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Friday, June 7, 2019

Trading morality for a good economy

Michael Gerson
Originally posted May 28, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

Bennett went on to talk about how capitalism itself depends on good private character; how our system of government requires leaders of integrity; how failings of character can't be neatly compartmentalized. "A president whose character manifests itself in patterns of reckless personal conduct, deceit, abuse of power and contempt for the rule of law," he wrote, "cannot be a good president."

Above all, Bennett argued that the cultivation of character depends on the principled conduct of those in positions of public trust. "During moments of crisis," he wrote, "of unfolding scandal, people watch closely. They learn from what they see. And they often embrace a prevailing attitude and ethos, and employ what seems to work for others. So it matters if the legacy of the president is that the ends justify the means; that rules do not apply across the board; that lawlessness can be excused. It matters, too, if we demean the presidency by lowering our standards of expectations for the office and by redefining moral authority down. It matters if truth becomes incidental, and public office is used to cover up misdeeds. And it matters if we treat a president as if he were a king, above the law."

All this was written while Bill Clinton was president. And Bennett himself now seems reluctant to apply these rules "across the board" to a Republican president. This is not unusual. It is the political norm to ignore the poor character of politicians we agree with. But this does nothing to discredit Bennett's argument.

If you are a sexual harasser who wants to escape consequences, or a businessperson who habitually plays close to ethical lines, your hour has come. If you dream of having a porn-star mistress, or hope to game the tax system for your benefit, you have found your man and your moment. For all that is bent and sleazy, for all that is dishonest and dodgy, these are the golden days.

The info is here.