Is a President’s Character His Presidency’s Destiny?

In the age of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, “character is destiny” sermons are now frequent. Clearly, a president who is “not a crook” or a philanderer is preferable to the alternative.

But is that simple moral calculation sufficient when this one person can make the lives of 330 million at least somewhat better or worse?

During the recent spate of sexual harassment accusations, three questions might pertain to presidential character and confuse us.

One, to what degree does personal sin determine governance?

In other words, if John Kennedy was, as is now reported, utterly sexually reckless while in the White House, would his libido affect his judgement? Did his rash personal shortcomings erode his political behavior, say, during the Cuban Missile Crisis or while negotiating a test ban treaty?

Second, to what degree are sins universal, rather than defined by local cultures and the era in which occur?

If any contemporary president emulated Kennedy’s sexually predatory behavior while living in the White House, would he now likely have been impeached?

Third, do we judge politicians by their worst or best moments or a mixture of both?

Does one good deed cancel out one, two, three or more sins—if they are not mortal, or at least not all that mortal?

Can we excuse the now-revealed to be groping World War II veteran President George H.W. Bush (who may have groped a bit while president in 1992, and in 2003 when he allegedly groped an underage female)? Bush’s sins were nothing like those of Bill Clinton in a hotel room with a frightened and resisting Juanita Broderick. A photo-grope is not comparable to a drunken Ted Kennedy swimming for safety as a young woman, the victim of his felonious reckless driving, was left to drown.

For answers to these dilemmas, look to a few past presidents.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was an effective wartime leader. He woke up in time to the threats in Europe and Japan. He began a mobilization that was already in progress by the time we were hit with the attacks on Pearl Harbor.

FDR also routinely lied, deceived, and covered up before the public, his political enemies of course, and his friends as well. He was a philanderer of sorts without apologies.

Had FDR or his doctors been truthful about his real medical condition in 1944, he either would not have been nominated or likely would not have been reelected to a fourth term.

During the 1932 election FDR seemed the antithesis of Herbert Hoover. Certainly, Hoover was a far better man, who perhaps was not as effective a commander in chief.

In today’s media climate, Harry Truman would never have been nominated, given that his long career was jumpstarted by the corrupt Kansas City Tom Prendergast machine (Truman: “He [Prendergast] was always my friend and I have always been his.”).

Yet thank Truman for the architecture of post-war containment. He saved Berlin and South Korea. Truman oversaw the birth of NATO and the Marshall Plan. He made tough wartime decisions, such as using the bomb and later keeping the Soviets out of Turkey and Greece.

It is likely that Truman’s 1948 opponent—the more honest, mob-busting former prosecutor and governor Thomas Dewey—was a more judicious professional. But it is far from clear that Dewey possessed the common sense, affinity for the American people, or decisiveness of a Truman in crises.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was a successful president in the manner that he had been an effective Supreme Allied Commander. His administrative skills were unequaled. Ike was fair-minded. He was deferential without being weak, practical by intent rather than from being uniformed, and a consensus builder who got things done without the narcissism and egoism of most of his military and political rivals.

But under today’s workplace protocols, Ike would likely never have been nominated, given his poorly hidden relationship with his divorced chauffeur Kay Sommersby, while he held the title of Supreme Commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe.

Our current media and political climate would have judged the careful Eisenhower reckless in his down time with Sommersby—while battle raged just miles away from his headquarters. Or the media would have contrasted his infidelity with his wife Mamie’s loyal support back home or with Kay’s fiancé soon to be killed in combat.

Was Eisenhower, then, a bad man, but a good president, or a good man and a good president who was mortal rather than divine? Was his apparent one-time dalliance (of uncertain dimensions) forgivable, (but witness the quite different fate of Gen. David Petraeus, whose own transgression may have been similar to Eisenhower’s, if certainly more discreet than Ike’s)—in a way that four or five Sommersby infidelities would not have been?

align=”left” Our current media and political climate would have judged the careful Eisenhower reckless in his down time with Sommersby—while battle raged just miles away from his headquarters. Or the media would have contrasted his infidelity with his wife Mamie’s loyal support back home or with Kay’s fiancé soon to be killed in combat.

Certainly, by today’s standards, Generals Douglas MacArthur and George S. Patton and especially Admiral Ernest King would have been cashiered (or worse) for improper sexual relationships while in uniform.

John Kennedy’s sexual escapades perhaps trumped even Bill Clinton’s. They were raunchy, often callous. Would the loyal spouse Richard Nixon, then, have been the preferable president in 1961 because of his marital fidelity?

The presidency of Lyndon Johnson was largely a failure, given that he institutionalized ineffective big government, bequeathed a great society of unworkable and counterproductive entitlements, and fashioned a strategy in Vietnam that was doomed to failure. Others more liberal may disagree. But were Johnson’s policies, whether good or bad, affected by his serial womanizing? His personal fortune was built on what today would be called felonious quid pro quo selling of his political influence to the highest bidder. Did that past conflict of interest explain his disastrous conduct of the war?

Again, Nixon was no womanizer. He treated women with far more respect than did either Kennedy or Johnson. For all the talk that he was a crook, there is little evidence that Nixon ever conceived of politics in get-rich terms as did Johnson or the Clintons. Did his personal probity then ensure that Nixon was a truthful chief executive?

Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were both emblematic of flyover state, rock-solid values. They stayed married, did not cash in while in their offices, and largely told the truth. Their administrations were mostly free of scandal. America benefitted from their personal probity.

Yet both were largely ineffective presidents. Few can point to any lasting legislative achievements, apart from airline deregulation, between 1974 and 1981. Ford’s sad “Whip Inflation Now” button campaign and Carter’s serial disasters (stagflation, the appeasement of Khomeinist Iran, the rudderless foreign policy) are not arguments that good character does not matter, only that it is not necessarily a guarantee of good governance.

Ronald Reagan was both a good person and a successful president. He, along with George H.W. Bush, are arguments that character can enhance a presidency. Neither, of course, were saints (Reagan could be intemperate and reckless in some of his public statements. Bush’s photo-groping likely was not just a post presidential symptom of age, but may have had precursors during his presidency).

The characters of Bush and Reagan now seem almost angelic in comparison to 99 percent of those who excel at politics. Yet if we point to Reagan’s character to explain his landmark presidency, Bush’s probity cannot be a guide to effective governance, given his “read my lips” one-term administration and often so-so agenda.

Reagan and President George H.W. Bush were both said to be upstanding men. But were they equally effective presidents?

Little need be said of Bill Clinton. The general consensus holds, I think. He could be at times an effective president, at least in terms of finally balancing the budget, bridging hard right and hard left politics, and using force to discredit Milosevic who would eventually resign.

Yet Clinton was also the least principled president in a century—impeached, disbarred, chronically lying, possibly a sexual assaulter, sexually callous to the point of being pathological, and without any sense of financial probity. He is likely to be regarded as the most corrupt post-president of the last 100 years, even as pundits now nostalgically rewrite his presidency as one without the rancor and nihilism of 21st-century politics and an example of how to partner with Congress to halt deficits.

Clinton is certainly said to have been a better president than was Carter—and a far worse man.

George W. Bush and Barack Obama, despite the allegations of their political opponents, were good husbands and fathers. They were politically savvy and hardball brawlers. Neither was dishonest, at least in the manner of most politicians.

Given today’s political rancor, we do not know yet how historians will finally assess their presidencies, but each was unique in doubling the national debt. It can be said that no recent Republican president before Trump incurred such dislike from Democrats as did Bush, and no Democrat so alienated Republicans as did Obama.

In answer to our initial queries, it is (regrettably) not evident that personal sins equate to failed presidencies.

Immorality is certainly not to be encouraged, but in the Machiavellian landscape of global politics it does not preclude wise leadership either.

In military terms, the upright Omar Bradley and Courtney Hodges made lots of decisions that in retrospect got soldiers killed needlessly. The philandering and profane George S. Patton’s sobriety and genius on the battlefield saved thousands of lives—and might have saved even more had his excesses been contextualized rather than been grounds for ostracism in 1943-44.

align=”left” Immorality is certainly not to be encouraged, but in the Machiavellian landscape of global politics it does not preclude wise leadership either.

Second, values are absolute and transcend time and place. But the notion of public versus personal, and private sin versus public guilt changes constantly.

Had we applied our current intrusive moral litmus tests to past successful presidents, many of them would likely have been removed or indeed never been elected.

In the past, pragmatism guided us about sin and politicians: a man’s demons were his own unless they reached a point of impairing his public career or shaming his office in the eyes of the public.

Two nightly martinis at home were OK; four to five would inevitably become a matter of public concern.

