Ordinarily, my musings are not of a personal nature, but occasionally something gets me riled up, and I can’t resist making a comment.

The recent potential Republican candidate debate in Charleston left me wondering about character.  Whether or not it was appropriate for John King to open the debate asking Newt Gingrich about allegations by his second wife or if Gingrich’s fiery  response was merited is not my call.   What bothered me is that Gingrich had been in a six year affair with his current wife while married to his second, and that got me thinking about character on several levels.

If I understand what I hear, Newt is making a strong push for the conservative vote which includes many an evangelical Christian.  Given their views on family values, I  find it hard to imagine their approving Gingrich’s past behavior.  Furthermore, if he is passing himself off as one, what does that say about the strength of his faith?

Additionally, as hokey as it might be, I think the person serving as president of our country should have strong character and, for me, that excludes inappropriate sexual behavior.  That is not to say he or she should be perfect, but they should respect elected office enough to not bring that baggage into play.  Such is my opinion at least, but sometimes it seems we are willing to overlook a candidate’s, or sometimes a sitting representative’s, flaws so long as he or she associates with the party that most reflects personal philosophy.

It is not my place to judge anyone, and that’s not what I’m trying to do.  Rather I simply raise the question of what is important when it comes to who we choose to lead our country.  Quite honestly, I don’t care what party a candidate chooses to affiliate with, but I do care a great deal about his or her character.  Ultimately, the ability to maintain a consistent morality is what leads one to make decisions that are in the best interest of all the people….at least that is what I hope.

I would love for you to pipe in on this subject.  I’m listening.

16 thoughts on “Character DOES Matter

  1. I think you’re mostly right about this, but I think (for better or worse) there are a lot of factors to consider and a candidate’s personal past may not be important enough to make them a bad candidate for the job. I had a lot of concerns about Newt Gingrich due to his personal past, but I had to weigh my concern about that with who I thought would actually get the country moving in the right direction again. I certainly don’t fault anyone for using his marital issues as part of their decision process, but in a field of imperfect candidates I don’t feel it alone is worth blacklisting a candidate, whoever it may be. I hope the former speaker is sincere in his statement that he regrets his mistakes and has asked God for forgiveness. If he is truly sorry and has learned and matured from the mistakes he made in the past then I think I owe him the benefit of the doubt. It’s not so much about “approving” of his past behavior, certainly I wouldn’t expect any Christian to do that, but we do believe in forgiveness and redemption, and I think that’s why so many of us are encouraged by the idea that Mr. Gingrich may have redeemed himself.

    1. Thanks for your thought provoking comment. For me, Gingrich is not the issue. Rather it is the lack of character that so many candidates in recent years represent. Naively, perhaps, I hold elected representatives, particularly the president, to higher standards.

  2. I so agree! When my children were young, I told them character is doing right when no one is looking & you think no one will find out. Gingrich, like far too many of our politicians today, arrogantly assumed no one would find out. Now like other politicians when their moral lapses are exposed, (again arrogantly) tell us they need not explain their moral lapses & character flaws. I’m shocked that there is not more outrage over not only how Gingrich conducted his affairs ( literally!) but also over his pompous response. We are to dismiss judgement of him because he asked God for forgiveness? Perhaps he might have considered God’s view of his behavior during the six years he was having his affair.
    Yes, character should count when assessing a politician’s ability …..and right ……to be the President of our country.

  3. I feel the same way, Linda. If a man will lie and cheat on his wife, he will also lie and cheat on his country. I firmly believe that if our nation is to survive, it will need strong men of character leading it. Our founding fathers built this country on strong moral values and faith in God. Now it is up to us as voters to be sure we elect leaders who exemplify these same values!

  4. This is taken from a reply to Charles Blow’s column in the NY Times today. Read the column of course, but the reader zeroes in on the character issue that you bring up. Character counts.

    “Demagogue: a person who tries to stir up the people by appeals to emotion, prejudice etc. in order to win them over quickly and so gain power. (Webster’s New World Dictionary) Newt Gingrich is a demagogue. Not only is he a demagogue, he is an amoral Machiavellian who will do or say anything to gain power, most especially the consummate power of the presidency.

    His vituperative tirade against John King is evidence of his demagoguery as he quickly took the measure of the audience before he launched his diatribe. Mr. King had every right to question Mr Gingrich who wagged his accusing finger at the adulterous President Clinton and extolled monogamous marriage. And all while he himself was committing adultery.

    The talking heads tell us that he is redeemed and nothing touches a Southern Republican as deeply as a repentant sinner who now walks among the just. That may be so but character counts. This man deserted two wives when they became chronically ill. This man is the only Speaker of the House of Representatives in its august history to have been censored and fined by that House for ethics violations. This man plays the racist card to a large group of white sympathizers. With a half million line of credit at Tiffany, this man denigrates the poor who seek food assistance to satiate their hunger.

    Character counts. Character counts especially in anyone seeking the highest office in the land. America deserves much, much better than Newt Gingrich.

