An Issue of Character

One of the primary topics that has brought the issue of character to the forefront has been the subject of crony capitalism. This subject is not new, but it has brought the GOP candidates a new type of scrutiny on the part of the conservative base of the Republican Party.

Most conservatives have taken it for granted that there’s a certain political class that chooses for run for national office. In the past, most conservatives shrugged off that notion will a collective “oh well”. That was all fine and good when the federal government did not intrude on our lives and we were still able to pursue gainful employment. That is no longer the case today.

As the federal government has ratcheted up its intrusion into our everyday lives, conservatives are starting to look for something different in a candidate. For the first time in a long time, conservatives are beginning to focus on the issue of character and how character manifests itself within a GOP candidate. I’ve listened to a number of bloggers begin to scratch the surface of the underlying issue of character.

Having said that, how do we define “character”? In addition, how has our definition of character changed over the years and why is character any more important today than opposed to, say, 20 years ago? defines character this way:

– the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.

– one such feature or trait; characteristic.

– moral or ethical quality: “a man of fine, honorable character”.

– qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity: “It takes character to face up to a bully”.

Newt Gingrich further refined the definition of character by adding the word “virtue” when describing our Founding Fathers. During the The Cain/Gingrich, Lincoln-Douglas style debate sponsored by the Texas Tea Party Patriots on November 5th, Gingrich said this:

“The pursuit of happiness in the 18th century enlightenment meant wisdom and virtue. None of the Founding Fathers would have said that education without character is useful. They would have said it is in fact dangerous.”

To paraphrase what Newt said, education alone cannot presume the existence of character. After all, education itself is not virtuous. Education is hollow of virtue without the presence of character. Only man as an individual can supplement his education with virtue. Although virtuous behavior can be taught, it can only be manifested through a person’s actions. Therefore, a man’s character (or virtue) can only be demonstrated by his actions, not his words.

So, how does define virtue? Among other things, it says:

– moral excellence; goodness; righteousness.

– conformity of one’s life and conduct to moral and ethical principles; uprightness; rectitude.

The lynch-pin of these definitions is this: How do we know moral character, righteousness and so on, when we see it? In my mind, it is only recognized by our own definition. It cannot be defined for us, because character is only defined through the prism of our own conduct or actions.

You’ve no doubt heard stories of financial transactions being executed on the basis of a handshake. Those stories exemplify both parties’ belief in the other person’s virtue. A handshake is just a physical metaphor of a man’s word. If a man’s virtue is known through his past actions, then his words inform us of his character and a handshake is all we need. Once again, it is our interpretation of a man’s past actions that forms our understanding of what his character is and hence, his level of virtue.

Bill Whittle published a great video a few weeks ago as part of his “Afterburner” series on PJTV. He titled the segment “Character” and brought up some excellent points about how character has impacted our culture and politics. I’m going to play audio from parts of his discussion later on in the program.

If we have a better insight into what character is or should be, we can have an easier time evaluating the current presidential candidates and our existing President. What do their actions tell us about their character? Forget about their words for a minute and just focus on their actions, both past and present.

One of the greatest characteristics of our country is its willingness to forgive past transgressions. Although we may be forgiving, that does not mean we are forever trusting. Once a trust is lost, it is very hard to re-acquire. A demonstrated history of a change in character is scrutinized far greater than it may have been in the first place, before a trust is lost.

We have a demonstrated history of character within the current crop of GOP candidates. A candidate’s history will usually give us a pretty good indicator of how they will act in the future. My question is this: Has our candidates’ history shown them to be the kind of leader that we might accept as conservatives?

To me, the answer to that question is demonstrated by the current polling amongst the GOP candidates. As of yesterday, the national RCP Average amongst the current GOP was this:

Newt Gingrich 33.3%

Mitt Romney 20.8%

Herman Cain 12.5%

Ron Paul 9.5%

Rick Perry 7.3%

Michelle Bachmann 5.0%

Rick Santorum 3.8%

John Huntsman 2.5%

As the campaign ebbs and flows, these numbers will change. Again, I say that these numbers indicate who we MIGHT accept as our national candidate, not who we WILL accept. The mainstream media wants to tell you otherwise, but answering a poll is not the same as actually VOTING!

Iowans are currently being feted with a lot of attention by the candidates. There is one individual who has done us a favor by offering up an analysis of the GOP field from his point of view. Tim Hicks recorded an interview with Reverend Cary Gordon 12 days ago. Tim Hicks is a video production director based in Sioux City, Iowa. I will play the audio of that interview later in the program.

As for me, I am still doing my own vetting of the GOP field. That process will be ongoing over the next few months. Following Governor Palin’s lead, my primary focus is on character and proven leadership. I hope yours is as well.

You can listen to today’s show HERE.

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