Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Character Issue

Gracious! That last conversation will certainly go down in history as the one which evoked a spontaneous, heartfelt 'Holy Crap!' from Chris! So Pretty Lady will begin anew, at the top of the page.
My reading of your thoughts is that character and emotional stability trumps policy determinations (or how the policy is determined seems to be more important than what it is). This reminds me of those who voted for Bush over what was being presented as a Clinton I continuation through Gore, that Bush had better 'character'.
'Character', in quotation marks, indeed. Hmph.

What passes for 'character', in the case of Shrub, as I am sure you are ALL aware by now, perfectly illustrates the difference between appearances vs. substance, letter vs. spirit, and rigidity vs. fluidity, in our assessment of such. Our disesteemed (disapproval rating at 71% at this writing, as compared to 67% for Nixon at the time of his resignation) leader's 'character' was, it seems, entirely assessed on the basis of his late-life recognition of Jesus Christ as his personal savior, as well as a certain good-ol'-boy ingenuousness of manner. Pretty Lady cannot think of a single other factor in his favor.

Consider:

Obama: Taught constitutional law, effectively, it seems.

Bush: Decimated constitution.

Obama: Worked as a community organizer among the poor in Chicago.

Bush: Destroyed an oil business, without failing to scrape off a significant personal profit first.

Obama: Organized a campaign so efficient that it outperformed the Clinton machine, which is operating upon two decades of loyalties, organization and strong-arming.

Bush: Grossly mismanaged an illegitimate war, bankrupted the American economy, tore up the Geneva conventions, and destroyed America's international standing.

Obama: Surrounds himself with a cadre of advisors known for their expertise and upright character.

Bush: Surrounds himself with evil, incompetent lizard-brains who tell him convenient fictions which support his preconceived notions.

To answer your question, then: YES, genuine character not only trumps policy determinations, but leads to better ones. Because a CRUCIAL ELEMENT OF CHARACTER includes the WILLINGNESS TO ADMIT MISTAKES. Not adherence to dogma in the face of all conflicting factual evidence.

And finally, to address the accusations of Obama messianism which fly so cavalierly about these days, I refer you to an Andrew Sullivan reader:

Your old farts really do miss the point completely, don't they? These younger people were convinced that political involvement was useless because the the system was so broken. They came of age anywhere from the second Clinton term (Lewinsky) through the disaster of the Bush years. They have no reason to believe that politics can work, or that it is possible to effect any large scale change, so they work locally or just opt out.

This is what Obama has tapped into. The reason all those thousands of young Dems registered for the first time and voted in a primary was because he made them believe honorable politics was possible. And if someone like Obama gets chewed up by the system because the Obamasignsjeffhaynesafpgetty forces arrayed against him are too strong -- just look at the sworn enemies who are teaming up to bring him down, united by nothing more than a vested interest in the status quo -- then they will conclude that the system is as broken as they thought it was.

The mistake is reading this as an Obama personality cult, in which case "grow up" would be appropriate. But the Obamaniacs I meet are nothing like that...

they don't sing his praises, they sing their own. They are intoxicated by the idea of a politics where things they thought were not possible become possible, and people talk to each other like adults. They don't think he's going to fix things, they think they are.

What the old farts might want to consider is that these young people who have no particular vested interest in the current system might be seeing the rot much more clearly than the fogeys who have been entangled in it for decades. And the mature folk might want to accept that the burden of proof is on them to show why such a viscerally disgusting political game is worth playing.

Opting out of that is not immaturity, it's intelligence.

To borrow from Mr. Gandhi: Be the change you want to see in the world. This is what Obama asks of us; not that we believe in him, but that we believe in ourselves.




23 comments:

jSinSaTx said...

I almost feel I should donate simply do to the fetching presentation in your post... my own humble blog does not look half so well done.

It is obvious from your reply that you understand the point I was attempting to make regarding character... or soft traits. Traits that guide... but guide where...

I will say this regarding W... he will go down as a 2 term president... and someone who even as a lame duck had his way with the opposition party... probably more so than any president before him in modern times...he also made the history books. Many men have aspired to that and missed the mark. Good president? No... but he certainly seemed to either call his own shots or surround himself with those who called them despite all adversity. Certainly not what I would consider a great president... as many people would judge success: power, fame, name outliving him... he had it. Just something to mull.

jSinSaTx said...

