Counting Character

Character counts, but so do results

By Cal Thomas

Tribune Content Agency

I do not make it a practice to comment on the work of fellow columnists, though occasionally some care to comment on mine, which is fine. I’m happy to help them make a living.

An exception will be made here because of New York Times “conservative” columnist, Bret Stephens.

In an end-of-year column titled “Why I’m Still a Never Trumper,” Stephens lists the accomplishments of the Trump administration: Tax cuts, deregulation, more military spending, cuts for the United Nations, defeat of the Islamic State in Syria, more troops to Afghanistan, arms for Ukraine, getting tough with North Korea, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, decertifying the terrible Iran deal, yes to Keystone, no to Paris, huge gains on Wall Street and higher consumer confidence, plus more conservative judges on federal benches, including Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.

It is a record that should delight any conservative voter, but despite it all and with promises of more to come this year, Stephens still wishes Hillary Clinton were president. Does he not realize that none of the accomplishments he lists would have been achieved had she won the election? To him and to some other Establishment conservatives, deportment trumps victory.

Character, he says, is supreme. Really? I’d like to see him as a character witness at a trial for Hillary Clinton, who criminally mishandled classified emails, but escaped indictment, not because of a change in the law, but because of a change in the wording describing her actions. Then there’s the issue of enabling her husband’s numerous infidelities and smearing his accusers. Does someone of good character do that?

Stephens’ emphasis on character apparently doesn’t apply in equal measure to presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had a mistress, and John F. Kennedy, who had a series of paramours. Then there are the lies Kennedy and LBJ told about Vietnam, lies that needlessly led to the deaths of more than 58,000 Americans. Were these people known for their good character?

Stephens quotes the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY):

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics that determines the success of a society.”

How’s that working out in the culture of sexual harassment, Opioid addiction, a decline in educational achievement, especially among poor minorities trapped in underperforming schools, and in “entertainment,” which often borders on soft porn, not to mention the frequent use of words that generations ago would have gotten your mouth washed out with soap?

Stephens then lists some of the president’s less appealing character qualities. For argument’s sake, let’s concede he’s right about all of them. Now what? Would he feel better if a well-spoken liberal were president, populating the courts with lefties who would finish shredding the Constitution, and continue abortions on demand?

What about the character of liberal politicians in cities like Chicago and Baltimore where murders have become commonplace and many of those not personally affected by the carnage simply shrug and turn away? The Baltimore Sun reports there were 342 homicides in that city in 2017 — a new per capita record. Maybe the mayor has good table manners and that is enough for Stephens.

What the elites detest is a Republican who fights back. Some believe the president fights dirty. Maybe he does. Does the policy end justify the political means? Not always, but neither do liberal ends justify the means they use to achieve their goals.

Politics is not about manners and being thought of as nice. Politics is a nasty business. Sure there are some who are both noble and victorious, but we haven’t seen their kind in a while. Most Republicans who are noble and deferential to Democrats get nothing in return.

When Stephens was chosen as a Times columnist, many liberal readers expressed outrage. Not to worry, he’s coming your way and is bringing his good manners with him.

(Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.)

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