Visiting a mistress was regrettable, cavorting in the Oval Office inexcusable. The former behavior was a matter of guilt to be judged by God, the latter was shameful and to be condemned by the living.

One of the great paradoxes of our age is that we have somehow managed to have become far more sanctimonious than previous generations—and far more immoral as well.

The subtext of this is essay is, of course, Donald J. Trump. His presidency is too brief to yet be judged; his personal foibles are too imbedded within current political hatred to be assessed dispassionately. Neither is it yet clear that Trump is a bad man or a good president or vice versa or neither.

But if the past is sometimes a guide to the present, Trump in theory certainly could become a more effective president than would have been his likely soberer and more judicious Republican rivals—which raises the question: when one man can change the lives of 330 million, what is presidential morality after all?

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won and The Case for Trump.

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134 responses to “Is a President’s Character His Presidency’s Destiny?”

  1. “In other words, if John Kennedy was, as is now reported, utterly sexually reckless while in the White House, would his libido affect his judgement? Did his rash personal shortcomings erode his political behavior, say, during the Cuban Missile Crisis or while negotiating a test ban treaty?”

    Bill Clinton being fellated by Monica Lewinsky under the Resolute Desk while on the phone with Yasser Arafat…

  2. For the record, as much as a failed President was Jimmy Carter, He not only deregulated the airlines and abolishing the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), he also deregulated the trucking & bus industries and abolishing the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), and perhaps most importantly, deregulated the energy sector by allowing non-users of petroleum & natgas to participate in the commodities market, providing market liquidity — Essentially, opening the commodity markets to players besides air, truck & bus lines, refiners, utilities, plastic & chemicals, & such.

  3. Essays like this don’t exist in a vacuum. Whether one believes Trump or not that he treated women (grab ’em by the p*ssy) and blacks (won’t rent to them) poorly and whether one believes Moore is a child molester (no serious argument there), Trump will ultimately be judged on the success of his policies. And even Dr. Hanson won’t deny that it’s far too early to make that judgment.

    But there is something to be said for “morality”, or alleged lack thereof, in our presidents and other elected officials. It’s fair to argue that standards of decency today aren’t what they were in the 19th century or even in the middle of the 20th century, but can we not all agree that Clinton’s grotesque behavior with an intern while he was president can’t escape condemnation by all but the most partisan of his supporters? Can we not lament, however great his presidency might eventually be proven to be, that the American people elected a man whom most of us wouldn’t want as the husband to our daughters, let alone be our own son? Can we not lament the very likely prospect of the people of Alabama electing a man known, without any serious doubt whatsoever, who as a 32 year went looking for some teenage p*ssy? Can we not lament that Nancy Pelosi found it nearly impossible to condemn one of her colleagues for sexual harassment until she was shamed into doing so by a junior member of her caucus? And Franken, who still appears to have no idea what the big deal is? Or the “pro-life” Pennsylvania Republican who was recently forced to resign when it was revealed that he urged his mistress to have an abortion?

    We don’t ask for saints, but we should demand decency. We American fail in that simple requirement of citizenship.

    • We don’t ask for saints, but we should demand decency.

      You’re one of the more indecent commenters I’ve had the misfortune to come across. Trump never said that he “treated women poorly”. and he did not treat blacks poorly either.

      You might want to do a little research on what Lincoln actually believed. He was what you people would call a “white supremacist”.

      • We don’t need ad hominem attacks here, Severn.

        Of course Trump himself denies that he ever said he” treated women poorly”. Men who treat women poorly rarely ever freely acknowledge that.

        As for whether Trump ever treated women poorly, his first divorce was granted by the court on the ground that he treatment of Ivana, including his extramarital affairs with Marla Maples, was “cruel and inhuman”. If you bother to read undenied accounts of what happened during his first marriage, you’d have a hard time denying that “cruel and inhuman” is putting it mildly.

        Credible reports of his mistreatment of women are not few.

        Trump settled with the DOJ in a racial discrimination case. He wouldn’t have settled were there not truth the allegations.

        Lincoln was no “white supremacist”. You might want to do some basic research in your spare time.

      • Do some more research on the status of grounds for divorce in New York at the time. And, the pattern for ‘settling’ those, at the time, DOJ racial discrimination charges – again – it was specific to the time and place, and I am not going to waste my time now to provide the proof. Since Marla Maples, there is no credible evidence of any ‘mistreatment of women’ by private citizen Donald. J. Trump. Considering what Manhattan was like 1970s-2000s, his personal behavior was just fine. I know. I was there.

      • “We don’t need ad hominem attacks here”
        And yet that’s exactly what you’re doing to our President. Why do the anti-Trumpians think they can attack our President and no one can call them out for it? You want to judge Trump based on your perverted view of the world. It’s nothing more than shallow virtue signalling.

      • “Credible reports” Why didn’t you mention any names? Right off the top of my head I can think of Kathleen Wiley and Juanita Broderick. Considering the fact that it is so known (supposedly), and the press clearly doesn’t like the President, how come all of these “credible reports” are not household names? Are there court cases proceeding? That name should be in the news. Can you link to a single news source with facts, other than Leftist opinion pieces assuring us that there are reports?

        You should use the term “as everyone knows”. Pravda loved that one back in the 60’s it would fit you well.

      • No touché for you.

        Everyone, literally, is very well aware of Bill Clinton’s hideous treatment of women before and during presidency. Names like Paula Jones and Monica Lewinski need no introduction.

        Some still deny the relevance of Clinton’s bad behavior and others deplore it. After all, if the Dow is up who cares about depravity?

        The argument by VDH suggests that character may in the end be secondary to policy greatness, if it’s even relevant at all.

    • If the husband of my daughters is able to sire and raise a group of children (AKA my grandchildren) who are as high-values, highly motivated, confident and secure as Trump’s kids, I would be quite satisfied with him.

      More than I would lament the very prospect of a man accused of seeking a much younger wife being elected Senator, I even more lament the prospect that a man with a lifetime of achievements and the willingness to stand up for his values is being successfully slimed with very shakey accusations. Tell me Party of Lincoln do you accept the accusations of a woman who relies on a yearbook signature that was written in a different ink than the comment and included the initials of Judge Moores secretary (aka copied from his signature on her divorce decree? Do you accept the accusations of a woman who describes long conversations on her bedroom phone (when her own Mother states she did not have a phone in her bedroom) and had meetings across the street she walked to (when the meetings locations described were actually miles away across major thoroughfares)? Put another way, what kind of person are you that you accept discredited accusations issued against a man who lived in the public eye for 40 years without any accusations, was known for his probity, and was the victim of a late election set of smears now largely discredited?

      • Well said, Bad Wolf. POL is slandering Moore. It’s despicable how Republican candidates are being treated in the media, it dissuades many people from running for office. Perhaps that’s the goal. There is no question that what someone allegedly did 40 years ago or even 20 years ago should be ignored if it has no bearing on what the person is today and they have an honorable record. Men like Weinstein, Franken, Cosby, Clinton have always sexually assaulted women throughout their life.

      • One shaky accusation wouldn’t be enough to persuade me that a politician, let’s say Bill Clinton, has committed the crimes that he has been accused of. But when it’s a cascade of credible accusations, such as what we saw with Bill Clinton long before anyone heard of Monica Lewinsky, it’s hard to hold the view that they’re all fake allegations.

        The same is true for Roy Moore. If it were just one accusation we could give him a pass. But it’s nine now, and most of these women are Trump supporters who are women of faith. They don’t look like New York liberals who were brought in by the Schumer to do a hatchet job on Moore.

        These accusations are very credible, so much so that even Trump acknowledges their credibility. But for him, and I suspect for you, in the end what matters are the differences in the issues between Moore and Jones. You have every right to dismiss the relevance of character in our public officials. No one can make you care that Alabama is about to elect a credibly accused pedophile to the US Senate.

        As for the inscription in the yearbook, not even Fox News claims his signature is a forgery. But it’s a pointless issue anyway, as the yearbook inscription doesn’t “prove” Moore sought sex with a minor.

        But let’s forget what the heathens in New York and Washington DC say about Roy Moore. After all, they have some house cleaning to do. What does Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention — no left-wing outfit by any stretch of the imagination — say about Roy Moore?

        If you cannot say definitively, no matter what, that adults creeping on teenage girls is wrong, do not tell me how you stand against moral relativism?

        Great question.