I will take issue with your comparison between Mr. Obama and W on the issue of the Constitution. Both of these gentlemen would have been found detestable in their opinions on the Constitution. W with his signing statements and disregard for separation of powers and Mr. Obama for his belief in the living Constitution concept. While he argues that the Constitution was argued over even by the Founding Fathers, it was mostly Hamilton who argued outside the bounds of the Constitution and in direct opposition to his writings on behalf of it in the Federalist Papers.

jSinSaTx said...

Considering he is of the party of Jefferson I would have hope that Mr. Obama would take to heart the admonition "Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction'. Adams and his belief on the limited version of the General Welfare statement and the belief of all that the Constitution was written at the level of interpretation of the citizens is represented rather than oligarchs. This philosophy of the living Constitution is what men like W. have used to lead us to war without declaration and for the government to spend the fortunes of generations without the consent of those generations.

jSinSaTx said...

When you increase the powers of government even out of a sense of empathy you give those powers to people who may follow thereafter who use the powers in ways you had not envisioned... domestic blowback.

Mr. Obama's past as a Constitutional teacher has not led him to any great understanding of the dangers of that.

I think I still must dispute in some fashion the belief that good character or emotional stability in and of itself assures good governance. Mr. Obama himself seems to be make this case in his comments on Reagan. Reagan tapped into the vision of a great America in the opinion of Obama... who then goes on to detail how Reagan's policies were poor. He then goes on to praise much of Bill Clinton's 3rd way policies while never making the case for Clinton's character or empathy.

jSinSaTx said...

Augustus (and pardon me as I recently read an excellent biography on him) was notorious for not following through on his deals with Antony and in fact being the troublesome member of the triumverate... ruthless, cold, calculating... and the author of much of Western Civilization and a society which spanned 100s of years. He, unlike Alexander, had the ability to both be ruthless enough to take an empire... and saavy enough to hold it.

Whether Mr. Obama has the ability to alter the course of the troubled ship of state is undetermined. President Carter perhaps had great character and empathy and yet is widely panned for his performance as President.

That is the crux of my point. You may like the method by which someone comes to their decisions... but ultimately the decisions are what matters. And emotion and empathy are only one path or one component of arriving to those decisions. History and life judge us by what we do nearly as much as what hope for and think... See Henry VI for examples of that.

jSinSaTx said...

And way back in post #1 there... I meant due...

jSinSaTx said...

And I of course meant both would have been found detestable by the framers of the Constitution... off night for me I suppose...

Desert Cat said...

"urr...urr...urr..." says I, (by way of contrast).

Don't stop sir. You are giving eloquent expression to several ideas that I have frustratedly kept bottled up for lack of sufficient means to effectively convey.

jSinSaTx said...

Sometimes it is best to quit when you are ahead and accept the off night... I cannot hope to compete with Pretty Lady in terms of rhetoric on the best of days... she has a gift for the written word that exceeds mine... and I consider myself blessed in my humble talents... perhaps that is why I find her so compelling.

I will happily expand on anything you have specific questions on though...

Pretty Lady said...

Er, as long as you're mentioning Jefferson and the Constitution, let me draw your attention to this recent article:

...'What would the Founders do?

It’s a question Thomas Jefferson found ridiculous. In 1816, when he was seventy-three and many of his revolutionary generation had already died, he offered this answer: “This they would say themselves, were they to rise from the dead. . . . Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.” The Founders believed that to defer without examination to what your forefathers believed was to become a slave to the tyranny of the past. Jefferson put it this way: “Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human.”'

Pretty Lady said...

And obviously, character is not Obama's only strong point. He is making an equally strong case for judgment, based on his vocal and considered opposition to the Iraq war at a time when the vast majority of politicians, for whatever reason, were in favor of it; also the ability to inspire, to communicate the complexities of any issue (as evidenced by his landmark speech on race in Philadelphia), and to react calmly and appropriately to changing circumstances, as we have seen in his graceful handling of this roller-coaster drama of a campaign.

Really, when you contrast his even-tempered conduct with Hillary's desperate, vulgar quacking, Shrub's fey, simpleminded obstinacy, and McCain's chaotic mumbling, the difference is stark.

Pretty Lady said...

In fact, Obama is a highly uncommon leader in that the vast majority of leaders over time have NOT been empaths, but rather brutal, decisive ESTJs. Sensitivity is not generally a quality conducive to good generalship, and generalship has been virtually synonymous with leadership through most of human history. It is a testament to the very great advances of civilization in the last few centuries that it is actually possible for a genuine empath to have a role in the public stage; for the vast majority of human history we have been off in the woods, growing herbs, making medicines, preaching to congregations and illuminating manuscripts.

