Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Character Is Destiny Trump Won't Change Because He Is Who He Is

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Character Is Destiny Trump Won't Change Because He Is Who He Is

Article excerpt

For a very long time now, I have been predicting that the Trump presidency will end poorly because character is destiny. I've said it so often, I occasionally need to be reminded that I didn't coin the phrase. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus did when he observed "ethos anthropoi daimon," most often translated as "man's character is his fate."

Character is one of those topics, like culture or morality, that everyone strongly supports yet also argues about. When James Q. Wilson, one of the greatest social scientists of the last half-century, turned his scholarly attention to character, many of his colleagues in academia were repulsed. Even though every one of them surely believed in some notion of good character, it was assumed that to talk of it, let alone seek a definition of it or a plan for how to cultivate it, would be an exercise in lending aid and comfort to the moralizers of the right.

But Wilson, a man of both good and conservative character, had a more humble and universal definition than his colleagues might have expected: decency, politeness, self-restraint, commitment, honesty, cooperativeness, and the ability to think of others' well-being.

Weirdly, it's gotten to the point that when I say President Donald Trump is not a man of good character, I feel like I should preface it with a trigger warning for many of my fellow conservatives.

Most of the angry responses are clearly rooted in the fact that they do not wish to be reminded of this obvious truth. But others seem to have convinced themselves that Mr. Trump is a man of good character, and they take personal offense at the insult, even though I usually offer it as little more than an observation. They rush to rebut the claim, citing banal or debatable propositions: He loves his children! He's loyal to a fault! He's authentic! Never mind that many bad men love their children, that loyalty to people or causes unworthy of loyalty is not admirable, and that authentic caddishness is not admirable. Moreover, he is not remotely loyal to his wives or the people who work for him.

What's most worrisome is that these defenders are redefining good character in Mr. Trump's image, and they end up modeling it. …

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