      • I believed the accusations about Clinton as you did partially because there were so many accusers and partially because I have known many men like him – although none as powerful in charm – and he radiated being a womanizer.
        I think the case against Moore remains to be proven. There are actually only three women who accuse him of actually physically forcing his attentions on them. One of them has been shown unambiguously to have forged his signature on a document she claimed as proof and has given testimony that is contested by her own Mother and son and that was inconsistent with court record at the time. And she omitted mentioning that Moore was the judge in her divorce case. The second not only omitted to mention that Moore was the attorney who successfully defeated her in a custody case – earning her hatred – but also gave testimony contradicted by court records and the physical geometry of the areas she claimed to meet him in. The third accuser is a possible. Maybe the third accuser is not lying but with two of three clearly lying I think the presumption of innocence is reasonable. I might note parenthetically that given that the daughter of Allred has been shown to be involved in having one Trump accuser being paid $30,000 to accuse him and another potential Trump accuser being offered $750,000 to accuse him, I think that the financial records of all of Moore’s accusers will need to be clean of sudden cash windfalls before they are too credible.
        There are other women who were in their late teens or early 20s when they dated Moore – who was in his middle thirties. Sort of like when Jerry Seinfeld at the age of 37 dated a 17 year old woman. All the women were at the legal age of consent. Probably being older than you are and being familiar with the South in that era, it was not unusual for older men who were financially secure to marry younger women so they could have large families. That is not this era, but that was not unusual or creepy or even unusual then. It is a tad absurd to try to castigate someone for not conforming to the rules of this era when most women are in their late 20s and early 20s when they marry as are men. Historically this is the unusual era not the 1970s.

      • Let’s leave the Trump children out of this. Whatever the virtues and vices of the president may be, his children are not a proper subject of criticism of the man or his policies. We judge men, and women, by their deeds, not by the deeds of their children.

        I accept the accusations of 30 women who accused Roy Moore of misconduct no less than the two dozen or so women who accused Blll Clinton of similar conduct before he was elected president — which is to say that claims of those women were highly credible. As are the claims of the dozens of women against Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein.

        The people of Alabama — and not even his defenders — regard the claims of sexual depravity against Roy Moore as “discredited”. Those claims are accepted as true by all but a few holdouts. What was at issue for the voters who were asked to judge Moore’s fitness for office was whether his position on abortion, guns and taxes was worth having a credibly accused child molester represent them in the United States Senate. Many said yes but more said no and Roy Moore has been reduced to claiming rampant voter fraud in Alabama, a claim which the Republican Secretary of State regards as unfounded and absurd.

        But by the end of the campaign there was no serious doubt in the minds of even his supporters that a 32-year old Roy Moore had sought physical intimacy with teenage girls, one of whom was 14 years old. I will not begrudge anyone here their view that it’s worth having a child molester represent them in the US Senate if the alternative is a Democrat.

      • Jerry Seinfeld when 37 dated a 17 year old woman. Tell me, do you consider Jerry Seinfeld to be a child molester?

        Several women claimed Moore asked them out on dates when he was in his mid-30s and they were 18-20. Let us assume their claims are real (although some are already discredited) Is this the basis for your claim that Moore was a child molester?

        All but three of the women who claimed they dated Moore said he was a gentleman and never touched them. Do you consider that offensive? Do you consider that child molestation.

        Three of the women were younger than 18. One claims he dated her at 14 – a story flatly denied by her Mother, Brother, and completely in contradiction to the established court records and the map of the area she described – AND she forged his signature on a high school yearbook and she and her attorney feminist ambulance chaser Allred misrepresented is as real. And she failed to mention he successfully prosecuted her son in court. Is this the testimony you take over the word of a decorated Vietnam War vet, DA and high court justice?

        One claims he sated her at 17 and touched her backside. She also gave testimony that contradicted her court records, defied known facts (claiming phone calls from her bedroom when she had no phone then (pre-cell phone era), and made statements contradicting her court records AND by interesting coincidence Moore was the judge in a custody case she had and ruled against her. Is this the testimony you take over the word of a decorated Vietnam War vet, DA and high court justice?

        The third is under investigation. We will see how credible it is.

    • For the sake of clarity and truth, it needs to be pointed out that Trump never grabbed any woman’s private parts on Access Hollywood, a reality TV show on which he was a PAID actor told to say outrageous things to pump up TV ratings. Even Noemi Emory, a conservative website writer, erroneously believes what Trump said on Access Hollywood are acts he committed. The fictional parallel universe is now taken for granted as “reality” without placing it in context. Do we believe paid humorist and US Senator Al Franken’s sexual antics are sufficient to impeach him?

  4. I don’t know where all this stuff about Trump’s “character” comes from. His style – which is something very different from character – is perhaps a matter of taste. But as far as character is concerned, his strikes me as being at least as good of those any recent president or presidential candidate, and superior to many. He doesn’t seem driven by a hatred for the American people, which all on its own marks him out as having superior character to Obama, Romney, Clinton, McCain, Bush, Kerry, etc.

    • It’s preposterous to argue that one can have no idea “where all this stuff about Trump’s ‘character’ comes from”. One would had to have been living under a rock in the Arctic to not have been aware of the serial deficiencies in the character of Donald Trump long before he announced his candidacy for the presidency.

      The point of this essay is to diminish the relevance of character of public officials. If they get the job done, so to speak, of dismantling the administrative state and unleashing incredible economic growth, why should anyone care about the character of our elected officials? After all, if 330 million American enjoy immense benefits from the actions of a few elected officials, why should those 330 million Americans deprive themselves of those benefits because of the purported, even if documented, questionable character of a few elected officials?

      This is essentially the question Bill Clinton’s defenders asked, genuinely as well as rhetorically, after he was credibly alleged to have raped women during his Arkansas days and to have gratified himself on an intern while he was President of the United States. Republicans answered, in short, that character matters. Now it is the Republicans’ turn to deny the relevance of character, with Democrats answering, conveniently, that character matters.

      Character always matters. Whether we choose to live up to our ideals of decency — not sainthood — is up to each of us.

      • “…if 330 million American enjoy immense benefits from the actions of a few elected officials, why should those 330 million Americans deprive themselves of those benefits because of the purported, even if documented, questionable character of a few elected officials?”

        Yes. When does your call to “decency” become “sainthood”? Does the Pope decide? A pastor? Some imam? The GOP elite? Amoral leftists?

        You believe in form over function: it is better that a leader is ineffective but says nice things. I think we need to rid ourselves of the pollyanna politics. That’s the very reason we have check and balances: all men are evil. We should strive to have leaders that recognize the importance of Judeo-Christian morality in our society, but we should also not hold them to an unreasonably perfect standard.

        Furthermore, Clinton was impeached for lying under oath, not his sexual dalliances per se.

      • With regard to your question when decency becomes sainthood, that’s up to each of us to decide. Some may be horrified by the slightest of offenses such, say jaywalking; and some may be indifferent to offenses as grave as rape and murder. To each his own as to what he or she will tolerate in an the reputed character of an elected official.

        No one has alleged that Trump has behaved badly — in terms of sexual misconduct and the like — while serving as president, which cannot be said of Clinton, JFK and probably many others. Love or hate his politics, he’s behaved like a choir boy in his personal life as potus, at least no has alleged otherwise.

        And to me that’s a pretty good yardstick for assessing “character”. The American people were very aware of Trump’s character flaws when we elected him president and it’s a moot point now to re-litigate his character. The same is true for Roy Moore — the voters of Alabama have the final say and if their verdict is that they want him as their US Senator, so be it. I would oppose any effort to expel him on the basis of what are currently the known allegations of his behavior prior to his election (if it happens) on December 12.

        In a very real sense this was a pointless essay. Every one of us is aware that our elected officials are flawed human beings, some more than others. The voters get to have their say and there’s no point in trying to draw a bright line along the character continuum. The American people had a very good idea of the character of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and we made our choice, as we have every constitutional right to do so.

        We Republicans, for better or worse, have abandoned character as an important criterion by which to judge the fitness of our citizens to serve in public office. The judgment that such people would restore greatness to the regime is far more important, now, than restoring Judeo-Christian goodness in our society.

      • You make a lot of good points, so much so that I have a hard time telling if you’re even taking a side. (Not a criticism.)

        I wouldn’t say we’ve “abandoned” character as a criterion. Roy Moore has had a lot of character witnesses that talk about his behavior in the last 35-40 years that have said he’s a man of impeccable moral standing. 40-year-old accusations are very old accusations.

        Yes, in the 2016 primary, I would agree that character was not necessarily the prime motivator or I guess Ted Cruz would have won. People saw that Trump was more of a fighter. I view it as we were hiring a lawyer. “Good lawyer” beats “nice/perfectly moral person.” But, in the general election, it was more of who was the least worst. It was Trump, hands-down.

        I mean, Jimmy Carter was a great man of character. The GOP voted for a Hollywood divorcee. Did we pay attention to character back then? Reagan is lionized (as he should be…), but he had a very corrupt administration in some senses.

