Why Character Counts in the Next President
The Role of the Media in Politics

Civility Run Among in American Politics

Private versus Public Positions of Candidates Raise Questions About Their Commitment to Honesty and Transparency

I have criticized Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for their lack of character. Both seem to have only a passing acquaintance with the truth and integrity. They seem to have a different public persona than a private one. For example, Clinton seems to say one thing in private and another in public, the latter to appeal to her supporters, win over “Bernie’s” crowd, and appeal to independent voters. But, this is nothing more than politics as usual and why she isn’t trusted by many in the electorate.

A pay for play mentality seemed to have existed when she was Secretary of State and in dealings with foreign officials. It’s also clear from Clinton's campaign fundraising activities and leaked emails by WikiLeaks that she depends on the wealthy for financial support whether it be rich Hollywood types or investment bankers such as Goldman Sachs where she earned millions in speaking fees. These are the very people she says will be hit the hardest by tax rate increases to pay for a never-ending litany of social programs that are costly and may not have a discernable effect on fixing the problems facing the nation. For example, we’ve been throwing good money after bad in education funding for over twenty years yet our kids still lag those in many countries in terms of math and science skills. Will this change when public college becomes free and more money is thrown at the education problem? No, because it is a lack of a work ethic, lack of parental oversight, and excessive time spent on social media that is the underlying cause of poor scores on achievement tests.

Trump is no better. We know he won’t get Mexico to pay for the wall unless he captures President Nieto and puts him in jail with a $500 million ransom. He’s made other statements like cleaning up our streets and ending years of promising to do things for African-American community with no likely follow-through. This has been a persistent problem for years – political promises unkept. There is no reason to expect Trump to advance the cause any more than anyone else. It’s all talk and no action because of deep, underpinning biases.

We now find out that Trump may be a sexual predator. Recent revelations seem to parallel the Bill Cosby case. Women are coming out of the woodwork to accuse him of unwanted sexual advances and demeaning behavior. What’s worse, he seems to have given up on any pretense of civility by his oft-colored comments about others. And, in suggesting the election is rigged and government led by losers, Trump has painted a broad brush on actions that are limited to a handful of people and, yes, recent revelations suggest a coordinated effort by the media to follow a drip, drip, drip approach to disclosing bad behavior. 

The sad part of the current focus on tearing down one candidate or the other is in both cases information has been held out and now selectively leaked just weeks before the election. The timing of the leaks gives credence to the view that the media are a bunch of unprincipled individuals hell-bent on pushing their candidate to victory by disparaging the behavior and comments of her/his opponent. Check out Thursday's blog for more on this issue.

As we draw closer to the election day, thank goodness, I feel the need to take a bath and wipe the grime and soot off my body. It’s a sad day in American politics when so much time is spent on personal behavior and virtually none on political philosophy and the soundness of each candidate’s positions. Let’s hope the debate tomorrow is better focused than the last one. It’s our last time to truly look into the soul of each candidate.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on October 18, 2016. Dr. Mintz is Professor Emeritus from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at: www.workplaceethicsadvice.com.