Pretty Lady said...

And if you feel a need to donate to something, hit my 'rent fund' button. At this point I need it more than Obama does. ;-)

jSinSaTx said...

Amending the Constitution is one thing... simply ignoring its provisions something else entirely. I would not agree with Prohibition for example... but it was certainly handled in a Constitutional manner... and then rectified the same way... this idea of 'discovering' rights and 'General Welfare' and 'Commerce Clause' approaches to governance is a recipe for abuse... the idea that the rules of the game evolve over time is what leads us into situations like we are now... Truman took us to war without any congressional approval (a democrat) and now it is considered an anachronism for the Congress to declare a war. The ignoring of the written letter of the Constitution has directly lead to the current situation in Iraq... and many other problems to boot.

If people want Social Security, Medicare, the President to declare war etc... amend the Constitution. To do it the way we currently are is to make a liar out of everyone who takes office and swears to support it.

Currently we have given the government the gun and spend our time arguing over who gets to pull the trigger.

Howlsatmoon said...

Oh my....I simply cannot bring myself to join this fray. I am not in this erudite league.

Suffice to say though, I am unhappy with all of the Candidates.....I'll squeeze my nose and do my Honorable Duty...but I shan't be pleased.

jSinSaTx said...

How is voting a duty? How is acting contrary to your beliefs and thoughts honorable?

Being a knowledgeable citizen and being engaged etc does not imply to me that the expression of that has to take place in the voting booth... Freakonomics also makes the case that it is a terrible waste of time hah hah

I am a believer in withdrawing consent. It is a choice not to vote FOR someone whom I am AGAINST. I will not be considered as part of someones mandate to butcher the Constitution and destroy another piece of the nation...

Howlsatmoon said...

Heh...then, Sir, I shall vote my conscience...though Duty I describe it.

Desert Cat said...

There are always Libertarian and Constitution candidates at whom to "throw away" one's vote.

None of the major party candidates will get mine this time.

jSinSaTx said...

The problem with most of the 3rd parties is that in spite of all their rhetoric, they do none of the local work necessary to build a legitimate party. It is all aimed at securing the presidency... as if a president with no party would be allowed to govern or even get into the debates. Yes, the libertarians have some elected officials... but you get the point.

As it is, voting mostly just goes into the big number at the end of election day that shows that X% of the population supports the government.

This is just a philosophical issue... not a moral one.

Bob said...

Jeez PL...

You are in for a huge shock if Obama gets in the White House.

You think Bush has trashed the Constitution? Just wait for Obama, he'll make Bush look like the amateur he is.

Bush just wanted money money money for his buddies. Obama wants the nation.

BoysMom said...

Lifted from an MSN article for your entertainment:

"Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, donated just under 6% of their $4.2 million income to charitable causes last year.

Hillary and Bill Clinton contributed 9.4% of their $109 million income from 2000 to 2007.

President Bush and his wife, Laura, bestowed nearly 18% of their $936,111 income in 2007 on various charities.

Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, married to an heiress, donated 26% of his $405,409 income."

Bob said...

Donated "X" dollars to... blah, blah, blah.

They either have to either donate the money to somebody somewhere, or have the IRS take it.

So they donate it and make big noises about how generous they are. If the IRS was not in the picture, these fine folks wound't be donating a penny.

These are politicans swifty, not humanists.

Desert Cat said...

Bob, you don't file a 1040 Schedule A, do you? Else you would not have made such a clueless statement.

Charitable donations are not a tax credit. They are a deduction. As such they do not result in a dollar-for-dollar reduction in tax liability, but rather reduce the amount of income subject to taxation.

The bottom line is if you reduce your taxable income by donating $1000 to a cause, and you happen to be in the 28% tax bracket, your tax liability only decreases by $280 dollars. You're still out $720 dollars. And that is before the Alternative Minimum Tax kicks in, and shaves away at your deductions. All of the above individuals would be subject to the AMT.

No sane person donates to charity solely because the alternative is a donation to the government. Generally people donate to charity because they believe in the cause and want to stand behind it. The tax break is just gravy. It's also why liberals are generally stingier with charity--they expect government to fund all these things and don't expect that they ought to put their own money where their mouth is.