        So, I guess what I would say is that we have to look at the big picture in many ways. We, including the GOP, are (and should be) more practical now. That allows us to–for better or for worse–WIN.

        We’re a bigger tent than we used to be. That’s sort of key. It’s not just all evangelical Christian conservatives.

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      • History will judge Trump as the Best President Ever.
        He has done more for people and the republic than even the founding fathers.

      • “He [Trump] has done more for people and the republic than even the founding fathers.”

        Hyperbole, don’t you think?

      • Not to We the People who voted for him and continue to support him

      • I agree with your first paragraph in which you assert the obviousness of the character issue as pertains to Trump. However, I disagree with your second paragraph in which you assert that the “point of this essay is to diminish the relevance of character of public officials.” In fact, this has been a subject the country has increasingly been struggling with since at least Clinton and it is, in a sense, reaching a crescendo now with Trump, who’s front and center at the same time as (and overlapping with) the multiplying sexual impropriety allegations against all sorts of “leaders” in our society. And it is a complex subject with ever-shifting standards, some legitimate and some “convenient,” as you put it. And Hanson touches on many examples spanning about one hundred years of history. All in all, a decent overview of a complex, important subject, in my opinion.

      • Agreed. Clinton’s behavior while in office was shameful. Trump, whatever his faults may be, at least has behaved impeccably in his personal life while president. That’s a material difference between the two men, a difference which honest liberals should acknowledge.

        Whoever is ultimately at fault, we have collectively decided that character in our public officials no longer really matters. Or at least that we refer to character only when it’s political convenient to do so.

      • Agreed, it appears we’ve decided that, but that’s merely derivative of our collective decision that character no longer really matters in our personal lives either. And in essentially none of our elites, whether they be politicians, celebrities, sports stars, whatever. And we’ve come to discover, as VDH describes, that although we may have thought it mattered, in reality it didn’t matter much in the past, either. We now know that we were fooled, that they were pigs, too. (Exaggerating slightly for sake of brevity.) Thats why it’s a complicated subject that VDH does not purport to answer. Are we prepared to banish them all as pigs?? What are we to make of this? How will it all settle out? Will we have revise our expectations further? I have no idea.

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    • Trump has regularly uttered creepy comments about his daughter. Be careful calling him a good patent!

      • how regular have his “creepy comments about his daughter” been uttered? Daily..weekly.. monthly annually ??

  5. “Sorting Out the Imperial Pygmies” would be a good subtitle. Wouldn’t it be more helpful for us to consider what made David a great and flawed king than about the relative attempts of our Princes of Progress to quite achieve the fleeting success of second-rate Napoleons, much less first-rate Caesars?

  6. As I see it, a soverign, or a President, or a CEO, may be a fop in choice of clothing, a philanderer in his personal sexual relations, non-transparent in their communications and yet leave their kingdom or nation or company in much better shape than it was when the came in. But the one thing no soverign or President or CEO can do is to lose a war (or drive a company bankrupt) – for that puts all the value that has been compiled over ages, the liberty and the lives of the people at risk and at least damaged. As I see it, the prime measure of the soverign or President of CEO is whether they pursue policies that enhance the well-being, the economic strength, the focus on important issues of the kingdom, nation or company and bring in people to implement those policies successfully.

    So far, so good on Trump. Suffocating the country with hyper-regulation was a bad idea/having regulatory compliance cost $2T a year and Trump has been vigorous in reversing it. Having the industrial world’s highest corporate tax rate and driving great corporations to de-domicile was a really bad idea and Trump is on the verge of reversing it. Saddling our military with rules of engagement that precluded victory and increased losses was a really bad idea and evidence of Trump’s reversal is seen all over but especially in the rapid annihilation of ISIS, appointing ill vetted Supreme Court and other justices who ruled based on their feelings rather than the Constitution was a really bad idea and Trump has been superb in nominating one high-grade Constitutionalist judge after another, failing to respond to the attacks of enemies no matter how vile and allowing them to discredit you by unanswered accusation is a really bad idea and Trump has been unmatched in turning his opponent’s weapons on them, discrediting them and promoting his message in the fact of a 90% hostile media. Policies matter. The courage to pursue correct policies even when you are subjected to vilification and withering mud-slinging matters. Trump is first-rate in his policies, his courage, in tactical ability to turn attacks on his attackers in an instance and in the strategic sense to be the first to actually devise a workable method to completely blunt his opponents ownership of the media and indeed to use it to discredit them. Compared to those virtues, engaged in locker-room talk or braggadoccio are small potatoes vices. So far, so good.

    • Fine point-by-point summary of “So far, so good” on President Trump. It ‘s troubling to read an essay that delves into sexual transgressions of former presidents, for VDH to write “his personal foibles are too imbedded within current political hatred to be assessed dispassionately. Neither is it yet clear that Trump is a bad man or a good president or vice versa or neither.” Had VFH focused on other character flaws, e.g., excessive drinking, or known corruption, it would still be a stretch to write a sentence bracketed with “neither”. Has he not read all of his previous essays for more than a year?

      It ‘s a sad day to read VDH falling under the influence of the think-tank pundits, currently engaged in a more subtle form of fake news by desperately blaming TeamTrump for failing in the conduct of foreign relations.
      See how the diplomatic press corps abuses America by generating the talking points for the headlines based on rumours. Take thirty minutes: State Department Press Briefing -November 28, 2017 Heather Nauert (Minute 15:45 to 44:48 of 51:43 Andrea Mitchell; Josh Lederman & Matt Lee of AP Q&A: Hollowing out…redesign, rumours, rumours, Crocker& Burns accusations in NYT, budget cuts; twenty-nine (29) of the fifty-two minutes answering the rumours, generating the
      Talking Points in most headlines Nov 28-Dec 4:

      • Agree on all points. Re foreign affairs I would add a commen as to WHY the establishment is attacking Trump and why the whole absurd Russia collusion narative found support among NeverTrumpers – and indeed why NeverTrumpers exist.
        1. For most of the professional ives of most of the senior people in the foreign policy establishment, the Cold War and the struggle with Russia was the key struggle. Then the War on terror replaced it in part but the old Cold Warriors still were running the show.
        2. From the point of view of the long term foreign policy establishment Russia will be the enemy they fear until they die.
        3. The emerging generation under them was shaped by the Cold Warriors and adopted essentially an extension of the policy of containment under the name of NeoConservativism – the idea that the US should continue to shovel a large part of our GDP into maintaining a massive global military posture obstensibly fo rthe purpose of bringing democracy to the unwashed masses and integrating them into the liberal democratic camp.
        4. NeoConservativism served the purposes of keeping the Cold Warriors employed, meaningfully engaged and happy, it gave the military wars to fight, it allowed the US to justify and maintain a huge military just in case Russia ever came back.
        At this point I would note that I was a NeoCon. I supported the Iraq war and the Afghan war because I thought it would serve the purpose of cleaning out a concentration of really retro, backwards, fascistic Islamists from gaining a regional hegemony. As I watched year after year of expensive efforts operating under really stupid rules of engagement that precluded victory (those rules being largely Obama’s curse on the US military) and I saw the Islamofascists expand not shrink – I also noticed that the US was growing weaker. Our economy was in long stagnation under Obama’s hyper-regulation and high taxes. Our budget was strained by ongoing military expenses even as our actual military readiness and strength was degraded as investments turned into operational spends. And I watched the growth of China – who was smart enough to focus on economic growth as their primary emphasis without draining themselves in unending wars. As Sun Tzu noted “no nation has ever profitted from a prolonged war”. Eventually I concluded that the NeoCons were wrong. It was not the job of the US to bankrupt itself making the rest of the world safe for multinationals. It was not the job of the US to take people whose mind and vision are rooted in to the 7th century and try to convert them into liberal democrats. But it is the job of the US to make sure that America is strong and can defend ourselves.

