters

Character should matter

It was several lifetimes ago when Republicans would declare that “character matters” when electing a president of the United States.

Do you remember those days? Bill Clinton was campaigning for president. He got elected in 1992. He ran for re-election in 1996. In both campaigns, GOP officials said Clinton’s checkered personal history should disqualify him for election and re-election.

GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole in 1996 once shouted indignantly, “Where is the outrage?” 

That was then. These days a Republican president is running for re-election. Donald Trump’s character doesn’t appear to be an issue with Republicans. They ignore the jaw-dropping deficiencies in this incumbent’s character. They remain deafeningly silent when issues arise about Trump’s lying, his treatment of allies, his mistreatment of women, his astounding boorishness.

None of it matters to many among this generation of Republicans.

Now, I say that knowing full well that a number of prominent GOP public figures have signed on with Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s campaign. They are the likes of former GOP presidential candidates Carly Fiorina and John Kasich, former congresswoman Susan Molinari and a host of longstanding Republican political operatives, such as Mitt Romney ally Stuart Stevens, Weekly Standard founder William Kristol and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will.

So many rank-and-file Republicans, though, remain hitched to the wagon being pulled by Donald Trump.

Trump’s lying continues to rankle me beyond my ability to express my outrage. It is the incessant lying that has drawn the attention of Joe Biden, who vows to restore “the soul” of the nation.

We need a president who can tell us the truth even when the truth hurts. Trump lies about the pandemic, he ignores the immense cost it has levied against us in terms of illness and death. Trump cannot tell us the truth about the misery that so many Americans are enduring.

Trump cannot speak the truth about suffering. His character, or lack of character, won’t allow him to even acknowledge out loud that “Black Lives Matter.” And do not misconstrue what I am saying here. I am not suggesting that “black lives matter” more than anyone else’s lives. Nor does the movement suggest as much, either.

Trump won’t go there. Why? His version of character doesn’t allow it. Meanwhile, the Republican Party faithful are OK with that.

Doesn’t character matter any longer?

Whatever happened to the Republican Party?

Oh, yoo-hoo! Are you out there, somewhere, Republican Party members, folks who once stood for principles that appear to have been vanquished and trampled asunder in this Age of Donald John Trump?

I have been looking for those folks for some time. To no avail, I am afraid to admit. You remember how those good folks. If not, I’ll offer a reminder.

I think of the Republicans of 1980 and those of 1994. They presented candidates and platforms that represented a specific ideology and point of view.

The Grand Old Party in 1980 was led by a former B-movie actor-turned California governor, Ronald “The Gipper” Reagan. Gov. Reagan became the Republican nominee that year. He and his party then proceeded to savage President Jimmy Carter because he had the temerity to stand watch while the federal budget ran a deficit of $43 billion in that election year.

Fort-three billion bucks, man! Why, you’d have thought the nation was heading for bankruptcy to hear the Republicans tell it.

Fast-forward 40 years and the budget deficit this year is going to top $1 trillion. Yes, a Republican is now president of the United States. Where is the outcry? Where are the calls for fiscal restraint?

The sound of crickets you are hearing is the sound of a political party that has tossed aside the principle of fiscal efficiency because its members have become beholden to the man who leads the party, the man who before he ran for president had no discernible connection to the party under whose banner he ran for the only public office he ever has sought.

Amazing, yes? I believe so.

Then the GOP of 1994 came and went. These were the politicians who campaigned for Congress on the Character Matters mantra. The object of their scorn in that election year was a Democratic president who had been elected two years earlier despite allegations of womanizing. Bill Clinton won the 1992 election and then two years later, the GOP — led by a House backbench flamethrower named Newt Gingrich — set about campaigning on the Character Matters platform.

Republicans won control of both congressional houses that year, then sought the impeachment of President Clinton, ostensibly after seeking the goods on a scandal called Whitewater, a real estate deal that caught the GOP’s attention. The probe ended up producing a tawdry relationship between the president and a White House intern. Clinton took an oath to tell the truth to a grand jury, then he lied to jurors. Perjury! Clinton broke the law! Then he got impeached. He stood trial and was acquitted in early 1999.

Well, that version of the Republican Party has vanished, too. Gingrich became speaker of the House after the 1994 congressional takeover, then the GOP lost seats in Congress in the 1998 midterm election, all while Gingrich was being revealed as a philanderer … even as he was bemoaning the president’s crappy conduct.

It’s gotten worse. The GOP these days rallies behind a president who makes all of that seem like schoolyard frolic.

So, I have to ask: What in the world has become of a once-great political party?