Why Character Matters

Back in the 1990s, many religious conservatives—including me—believed President Clinton was unworthy of the presidential

He violated his marital vows—as he was wont to do—and did so by preying on a girl barely out of college. The word “consensual” doesn’t have much meaning when applied to a middle-aged president and an impressionable, star-struck intern. He then covered up the scandal—as he was wont to do—until the impeachment proceedings forced a disingenuous apology from him.

“It’s just sex,” I was often told.

In 2016, the woman who constantly covered for her president-husband’s predations is now running for president amidst her own host of scandals and deceptions. She is being challenged by a man who also has violated his marital vows, at times preying on married women. The word “consensual” doesn’t appear in the recorded conversations when The Donald talks about his preferred methods of seducing women. At this past debate, we received a disingenuous apology from him as well.

“It’s just sex talk,” I am often told.

In 1783, after the British had been defeated at Yorktown, America faced perhaps its gravest crisis yet. For years, the Continental Army not only suffered in the field but from neglect of the American people. The states often didn’t fulfill their obligations to pay the soldiers through the Continental Congress and there was fear amongst many soldiers that such pay would never come. In an episode, later called the “Newburgh Conspiracy,” a number of officers plotted to either disband the army and leave the new nation unprotected or maintain the army after a treaty was signed with England—a threatened military coup.

General George Washington surprised these men at one of their meetings and tried to show them the error of their ways. When his words didn’t have their desired effect, he pulled out a note from his pocket to read to them. After stumbling his way through the first paragraph, he reached into his jacket for a pair of spectacles and said “Gentlemen, you must pardon me, for I have not only grown gray, but almost blind in service to my country.” This expression of suffering and sacrifice resonated with the men. Some officers openly wept.

They did so largely on the strength of Washington’s character. In Washington, a fragile new nation had a military and political leader who consistently placed his country before himself. He was by no means a flawless man, but his self-effacing and unpretentious manner helped carry the fledgling nation in its infant days. He did not seek power, and when power was given him, he did not seek to hold onto it.

The presidential office is reserved for those who aspire to America’s greatest ideals and emblemize their pursuit. It will inevitably be filled with flawed men and women, but those flawed men and women are still tasked with representing America. Whether we agree or not with the occupant of that office, we are expected to trust that person to uphold the Constitution and, further, the hope the Constitution offers to imperfectly realize its ideals.

The presidential office is not for those who believe that ends justify means—who are willing cut corners, trample the rights of the vulnerable, harbor secrets tending toward scandals, or think themselves above the law. Our two candidates for that office are distinctly unworthy and unqualified for it. They do not represent the best of our ideals, but the reality of our moral and cultural capitulation. They do not inspire trust, but the reluctant assent to cynicism and nihilism.

If such is the character of the occupant of the Oval Office, then such is the character of America. These candidates are an indictment upon us and a foreboding sign of continued cultural decline.
Stephen Roberts is an Army Reserve chaplain, writer and evangelist living near Milwaukee. He is a regular contributor to Political Storm.

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