        I think Trump sees what I saw.
        1. The primary task is to strengthen the US economy, to return to rapid growth, to end the internal divisions by having a growing economy bringing prosperity to all.
        2. Where the US was engaged the rules of engagement had to be changed to permit the military to do what was necessary to win – as we have seen under Trump-Mattis rules with the reversal of the growth of ISIS and its annihilation by the US and our allies at minimal costs to us.
        3. Russia is weak. Terrible demographics. Weak economy dependent on petroleum exports. At most a regional power in a weak region.
        4. China is growing stronger. The real enemy of the future to worry about.
        5. The primary counters to China are to reinvest in our navy – controlling the underseas, seas, skies, outer space and cyberspace – so as to be able to shut their export based economy down at any time of our choosing, to redevelop out own industrial capacity so as not to be dependent on them, and to foster containment through defensive alliances of their neighbors. Trump understands that we need Russia as a key part of those containment alliances. China will inevitably want to take control of Siberia as they expand and Russia is weak. They already clashed over this at the Ussur river in 1969. Trump wants Russia on our side against China. Obama/Clinton/Kerry disastrously drove Russia into the arms of China in their attempt to support the EU coup against the elected Ukrainian government but there is no threat from Russia to a NATO several times larger than their military. Obama/Clinton/Kerry reversed the greatest accomplishment of Nixon – breaking the alliance between Russia and China, a move that enabled the successfu conclusion of the Cold War.
        6. The NeoCons do not get the fact that we want an alliance with Russia against China not to force the two into an alliance.
        7. The deep state NeoCons are the force behind the endless leaks designed to undermine the Trump administration, the whole Mueller fiasco, the endless drive to stop Trump undoing their lifelong but outmoded desire to continue the focus of US foreign policy on Russia and on endless anti-Islamofascist wars.
        8. Trump is on the right side of history on this. His policies of reversing hyper-regulation, excessive taxation, re-negotiating trade treaties – all to restore our economy and re-industrialize, rebuilding and re-stocking the military while avoiding unnecessary foreign operational adventures and specifically rebuilding the military, and move the US towards a posture to be successful in an emerging multipolar world instead of staying trapped in the NeoCon fantasy of a permanent bipolar world are all the right things to do.

      • Agree with you, Bad Wolf, except the attacks on TeamTrump foreign policy are very bi-partisan. Arthur Herman, the author of “1917: Lenin, Wilson, and the Birth of the New World Disorder” explains it best (and I must sign-off – so hope you read these links): Trump Banishes Woodrow Wilson’s Ghost by Arthur Herman November 27, 2017 4:00 AM

        On Nov. 28, Arthur Herman also wrote this, which describes how the Neo-con NeverTrumpers join with the Wilsonian Progressives in trying to trash TeamTrump on foreign policy:
        “[…]The Old Politics is what Trump calls the Swamp: an amalgam of bureaucrats,
        lobbying groups and associations, power brokers, and professional politicians
        buttressed by a punditocracy and mainstream media who act as their echo
        chamber, along with pollsters who conjure up “public opinion” in order to sway
        office-holders in one direction or another.

        The New Politics is driven by visceral distrust and hatred of the Old Politics.
        It thrust Donald Trump into office against all expectations; it may do the same with Judge Roy Moore. Its home is not Washington but the nation at large, and what drives it is social
        media and their attendant apps.[…]

        And, on how the bi-partisan The Swamp works: From Hudson Institute & Weekly Standard’s Lee Smith, who was the first to unmask Fusion GPS:

        […]What worries Obama operatives aren’t the details they are busy spinning, but the big picture:
        Trump is leaning toward traditional American allies, Israel and Saudi
        Arabia, and may be inclined to pull out of the nuclear deal—which is the
        support structure for realigning the United States with Iran. If Trump pulls
        the plug, then Obama’s “legacy” in the Middle East collapses. That’s why all of
        the former president’s foreign-policy hands are on deck.[…] [read the entire unmasking:]
        The Beirut Echo Chamber News of the News: How Lebanon came
        to host an information campaign designed to protect the pro-Iran policies of
        the Obama administration from the pro-Saudi policies of the Trump
        administration By Lee Smith|November 29, 2017 9:30 PM

        Too bad the Hudson Institute does not have a website covering foreign policy, because American Greatness has yet to discover the peril of what is happening, and most other
        sites, e.g. PJM; TNI, AmThinker; AmSpectator; TAI; might as well add a label:
        The Swamp is Here.

        I read Press Releases, and bi-weekly Department Public Briefings (DPBs); -Statements always note bilaterals with Heads of State, though not the details
        on the TEAM approach; there are good Twitter Feeds from State, and individuals,
        but the Echo Chamber Swamps all of that Real News. No one in the US delved into
        the QUAD (India, Japan, USA, and Australia alliance) that emerged during
        Trump’s Asia trip, at APEC in DaNang and ASEAN in Manila; or the USA-India
        Global Entrepreneurship Summit, GES2017 in Hyderabad India Nov 28-30. Our
        Embassy in India and State covered it in 26 excellent Tweets!

        USAID/State issued a paradigm shifting new U.S. Government Global Water Strategy
        on Nov. 15, 2017: “Water may be the most important issue we face for the next generation.” -Donald J. Trump, President of the United States

        Spot on: The Wilsonians still think China’s occupation of Tibet is about human rights and
        self-determination. The Neo-Cons see it as part of China’s infrastructure/border wars with India.
        It is actually China’s hegemonic Water War against 2.5 billion people in Asia, from Pakistan through India & Bangladesh to Burma and Vietnam:
        Yet, here we are, blabbering about sex and character. Really have to sign off – have moles to kill, a lawn to mulch, and really need a break from too much Echo Chamber rumor-mongering., especially since Israel just bombed a fourth Syrian military site in 24 hours…and the Kurds are in the news, in Iran and Syria. The two stories I actually follow.

      • At root Trump is an anti-Wilsonian with views eloquently if archaically stated by John Quincy Adams in his Monsters to Destroy speech below, the thrust of which is to say that America should focus on perserving her own liberty and on cheering on others who seek liberty but not fighting their fight for them since doing so would over time destroy our liberty

        And now, friends and countrymen, if the wise and learned philosophers of the elder world, the first observers of nutation and aberration, the discoverers of maddening ether and invisible planets, the inventors of Congreve rockets and Shrapnel shells, should find their hearts disposed to enquire what has America done for the benefit of mankind? Let our answer be this: America, with the same voice which spoke herself into existence as a nation, proclaimed to mankind the inextinguishable rights of human nature, and the only lawful foundations of government. America, in the assembly of nations, since her admission among them, has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity. She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights. She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own. She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama the European world, will be contests of inveterate power, and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force…. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit….

        [America’s] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.

      • Beautiful speech, wish our leaders also would read and think about this. And heed it. (Just finished McCullough’s bio of his father John Adams, which is a tour de force, in my opinion.)

      • Both Father and son were remarkably bright men. Clear deep thoughtful minds.

        Back in the beginning of the Gulf Wars, I was a NeoCon because I thought it was possible to fix that part of the world or at least bring it further towards being modern and civilized. So many years ago. I was thinking at the time of the rebuilding, reconstruction and reorientation of post-War Europe, Japan, Taiwan, post-war S. Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and later the eastern Bloc and figured the same was possible in the Middle East. I was wrong. Wrong that the historical arc of the area could be bent towards becoming rule of law democracies, capitalist societies, modern nations. And wrong in being distracted by the monster that was Saddam Hussein. Over time and with observation and talking to friends who served in the area I came to realize that the arc of history is not easily bent, that areas that produce monsters will produce new monsters once the original is killed, that the destiny of the region is up to them not the US. John Quincy Adams figured that out centuries ago. He had seen the experience of the Barbary War. He understood then what it took me a decade of observation to figure out now.

      • I appreciate you relating that sobering experience. It takes a lot to be able to change ones mind, with humility, & then analyze how & why your perspective had been flawed. That’s called maturation. I’m 59, lived through ( watching) Vietnam as a kid, & knew that the Iraq adventure was a huge waste, a fool’s errand. We had no business destroying & taking over a country halfway around the world that hadn’t attacked us. Tx for your comments. V useful.

      • I would have gone in and killed Saddam. I would not have bothered to rebuild Iraq. The US is still allowed to kill it enemies.

      • Well, that would have been far preferable to what we did. I’m not sure I agree that assassinating Saddam would have been the best thing to do, either, because I don’t think getting into the business of assassinating world leaders we don’t like would be good for the US in the long run. (Of course, I’m aware we’ve done it in the past.)

      • Except for a proposed attempt on Castro I do not recall the US assassinating world leaders. My guess is the Soviet’s or Cuba were behind Kennedy’ death. I would do so on a case by case basis. Iraq was breaking out of sanctions, with 20/20 hindsight killing Saddam would have been cheaper than invading Iraq.

      • I agree, I though that Iraq being the most secular of the Arab states had a chance. i supported the 2003 war because Saddam was breaking out of the sanctions and there was a chance of replacing a brutal dictator with the start of a Democracy. Seven Trillion dollars and 10,000 American lives later it failed. We are back to John Adams… Sad.

  7. This line really stands out: “One of the great paradoxes of our age is that we have somehow managed to have become far more sanctimonious than previous generations—and far more immoral as well.” True, and sad.

    • It is shallow Christians who equate moralism with the Christian faith.