  5. I have had a longstanding policy of voting on the three I’s: integrity first (POTUS has his finger on the trigger), intelligence and ideology last. This has not always proved a wise choice, but at least it lets me categorize my feelings.

    If Gingrich thinks he can win with his mistress/wife on his arm, he is seriously out of touch with the millions of women who have been left behind.

    None of us is perfect, but atonement and redemption are available to help us regain admission to the general society. I see neither in Gingrich.

    Besides, she has helmet hair — soooo OUT. Dixie

  6. Wow…some really deep and thought-provoking responses here! I think it would be easier for me to dismiss Newt’s behavior had it happened when he was young & dumb. A lot of people make really stupid mistakes as youngsters that later in life abhors them. George W. had some troubles with alcohol, Clinton admitted to at least trying marijuana. There are elected leaders who, in their younger years, probably did crazy things that just haven’t come to the public’s attention (yet!). I think the fact that Newt showed such poor judgment and dealt such a brutal betrayal to his wife at an age when we would expect that people of character would have outgrown that sort of behavior is what gets to me. I think what further exacerbates it is that he is – as Catherine pointed out – responding in a way that comes off as arrogant. No one in this world is perfect, but character is and should be one of the huge arbiters of making a decision about who will make all-important decisions about our country’s future. I am the daughter of politicians and would expect that the character of my parents would be put under the microscope as readily as their voting record or stance on any given subject. From the time we were little kids, I can remember my parents cautioning us about both our public and private behavior. That was before the Internet and Google and all the other “eye in the sky” technology that we have now that can literally create an overnight stir. While character should not be the exclusive arbiter, but it should certainly be in the top two. We need leaders at all levels of government who understand that trust is EARNED and not a given. We need leaders who understand that respect is EARNED. We need leaders who know which voice inside their head to listen to. We need leaders who, even though they may not come from or currently be counted among the lower- or middle-class, are willing to fight for those people just want a fair shake and are willing to work for it. Lastly, we need leaders whose moral compass is turned on high at all times. Not holier-than-thou…just high. That’s my 2 cents.

  7. I think that anyone looking for a place in leadership who has demonstrated dishonesty, deception and lies (as an extra marital affair involves by it’s very nature) is surely someone who can not be trusted to lead a country because they have compromised their integrity.

    Not coming from the USA, I am not affiliated with any political party or indeed do I know much about the various political parties but that matters not, because I think that character Is important and if you want the top job in the land (whatever land) then you should lead by example… and a good example is the only one that should be acceptable in this instance.

    How can someone who has covered up a illicit relationship be fit to pass a law on those who cover up any other illicit dealings?

    More importantly, where do we draw the line? How much wrongdoing are people prepared to “let go” and if they let a little bit go from one candidate, and a little bit more from the next, where will it end?
    If the people at the top are not prepared to be transparent and hold high values in their private lives then what hope is there when the temptations of power are available to them?

    Character IS important because for me it demonstrates that the person is fit to lead.
    Political policy is rarely the result of one persons wishes in this day and age so the best candidate should show exceptional leadership skills as a priority and for me nothing makes a better leader than a strong, intelligent individual who epitomises honesty, sincerity and integrity.

    (great post btw, very thought provoking)

  8. Thought provoking post and comments posted. I agree,CHARACTER is extremely important. The good thing about this debate is it is causing people to think about values and why they are important. Courtesy is another trait that I see not exhibited in politics or the news media in many instances. When you are asked a question blasting and attacking the one who asked the question to deflect answering the question is not courteous or professional.

  9. I agree, character counts. Clinton doing what he did IN the oval office, was a terrible abuse of this country’s trust . Try explaining to 4 th graders why the president was impeached! To think we almost has John Edwards as VP!
    I don’t have much regard for politicians, either party. It is a dirty business , for sure.

  10. I don’t know enough about American politics but character counts as it’s a matter of trust. If he can’t hold to the promise of marriage, or have has the courage to confront his marital issues over a six year period, the question is whether one would trust him enough to keep to the promise he is meant to make for his country and his people… My friend’s argue that a man’s personal life is his own business, so it is a tricky one. Do you judge someone as a man or judge him for what he is able to achieve in his professional role? I don’t know…

    1. This is exactly the struggle I had when evaluating candidates! I read a different take on his marital past earlier this week than I would have ever considered on my own (it is by a psychiatrist on the subject of marital infidelity in leaders, but specifically about Gingrich as well), you might find it interesting too if you’re in the same place I was. http://politisane.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/a-psychiatrist-thinks-that-being-on-wife-3-might-actually-be-a-good-thing/

  11. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. While, for me, Gingrich is not the real issue, I am more than a little concerned about the character of our politicians. I think it is difficult to separate character from performance no matter what the field of endeavor. Each of your opinions is valuable.

  12. I have never voted for a politician who can’t take care and unite his family. I have doubts if he care enough for others. Thankful for the choices and the power to choose 🙂

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