How important is the issue of "character" in presidential leadership?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There is a great deal of controversy over this issue.  No one denies that strength of character is important to a president.  Where the real controversy comes in is over the issue of what type of character is important.  This controversy is most commonly seen when we are faced with issues in the president’s (or candidate’s) personal life.

Perhaps the best example of this issue in recent times is President Bill Clinton.   Clinton, of course, was impeached for lying about whether he had had sexual relations outside of his marriage.  One school of thought holds that, while it was wrong of him to lie, there should not have been any investigation into his extramarital affairs in the first place.  They argue that a president’s ability to remain faithful to marriage vows tells nothing about how well or how badly he will be able discharge his duties.

Other people argue that Clinton’s personal life really does matter.  They say that, at the very least, it tells us something about his judgment.  We are told that a person who is reckless enough to conduct affairs as Clinton did would be more likely to make rash decisions on official matters.

There is, of course, no way to answer this objectively.  There are reasonable arguments for both sides of the issue and no way to prove which is right.

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