      • I can’t believe someone actually gets this! Of course, I should not be surprised to see such wisdom here at the greatest thought site in the age of Trump. As Christian Smith argues, most American’s religion can fall under the moniker of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Unfortunately this applies to most Christians, Catholic, Protestant, and everything in between. As you say, shallow. As if Jesus came to simply make us better people! No, he came to redeem us from sin and death!

      • Christianity reminds us that puny man does not have the answers to suffering in the world. It’s hard for us to accept that man cannot rid the world of war and poverty. But he can’t.

      • Christianity has done much to tame the beastly nature of humans. Their leadership may have, at times, become corrupt, but we see today how much of a trap power over others can be.

  8. Everyone is tainted with original sin. King David and Solomon, two examples. And there’s no use putting up false choices. No other repub candidate could have been elected in 2016 so why bother contemplating what kinds of Presidents they would have been? We are in the moment. There were only two choices in 2016 and Trump is a hundred times better than hillary. He’s smarter, more moral, and has more honor and integrity. No matter how you want to consider Trump he is head and shoulders above hillary.

    • Actually Ted Cruz could have been elected by a greater margin than Trump. And would have made a far more effective case for repealing Obamacare once elected. That said, he wasn’t elected, because Trump outed him as the son of JFK’s assassin. Now, Trump is doing some good things despite his character. So I cheer him on.

      • Put that crack pipe down, troll. You’re obviously not a repub or if you are you obviously weren’t paying attention during the primaries. Anyone who was semiconscious would have looked at the exit polling of the primary contest and see that Trump had broad support across all demographics. Cruz on the other hand only did well among Evangelicals and “very” conservatives. But Trump did just as well and garnered most of Cruz supporters after Cruz endorsed him. The three GOPe candidates did even worse barely able to make a dent in the primaries. Next if by some miracle Cruz was running against hillary, he would have been crushed.
        You can’t make a case for states Cruz could have won to beat hillary. It isn’t possible. Another thing you seem to ignore is with Trump running, the primaries set all kinds of records for turnout , votes for the winning candidate, more dems, indies, and first time voters than ever before.They wouldn’t have voted for Cruz. Cruz would never have prevailed as Trump did against all the GOPE who publicly supported hillary. And as for Cruz doing anything with Congress, you seem to forget that Cruz is the most despised person in the Senate.
        Finally, what really tells me you’re not a repub. Your slanderous lie about Trump, Cruz, and Cruz’s Father.
        Cruz didn’t win the nomination because he didn’t have enough votes. It’s a bald face lie to claim Trump claimed Cruz’s Dad had anything to do with JFK’s assassination.Cruz’s endorsement shows that he didn’t think Trump had anything to do with that accusation.

      • Trump didn’t even get more votes than Hillary, the worst candidate in US history. He alienated about 30% of the Republican Party by being a jackass.
        You don’t have a clue. His current approval rate is about 33%.

      • You really are a moronic toad. We don’t elect Presidents by popular vote. Perhaps you missed that in grade school. You claim he alienated thirty percent of the of the repub party and yet he got 2 million more votes than Romney and 3 million more than McCain. Trump won 30 states in the general, Romney only 24 and McCain only 22, both losers. When Trump won In the primaries, he got 4 million more votes than Romney or McCain. That makes you the jackass.
        His current approval rating is 43%. When you lie you just make yourself look more stupid.

      • Dear Mongoloid, I know that. I am simply showing that Cruz could have easily beaten Hillary by more, because he is not a jackass like Trump who alienates more than half the people no matter what he does. Perhaps you missed reading comprehension at vo-tech.

      • Trump is the reason Trump won. Let’s face it he is a master of the media. He made the story about himself everyone had to see what he would do next. Hence CNN cameras looking at a vacancy podium for many minutes.

      • And Jesse Ventura won the governorship of Minnesota and was therefore Master of the Media there and then.

      • I know how easy it is for illegals to get drivers licenses in California, and to vote. So we don’t really know if Felonia Von Pantsuit got more popular votes or not. Of course the system isn’t who gets the most popular votes, but who gets the most electoral votes, so it is irrelevant.

      • What you say is true. I was responding to the false statement that Trump was the only Republican who could have been elected. Ted Cruz could have won with more votes than Trump. Trump ran a campaign that definitely lost the votes of many Republicans and independents through his scorched earth tactic of relying on insults and lies about his Republican opponents. Still he won, so it is what it is. But the result is we now have a non-conservative President who passes tax cuts that raise taxes on the wealthy (a Democrat ploy) and who didn’t lift a finger to get Congress to repeal Obamacare.

      • I would have loved to see Ted Cruz win, as I think he would be deconstructing the administrative state even quicker than Trump. But I still don’t believe he would have won the general. Until we fix how we educate people, probably only a persuasive reality TV star could have won on the R side.

        I think Trump is not that ideological or conservative, but I love the conservative justices he is putting in place, and conservative movements such as deregulation that he is doing as quick as he can.

      • I agree with all you say except about Cruz not being able to win. Cruz would have run a positive campaign instead of a campaign of anger and insults and would have won a much larger vote and has the rhetorical skills and conservative vision and wisdom to build a larger party. Trump has hard core supporters who won’t waver, which is good, but he is stuck at the level of support he has, which is and always has been below 50%. He does not have Reagan’s ability to convey optimism and goodness and civility that naturally reaches across party lines. Cruz has some of that.

      • I believe Trump got 90% of the republican vote and at least 1 democrat.

      • By the way, Trump is the slanderous liar about Cruz. You are a douche.

      • Rereading your kindergarten drivel above makes me sure you will not advance to first grade.

  9. VDH seems to airbrush FDR’s tyrannical impulses, like trying to assume control of the Supreme Court and using executive orders to squash the free enterprise economy in favor of new invented federal powers. It is now commonly understood that FDR extended the Great Depression. And it now known he acquiesced to huge communist infiltration of our bureaucracies. Is that “effective wartime leader” material? Was Yalta “effective leadership”? Or was it “character is destiny” and FDR was a very sympathetic fellow traveler? I think overall VDH discounts character far more than he should. Character may not be everything, but lack of it sure has devastating consequences.

    • Some of the pictures of Yalta are downright vomit inducing. In at least one it looks like FDR and the mass murderer are going to kiss. FDR took a dump on the Constitution and the example set by George Washington. He was an enemy of human Liberty.

      • I think FDR was more bad than good. He was the President during WWII and gets credit for the ultimate victory. But I think he should get blame for the Cold War which followed and for the “deep state” which is the enemy within that he helped to plant inside our government. I believe character is destiny and so I disagree with VDH on this, though I do agree that expecting purity is irrational.

      • Roosevelt had an affinity for Stalin. I wonder if he knew how many Russians he killed before and during the war. The country is a dystopian reality.

  10. One thing jumped out at me: Obama was not “dishonest, at least in the manner of most politicians”? Come on! If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor? Not a smidgen of corruption in the IRS? Fast & Furious was Bush’s program? Benghazi was caused by a video? (OK, he mostly outsourced the lying on that last one to Susan Rice). Makes sense if “the manner of most politicians” is to lie much less brazenly, I guess…

  11. I take issue with one statement in this article…that Obama was not dishonest. I believe he is as dishonest pathologically as Hillary. To him, there was no difference between lie and truth. He lied when the truth would serve him equally. He lied because it was his nature.

  12. Obama wasn’t dishonest? Seriously? He was an extremely corrupt, venal person.

  13. I absolutely love reading Victor Davis Hanson’s historic perspective of modern times. We need his gifts very much right now.

  14. I disagree about Obama’s honesty. He was dishonest int the same ways most politicians are dishonest–he got Obamacare passed by distributing pork to the Democrats who wavered, exemptions to the businesses that foresaw a financial nightmare, and open lies to the American people.

  15. I think all presidents have there good qualities and there sins.No one is perfect.Some more moral than others.But when people are inspired to be a part of something bigger then themselves and not divided over policy and politics,presidents can play a big role.

  16. Clinton’s impeachment was due to two felonies. He lied under oath in a Civil Lawsuit and he lied under oath to the Independent Counsel. Democrats refused to remove him from office because he “lied about sex” so it wasn’t a high crime, they said.
    On the other hand, Trump might just be the only president impeached and removed because Hillary Clinton is a sore loser and Barack Obama doesn’t want anyone fooling with his agenda legacy that he implemented with his phone and pen,

    • We have an adversarial civil justice system so perjury is rarely prosecuted in civil cases…the lawyers are actually supposed to work in order to earn their pay and figure everything out during discovery.

      • You’re right. Truth serum should be administered before every civil lawsuit deposition. I went through three of them in my insurance career. I should have prepared good talking points to the claim decisions I made. It’s really true what they say. Good lawyers never ask questions they don’t already know the answers to.

