Saturday, December 30, 2017

Trump vs. Clinton: How Much Does Character Count?

Bret Stephens is blind to his own contradictions. We will grant him leniency because we suspects that he is trying to fit in at the New York Times.

Today, he lectures us on the importance of character in our leaders. It is a fair point. He asserts that conservatives believe that culture trumps policy. And thus, that good policy is for nothing if our leader has bad character. 

Does anyone but Stephens believe that conservatives diminish the importance of policy... or of the composition of the courts?

In his words:

The answer depends on your definition. Here’s one I’ve always liked: “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society,” said the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan. To which he added: “The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

Conservatives used to believe in their truth. Want to “solve” poverty? All the welfare dollars in the world won’t help if two-parent families aren’t intact. Want to foster democracy abroad? It’s going to be rough going if too many voters reject the foundational concept of minority rights.

But, if liberals want to change the culture, by court decisions and bureaucratic edicts, don't conservatives need to fight back?

Stephens is seriously torqued over Donald Trump’s character flaws. He is not alone. We have on this very blog pointed out many of them over the past two and a half years. So we do not feel remiss and do not feel that we have ignored the obvious.

How to have more two-parent families… a good question it is. Surely, conservatives have strongly supported such families. We recall that Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, believed that it takes a village to raise a child… because that’s the way they do it in more primitive cultures. In a moment of Rousseauvian delirium, Hillary wanted us all to pretend that we live in a primitive Stone Age village.

As for fostering democracy abroad, which we recall as a Wilsonian revenant that took up residence in the mind of George W. Bush, we have not succeeded at it. And, by the way, who doesn’t believe in minority rights? A nation that elected Barack Obama to the presidency in order to support minority rights and to do penance for our sins—can you think of another reason?—is not deficient in respecting minority rights.

But, here is the kicker: Stephens still wishes that Hillary had won? He does not offer a ringing endorsement of her character. He says not a word about her character, or about the fine character of her husband, the sexual abuser in chief. He says not a word about her role as enabler in chief— bullying any woman who would have accused her husband of sexual harassment. He does not even say a word about all the men in the media and entertainment who have recently been exposed as sexual harassers and even rapists-- all of whom supported Bill and Hillary Clinton. And, all of whom must have felt that Hillary had given them permission to behave as her husband behave. Stephens says not a word about her private server, the deleted emails, her corruption and dishonesty, Uranium One, the Clinton Foundation, her disastrous conduct of foreign policy—you get the picture. 

Stephens does not defend the character of the Clintons, America's Grifters in Chief. And he says not a word about Hillary's pathetic media tour, where she has shown the singular bad grace to blame everyone but herself for her disastrous presidential campaign.

Stephens says not a word about Hillary Clinton’s character because the American people have already judged it to be extremely wanting. Had the Democrats nominated a candidate with character than candidate would be sitting in the White House right now. They did not. The American people knew what the brilliant Bret Stephens does not know: that when it came to bad character, the choice between Trump and Clinton was a toss-up. A lot of people did not like Trump. But they liked Hillary less. So people voted for policy. 


whitney said...

Whatever you think of trump he does have a consistent character. There interviews of him when he was a young man and he sounds exactly like he does today.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Fair point... but consider that when Hillary's husband was president she changed her hairdo every week or so... what does anyone make of that?

whitney said...

Back then I think I felt sorry for her because the media was so harshly judging her appearance but now in retrospect I see that she's a mercenary. Whatever changes she made were pure calculation. And she may have felt bad but it wasn't from a Wellspring of natural human insecurities but more like a wolf figuring out which sheeps clothes to put on

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...


You mean like the choreography at her 1994 White House press conference about Whitewater, sitting under a portrait of Honest Abe wearing that pink number (with a skirt, no less)?

A pink sheep costume is adorable... a perfect disguise for all the gullible pink sheep she needed to sway. The women’s vote got Bill elected and kept him in office. While he was predating young female interns (and other “bimbos” Hillary sought to destroy).

[hashtag] me too, eh?

Hillary’s character is that of a rabid wolf. And equally charming.

‘Tis a far cry from the hideous young Marxist woman who spoke at her Wellesley graduation. Well, maybe not too far...

Speaking of her public image/appearance, am I the only one who chuckles at her Wikipedia picture? Good lord, that look was a loooooong time ago.

Sam L. said...

Bret done downed the potion of NYT policy. This is an example of why I distrust the NYT and NYTers. Paullie "The Beard" Krugman is another example.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: when it came to bad character, the choice between Trump and Clinton was a toss-up. A lot of people did not like Trump. But they liked Hillary less. So people voted for policy.

I believe it was a toss up, and neither candidate got a majority of the vote, but if it was a toss up, its surprising third party votes were not stronger. So nearly everyone on both sides bought into the narrative that its better to win with a flawed candidate than lose by voting for someone who can't win.

Votes: Trump 62,984,825 (46.1%), Clinton 65,853,516 (48.2%), Gary Johnson 4,489,221 (3.6%), Other 3,425,429 (2.5%) Total 136,669,237
Compared to 2008
2008: Obama 69,498,516 (52.9%), McCain 59,948,323 (45.7%), Other 1,866,981 (1.4%) Total 131,313,820

But how many stayed home? The turnout 55.7% was 2.5% lower than 2008 (58.2%), although slightly higher than 2012, 54.9%. Overall poor turnout percentages, although it does vary by state, with Minnesota leading with 74.8%, and Hawaii last place at 43% along with big Texas at 51.6%.

Anyway, I don't know what "People voted policy" means. Does it mean 46.1% of 55.7% (or 25.7%) want a wall with Mexico? Or does it mean 48.2% of 55.7% (or 26.8%) don't want a wall with Mexico? And do we really know if the American public prefers a resentful neighbor paying for our walls? I don't have any idea at this point.

Ares Olympus said...

whitney said... Whatever you think of trump he does have a consistent character. There interviews of him when he was a young man and he sounds exactly like he does today.

I'm not sure that's true, but I guess you mean general arrogance. You can see a 1987 interview here.
STAT therefore asked experts in neurolinguistics and cognitive assessment, as well as psychologists and psychiatrists, to compare Trump’s speech from decades ago to that in 2017; they all agreed there had been a deterioration, and some said it could reflect changes in the health of Trump’s brain.

But overall I'd say Trump's decline, even if it is age-related, aligns with our country's general decline in verbal ability so his mind has now been reduced to twitter-sized sound-bites that play well to a supportive audience (and love a trolling opposition as well), with no real need for thinking things through.

People say when Trump speaks, he's saying what they were thinking, which sounds like a powerful skill, if you can mirror the feelings of your audience, but it would also seem to make him seem unusually stupid to anyone outside the magnetic field of his enthralled audience.