Presidential Election 2008 - Candidates and Character

I guess in a perfect world, all of our political, civic, and religious leaders would be perfect models of moral decency, and perform with nothing but the utmost of efficiency and effectiveness in the jobs they are elected to. That world, of course, does not exist. The question I am going to raise is whether or not there is a direct coorelation between the moral and ethical values of a leader and his ability to lead effectively. The reason I throw this question out there is because I feel at times that we get so wrapped up the character of an individual, we fail to also honestly ask ourselves if the person is really the best man or woman for the job.

In our current election devout followers of both Barack Obama and John McCain would like to look at their candidate through rose colored glasses and try to paint him as someone who can do no wrong.

Or at least somehow morally superior and of higher character than the other person . The only thing that has saved this particular campaign from turning into a "my guy is more honest and trustworthy than your guy" slugfest, is the fact that the economy tanked.

I am going to go on record by saying that while character is important to me, it is a very fluid measuring stick that I use in my decision making process come election day. I don't expect Obama and McCain to be models of human decency and behavior, who I get to set on a pedestal and admire. I don't like putting our leaders up there, because they really do not belong there. They are there to do an important job - and to do it well - that is it. The way I look at it, I am basically casting my vote as to whether or not I want to hire one of these gentlemen as President of the United States. I want someone in there, who I feel is going to be effective in leading this country through all the challenges that lie ahead of it. In other words, ......"will this person get the job done?" least according to my standards.

Ultimately of course, we don't know how good the person is until he or she is on the job. But we do our best - we weigh the issues, trust our gut and hope we have elected the right individual. As my past voting record will indicate, I don't really care if the candidate is a Republican or a Democrat. I also don't care if he has had a model marriage or not. I don't care if he goes to church on Sunday. I don't care if he is an atheist, Muslim, Christian, or Jew. While I am very liberal on social issues, I would not vote against a candidate solely on the issues of abortion, stem cell research, gay marriage, or gun control. The reason I wouldn't is because these are not the pressing issues that I believe are critical to health and well being of this nation. I want to know how willing our President is to wage war and put our men and women in harms way. I want to know his approach and philosophy of interacting with our neighbors in the world. I want to know if he is going to do all he can to see that people in this country get decent medical care. Is he going try to support and improve education in this country? Is he going to have enough vision to keep this country's nose to the grindstone in terms of developing alternative forms of energy? And probably, most importantly to me, is this person going to be willing to listen to others and make decisions based on careful thought and analysis?

I think as citizens, we get too caught up in issues that, while important on one level, are not critical on another. Typcially, they are the moral and social issues that I have already mentioned. But right now, we need to focus on the big issues, the issues that truly will determine how we move forward as a nation. So when the candidates and their respective campaigns start ripping into each other about William Ayers, Charles Keating and any other "character" issues they can inject into the mix - try to keep these issues in perspective and remember what our real goal is here. We aren't just trying to elect "our guy"......we are trying to elect the best leader for the times.

One final point I would make about the moral absolutism that many throw into the political arena. History has far to many examples of effective presidents and world leaders who had moral shortcomings of one nature or another. That list would include Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and not to mention a number of others. I would hate to think where the world might be today without the guiding hand of some of these people. History is also littered with good and decent men - men of the utmost integrity and almost without reproach in terms of their moral standards - who were not particularly great leaders and in fact at times were downright incompetent in their performance.

Character is an issue in any election. I would be the first to admit I wouldn't vote for someone who had a long history of devious behavior in their public and private lives. I do feel, however, that it is a wiser approach to temper the character issue with a broader, practical and more realistic assessment of whether the person is right for the job or not. Sometimes that candidate, who we believe is the best reflection of our particular, individual moral values, ends up not being the best man for the White House...sometimes, it's that other, less than stellar character, who ends up being the best choice.