  17. Vic, YOU can go with the immoral, unethical, cheating presidents… I will stick with those that I trust.

    You like trumpy, you can have him.

  18. How about we judge a leader by the morality and effectiveness of what he does in the execution of his office?. Clinton and Obama lied and were ineffective as presidents, certainly when you look at the foreign policy and fiscal messes they left behind. While the Bushes were simply ineffective. Reagan was a huuge success, save Iran Contra. While adultery is despicable, it is not the ultimate presidential sin. Every thing Lyndon Johnson did was. Especially Vietnam. Incompetence, dishonesty, catastrophic for. pol. Standing by while the 60’s ruined America and ruined the govt.

    • Texas is the most successful state largely because of LBJ. LBJ was not a liberal as a senator and remember that Republicans and the powerful conservative southern Democrats were Cold Warriors that supported the war with Vietnam. Medicare is still with us today and Medicaid was expanded by Nixon and I doubt LBJ would have been proud of how Republicans and Democrats expanded Medicaid.

  19. On the subject of character,morality, and ethics, I offer the real difference between how liberals and conservatives view politics:

    Both ultimately agree that their representatives are dishonest, their government corrupted, and that betrayal of campaign promises an inevitability. Only one side wishes to also have that same entity run their economy, healthcare, retirement, take money directly from their paychecks before they receive them, and generally have a license to regulate every aspect of their lives, save maybe abortion and who they marry.

  20. Trumps character flaws are central to his governance in a way that is certainly unusual if not unprecedented. The arrogance, certainty in his own flawless mastery of the facts, unwillingness to learn as a result, pettiness, vindictiveness etc are directly impacting his presidency. Clinton did not govern using blowjobs, he governed and also got blowjobs.

    • President Trump realizes that government just sets a context and it is the people working through markets that get work done. He is already more successful than Obama and is on track to beat Clinton. Clinton just expended the legacy that was handed to him. President Trump is fixing the failing legacy that he received.

      Along with increasing the value of stock market around $5 Trillion dollars (Dow grew over 26% since the election see: ( ). President Trump’s policies increased US economic growth for the first three quarters; it was 1.2%, 3.1%, and 3.3% (despite storms). This beats almost every calendar year of the Obama Administration (In 2010 Obama had better results). It looks like Q4 will be > 3.6%, blue collar wages are up and the Republicans have passed Tax Reform. The future looks bright with President Trump. See:
      Under Trump’s Administration the US has a higher number of workers in each of the 9 months of his administration than in any Obama Administration Month (Trump job growth did slow because of the hurricanes)

      Under Obama Labor Participation went from 65.7% (was once over 80%) to 62.6% (Nov) (Dropped 3.1%). There are now one million fewer-native born workers (most of the Obama job growth went to immigrants). Open Border, Imports, and Labor Participation interact. The Democrat party does not see this has a problem. They just talked about the lower unemployment rate. For the first year since 2009 the Labor Participation rate went up (it is to 63.1%) relative to the prior year’s 62.6% (increased 1.5%) See:

      Even productivity growth (MFP) improved, it was -.2% in 2016, President Trump has reached 1.5% (best since 2010). See: and

      President Trump has only reduced regulation and cut illegal immigration by over 40% as well as doubled the deportation of criminal aliens. Imagine what he can accomplish when he gets control of the Republican party and restructures welfare, repeals the Job-Killing ObamaCare (ACA), focus’s immigration on skilled immigrants (e.g., EVerify, Wall, RealID) reduces the risk of Muslim terror, and starts to balance trade! It is important to put Healthcare and Education on more of market basis (think school choice). All he had to do is reverse Obama’s Liberal stupidities to achieve great results. If the economy continues to grow more than 2.7% President Trump wins in 2018 and 2020.

      • I stopped reading at “Trump realizes…” Trump is an ignoramus. He doesn’t realize anything.

      • I simply do not buy it. I look at data for a living. I look at the job data linked below (looking at the graph especially) and I see a negative signal from 2007 to 2009, a positive signal from 2009 to mid 2010 and noise from late 2010 to the present.

        I look at the djia chart linked below (on max scale) and I see a similar trend. I do see some acceleration in the last few months but I also see a similar acceleration between 2006 and 2007 and between 1998 and 2000. What follows the acceleration is what gives me pause.

        I prefer slow, steady reliable growth in both areas to booms and busts. This is why I am a salaried employee (getting a boring, slow, steady but reliable increase in salary) rather than a professional poker player (lots of ups and downs). It is also why I drive a boring but reliable Honda to work rather than a daily helmetless drunken 100 mph motorcycle ride (which I have no doubt is quite enjoyable while it lasts).

      • The Key Trend (I think) is the improvement in Labor Participation. It has been declining for over ten years. The actual job creation numbers is within “normal” ranges. It is like running a 3:50 mile, getting good job growth as you approach full employment is very hard. These numbers were once standard for the US economy (say 1988 or before 1970). The biggest improvement is in productivity growth (MFP) improved, it was -.2% in 2016, President Trump has reached 3.0% (best since 2007). See: and Baically the US Ruling Elite is a Rentier class so removing them from controlig the US economy is a huge positive. The standard growth for the US economy since its founding has been around 3.0%, it appears that President Trump is returning u to our standard history.

  21. Sermons on Character from Hanson?

    Hanson would be a lot more convincing if he’d just admit that pretending Pericles had anything to so with the 21st Middle East was a dumb idea, got a lot of Americans killed for nothing, and produced the disaster the region is today.

    I think the Greek word is Hubris.

    But, typical Boomer, he seems incapable of taking accountability for his actions and words.

    Were that we lived like the ancient Greeks. Him and his ZioCon chums would have been exiled or executed. The fact that he can still sermonize about ‘character’ is just one more illustration of how corrupt our civilization has become.

    • I agree, Trump is not nice to women in general. Although, I bet 40% – 70% of the his gropes pay off with consensual sex (being a Billionaire usually works wonders). Althought he appears to marry some of the woman he grope and loves his children.
      Women had be trading sexual favors for other benefits for many thousands of years. I would say the same about Bill Clinton although I think his frequency of gropping and sexual acts is higher and his treatment of women is worse. Bill tends to hang with pedophiles who can provide him both women and privacy for his acts. Trump tends to be out there in public. I think some women have made credible accusations of gropping against Trump, but all these alleged acts are well outside the statute of limits. The voters can look at these accusations and make a judgement. So far they have been judging in favor of President Trump because his opponents are worse.

  22. It appears Trump may be egotistical, a gropper, but effective. HRC was egotistical; protected a rapist, was ruthlessly incompetent and would extent the welfare state. I want the person who is both more moral and competent. That was not our choice in 2016.

    • Bush extended the welfare state more than Bill Clinton. One thing I respect about the Clintons is that their hobbies include lying to Democrats and stabbing liberals in the back. Hillary would have been the weakest president ever with a Republican Congress and then we would have gone into 2020 with larger majorities in Congress and favored to win the presidency unless Hillary moved far to the right which was highly likely.

      • I basically agree on the Welfare issue. I think HRC would have the entire Deep State as well as Universities, the Media, All State, and local government and a police force that had more extensively criminalized political disagreements (e.g., abortion, trans-bath rooms, regulation of religion, gay marriage, bake me a cake, voting rights, be fined or jailed when you say ‘hurtful’ things). All 20M illegal aliens would become citizens, Equal Pay for Men and Women regardless of the value of their work. She would have gutted defense to help pay for the increased welfare benefits (like the Europeans). She would have been very hard to beat in 2020 or 2024. I think our current situation is a lot better.

      • Congress would have had a lot to say about those things. Your rant is complete nonsense.

      • Congress would have have its say, the Democrats would have supported Clinton, but as the battle between the Republican Establishment and Trump indicates, they mostly would have gone along with it. The Republican party is being transformed into a Middle Class/Workers party under Trump.

      • You make a good point. The GOP almost certainly would have won the presidency in 2020 after 12 years of Democratic rule. As it is, they almost certainly will lose in 2020, and maybe for decades after that.

      • Presidential elections are almost always about the economy. When a person has a good job they are far less likely to vote against an incumbent.

  23. The voters were not aware of the sexual antics of former Presidents, before they sat in the White House or mostly after- Clinton being the exception..
    There weren’t many who didn’t know about MrTrump, his back story, his marriages or flings with women well before he announced his candidacy for President. No secrets there at all.
    Did he grope someone, make unwanted advances when he was a private citizen? Would anyone be surprised if some women came forward with accusations…no.
    They saw a man who got things done, who got rich the oldfashioned way, and heard him say in public what they have been saying privately to each other for years.
    They believed he would “getter’ done”, and he works very hard to do that.
    What surprised Trump supporters was the actions and attitudes of other Repubs, then the Dems/MSM . They revealed their core hatred of the ‘little people’, exposed years of lying and bad behavior.

