Way back in Vent #9 I grumbled about the so-called "character issue," and the character with whom I had issues was then-President Bill Clinton. At the time, I said that the Big He had a few, um, deficiencies, and that it was not at all guaranteed that the GOP would be able to make any political hay with them:

Much has been made of the so-called "character issue", and how it will affect the Presidential election. It is generally agreed among the current crop of Republicans, and grudgingly admitted by some Democrats, that Bill Clinton is something less than an ethical paragon. It doesn't require a call to the Psychic Friends Network to figure that the Dole campaign, not to mention various sources of that wonderful elixir, "soft money," will bring up this issue as many times as opportunities and finances permit.

It is at least possible, though, that the GOP could botch it. And the way to botch it is to fixate on the President's Sixties peccadilloes. Inhale or no, marijuana is a no-win campaign for the Republicans; the sort of people who would be upset by an occasional spliff are the sort of people who think Newt Gingrich is a flaming liberal, and they're not likely to switch their votes away from Clinton, since they wouldn't vote for him even if the Republican nominee were Joseph Stalin.

In the end, of course, flaws and all, Bill Clinton was re-elected, and managed to hold on to the White House despite the best efforts of the House of Representatives — and despite my suggestion that he take a powder in the wake of same.

Since Bill and Hillary are joined at the wallet, you might have thought that she would be the one inviting screams about character this time around. But no: the flap is over Barack Obama and his firebrand spiritual advisor Jeremiah Wright. Or maybe former spiritual advisor: the Obama campaign is taking considerable pains to throw Rev. Wright under the bus.

Frankly, I wish they hadn't.

It's not that I buy into Wright's version of Joseph Cone's theology, the leftovers after you subtract Mohammed from the Nation of Islam. It's that Barack Obama, who spent two decades under Wright's tutelage, actually did seem to buy into it, and it would have impressed me greatly if he'd said so, up front and out loud, rather than soft-pedaling it here and back-pedaling from it there. Now he looks like, well, just another politician, exactly the image he sought to avoid.

My own thinking is that a man's religion — or, for that matter, a man's lack of religion — is only a "character" issue when he seems to be failing to live up to the principles he putatively endorses. I had disagreements with both Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, but it would never have occurred to me to make an issue of either man's faith. Then again, I am not a Republican and had no opportunity to cast a ballot for, or against, either of them; I am registered as a Democrat, and indeed I voted for Barack Obama in this state's Presidential-preference primary, although the majority of Oklahoma's delegates are going to Hillary Clinton.

And speaking of delegates, what with the closeness of this race, the so-called "superdelegates" are coming under scrutiny, one of whom is Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry, who endorsed Obama last week, a move criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike. Despite my waning enthusiasm for Obama, I'd defend the Guv; obviously he's not favoring Obama over Clinton on the issues, since the differences between them are exceeedingly minor, so the most likely explanation, at least to me, is that this is the way he thinks the chips will fall, and he's going to take the lead in trying to sell the package to wary Sooner Democrats and the occasional Republican. State GOP chair Gary Jones, gobsmacked by Henry's action, tried to shame Senate Democrats into making their own declarations, a superfluous action at best given the fact that individual Senators don't carry that much endorsement weight — and the fact that the GOP has no reason to care whether Obama or Clinton gets any particular endorsements in Oklahoma, since John McCain will almost certainly win the state's seven electoral votes.

Meanwhile, after what seems to be an eternity of campaign rhetoric, weariness is setting in. If I am at all fortunate — and I'll have to be, if I'm going to be around in 2020 — I won't have to bring up this character-issue business again for another twelve years.

The Vent

#579
  1 May 2008

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