Column: Yes, character matters

You remember the 1990s? Those wonderful Clinton years, when liberal Democrats, led by the great moralist James Carville, incessantly told us, “Character doesn’t matter.” Well, it’s time to slap another egg on Carville’s head because he and his party have been proven dead wrong again.

During the Clinton impeachment proceedings, Republicans were forbidden from merely questioning the President’s unethical behavior. Just in case you have forgotten, Clinton used his presidential stature to seduce a young, female intern in the Oval Office. To make matters even worse, he perjured himself in a court of law and coerced others to do the same, an offense that resulted in his being disbarred. Of course to Democrats, these actions were totally irrelevant in judging Clinton’s presidency. After all, “character doesn’t matter.” As long as the economy was good, and the world was seemingly peaceful, who really cared about such petty matters as character and values. Right? Wrong.

Much to the surprise and dismay of secular liberals, character does matter to the American people. They made this point clear on Nov. 2 by giving President Bush a popular victory. As the exit polls illustrate, Bush enjoyed powerful support from Christian evangelicals and voters who strongly emphasized “moral values.” Undoubtedly, such support stems from the Democrats’ reflexive hostility toward organized religion. Not to mention the fact that they are just plain “out of touch” with mainstream America on most social issues. Don’t believe me? Look at any post-mortem Maureen Dowd or Paul Krugman diatribe in the New York Times. These elitist whiners still don’t get it; character matters.

John Kerry obviously lost big on the issue of moral values. However, on a deeper level, it is apparent that Americans no longer trust Democrats to keep the country safe, especially in this post 9/11 world where national security constantly hangs in the balance. Setting religious convictions aside, by a margin of 57 percent to 41 percent, voters did not trust Sen. Kerry to handle the threat of terrorism. Conversely, by the same margin voters said they trusted Bush to handle the threat. As CNN’s William Schneider further reports, “Most voters described Kerry not as a man who says what he believes, but as a man who says what he thinks people want to hear (56 to 40 percent).”

These are all devastating indictments of the Democratic Party and they have only themselves to blame. Given the Clintonian contention that presidential character is irrelevant, such public perceptions should be expected. This is a party that somehow defended a chronic philanderer and admitted perjurer as a suitable commander in chief. Why are they surprised that they have suddenly lost the trust of the American people?

Clinton might have left the presidency as a popular figure, but he did irreparable damage to his party. In fact, Democrats are still paying for it today with John Kerry being the most recent casualty. Clinton’s misconduct forced the party to defend the indefensible – to resort to unfathomable lows to protect his legacy. By doing so, Democrats dismissed the essential presidential qualities of character, morality and virtue. This may have worked in the ’90s, when the public was hopelessly immersed in naivet? and superficiality. But now we live in a different world, under the constant threat of Islamist terrorism. With American troops in harm’s way, character matters and the American people demand it in their president.

Distraught Democrats looking to understand character may take guidance from President Bush’s remarks at the Republican National Convention, “And in those military families, I have seen the character of a great nation, decent, idealistic and strong.” The nation has also seen such character in President Bush – in his steadfast pursuit of freedom, despite enormous political opposition, in the Middle East and security for the American people. They saw his character when he rallied America with a bullhorn amid the fallen Twin Towers, and they see it as he tenderly comforts the families of fallen U.S. soldiers. With President Bush set for a second term, we are surely a far cry from the “character doesn’t matter” days of the 1990s. That’s one thing to be thankful for this holiday season.

-The writer, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

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