    • Trump voters heard him say things in public that they have been saying privately to each other for years. Therein lies the problem. We all know idiots who say stupid things, that doesn’t mean that they should be president.

      And anyone who thinks that Trump is going to “get ‘er done” is going to be sadly disappointed.

      • Two quarters of 3% GDP growth for the first time in nine years! Obama couldn’t achieve this feat once in 32 quarters.

  24. JFK is not a good example. The only thing he gave us was the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War. Nixon would have spared us all of that.

  25. The apparent disconnect between character and accomplishment isn’t confined to the politically prominent. Many successful men (and not a few successful women!) sleep around, with no apparent effect on their careers or accomplishments. The Democratic Party started this, by its wholesale vilification of the President as sexist, misogynist, etc. Did the Democrats really think that we had all forgotten about Bill and Monica and Teddy Kennedy (who did have enough sense not to try for the presidency)? Had the Democratic Party not launched endless vicious attacks on the President, we would not have the current mass resurgence of faked Victorian prudishness.

    • Edward Kennedy did have enough sense once the Presidency was forfeit to accept position provided by the “self governing through representation Citizens” of the “Great State of Massachusetts”.

      AS the MOST powerful politician in the land as “The Lion of the Senate”. With none of that picayune 4 to 8 year tenure to do what he would.

      There’s a lot of ruin for the self governing through representation citizens with ANY Senator with Lifetime tenure.

  26. You left out one whose character was not, and IS not to date, a problem for the “representatives” OF, Or “the self governing through representation Citizens”, of the nation.

    Nation REPUTEDLY based on “The Rule of Law”. In the hands of the “Guardians OF The Law”. Those “representatives” in ALL government administrative offices of the tri – partite equally powered in law government.

    EACH member of each Office pledged “to Uphold AND Defend” THE Law. On which ALL Laws in the 50 quasi independent States and the Central governments must be justified.

    Yet ONE, not mentioned, or named, managed to successfully “slip through” that Rule of Law. Aided and abetted by friends in high places.

    Despite many discerning citizens uneasy about proofs of his compliance with the “legal eligibility” specified in THE Fundamental Law Article II, Section 1, paragraph 5 for “The Office of President”. ALONE of the elective offices of government. Those citizens subsequently designated lunatic as “birthers”

    That aside there was a far more recent Law that could conceivably make a case for his being ILLEGALLY elected President.

    That oddly none of the TRIO of lawyers, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton or Obama himself seemed to have noticed. OR Did they?

    OR for that matter NONE of the representatives of the unquestioning, uncritical, incurious Media.

    OR of the representational offices of the government.

    The selection of Barack Hussein Obama, of UNCERTAIN provenance, by the DNC of 2008 reported “Because it was TIME for an Afro – American”

    It would seem therefore the selection of the candidate Barack Hussein Obama for “The Office of President” was Unequivocally based on his Race.

    No other usual and or relevant qualifications advanced.

    Not even the usual qualifications to Represent The Party OF The People, that he was “handsome, clever and rich”.

    Instead “Because it was TIME for an Afro – American”.

    That THE L Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ostensibly “intent” that the nation actually live by its reputed ethos and principles of a “fair, equal and socially just nation”

  27. The pretzel logic republicans are going through to justify their election of this wholly unqualified man is just incredible.

    • “Remember, you can keep your doctor and your health plan.”

    • The problem we have here is that even if it’s true that Trump is a totally worthless person he’s still infinitely better than anything on the hate whitey left. I do not have the slightest particle of trust for the Big Brother, totalitarian left.

      • and I doubt anybody has ever accused you of being particularly bright

  28. Unfortunately we have our horrible media that will attempt to define for us the effectiveness of presidential tenure. The truth is that, from their ability to maintain an economy conducive to growth and middle income harmony Bush 43 and Clinton are the standouts of our lifetimes while Obama will forever occupy the dead-last position. The media will do everything they can to change this fact.

    • The president doesn’t have all of that much control over the economy. The 1990s were very prosperus mostly because of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the peace dividend that resulted from that. I would give Reagan most of the credit for that, but Bush 43 helped.

  29. This is a terrifically fair minded and provocative piece, and its thesis that there is no inevitable nexus between character and Presidential performance is unassailable. I personally find Trump to be of loathsome character, but I must admit that is in the eye of the beholder. What is not an issue of opinion is that Trump is a long-time con man and financial criminal who does not pay his debts and takes great joy in ruining little people. He is also a demonstrable racist and a wannabe fascist authoritarian who would love to see the destruction of any number of core American liberties and values. He must be removed from office before he achieves his goal of destroying the country at the behest of his Russian controllers

    • Gosh, you not only drink the DNC Kool Aid, you bathe in it! Pretty incredible!

      • Once again, the big lie that Trump is a not a loathsome person and any opposition to Trump is DNC propaganda.

  30. In the past, Americans loved heroes–sports, war, politics. Now, with a 24×7 media, dirty laundry dominates: Tom Brady deflated the football, General Petraeus shared classified information with his mistress, Donald Trump has 5 kids with 3 wives. There are no heroes because nobody wants them anymore.

  31. “Neither was dishonest, at least in the manner of most politicians,” referring to Obama, that was when I stopped reading…

  32. A recent New Republic article called “The Democrats Dangerous Obsession With Impeachment” has this to say about Trump supporters: “Unless Robert Mueller finds the possibly apocryphal “pee tape,” Republicans are likely to remain loyal to Trump. In fact, there’s a real possibility that even if the “pee tape” is real and widely viewed, Trump would still remain politically sacrosanct among his own party.”

    That’s true but why is it true? The answer is also in the article: “Impeachment fetishists seem to think that the overriding problem of American politics is that Trump is president. By this analysis, the president is a dangerous outlier whose removal would restore America to normality. But the problem isn’t just Trump; it’s also the Republican Party. Trump is only dangerous because he’s the standard-bearer of a party that has unified control of the government and is willing to stand by Trump no matter what. A Democratic agenda of reining in presidential power will give more lasting victories than mere impeachment, which is unlikely to succeed and would only address a symptom, not the cause, of the cancer that’s ravaging American politics.”

    I am very much aware that white leftists see conservative whites like me as a deplorably evil cancer and long for a time when they get control of the federal government so that they can use it to grind people like me into the dirt.

    I quite naturally totally distrust the hate whitey left and totally support Trump. These leftists are the same people who constantly squeak that conservative white people are white supremacists who have white privilege who support institutional racism. These are the people who use the universities to promote racial hatred of white people. How could I possibly not totally distrust such racist fanatics.

    • The big lie is that Trump is a conservative and that his supporters are conservatives and that opposition to Trump is ideological. This lie is being pushed people who seem to be unable to see Trump’s flaws.

  33. I think it’s to early to judge Obama’s honesty. It seems to me that he or his cohorts used the federal government for political purposes.

  34. The one issue of character I don’t read or hear any of the Conservative, Inc NeverTrumpers, like Ben Shapiro, mention in all their lectures to us is: Keeping one’s word. I’m old enough to remember a world in which one’s “word was his bond,” and a handshake was sufficient.

    As far a public character goes, the reason the GOPe is in the mess it’s in is they don’t give one damn about keeping their word. This to is character, and an important part in it, especially for elected officials.

    If I was voting in AL today and had to choose between someone who may have behaved appallingly 40 years ago on a personal level (but not since) but would keep his promises today or someone who would kill babies tomorrow; it’s a not a choice at all.

  35. Outside of Obama being a servant of George Soros and the Muslim Brotherhood I would say he was an honest man.

    • Obama spent 20 years in a south side of Chicago church that gave Louis Farrakhan a lifetime achievement award. One of Farrakhan’s “achievements” was to preach to blacks that Jewish doctors were injecting the AIDS virus into black babies. No white leftist has ever condemned this.

      Just imagine how hysterical the left would be though if it were suddenly discovered that Trump had spent 20 years in a church that had given David Duke a lifetime achievement award.

      The left is simply despicable.

  36. If it is truly “not clear” yet to VDH whether Trump is a bad man, I shudder to think about what else is unclear to him.

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  38. All humans are creatures of their times. For us to evaluate or judge historical figures through the prism of contemporary sensitivities is unfair, and mostly meaningless. I believe the value of historical retrospect is simply understanding what each individual accomplished, and where that accomplishment led.

    That said, certain individuals embody transcendent qualities, articulate and achieve new visions, and rightly earn the privilege of broad renown and respect. Such figures are few and far between.