During President Clinton’s impeachment trial the country debated whether his moral indiscretions justifed his removal from office. The “character doesn’t count” debate was questioning the relevance and magnitude of the offenses.
Days after his acquittal I received the following e-mail.
“Suppose it is time to elect a world leader. Here are your choices.
Candidate A: Consults faith healers and astrologers. He has had 2 mistresses, chain smokes, and drinks 8-10 martinis a day.
Candidate B: was kicked out of office twice, sleeps until noon, used opium in college and drinks a quart of brandy every night.
Candidate C: is a decorated war hero, doesn’t smoke, is a vegetarian, drinks an occasional beer, and has not had any mistresses.
Candidate A: Franklin Roosevelt
Candidate B: Winston Churchill
Candidate C: Adolph Hitler
You reaction to this clever trap may be “mmmmm …. What an interesting point,” or “what bullshit.” Your immediate emotional gut reaction will depend on your basic principles and beliefs.
Lets examine what kinds of lies this contains.
First, don’t assume its true just because it is on the internet. But even if we assume the facts are true it is still a lie for at least three reasons. If you find more reasons e-mail me.
First of all it is the lie of selective comparison. We are comparing the best characteristics of Hitler with the worst characteristics of Roosevelt and Churchill.
Second it is the lie of the preordained conclusion. The conclusion is that character is not important in selecting a leader . It was this conclusion that lead to the selective comparison. This conclusion seeks to disprove that character counts for everything , and thereby assumes principles count for nothing. Clearly we would choose a leader who believes in our principles of freedom even with a few indiscretions , over a racist mass murderer who doesn’t eat meat.
Third it is a lie of proportion. These characteristics are so minute compared to the lives of these men that the question is meaningless. Roosevelt will no more be remembered for using an astrologer than Hitler will be remembered for being a vegetarian.