What a character

One of the names recently bandied about to fill the President's last remaining Cabinet position, that of Director of Homeland Security, has been Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman. Among the country's most well—known Senators—even before his run as Al Gore's Vice—Presidential candidate—Lieberman is highly respected on both sides of the aisle as being reasonable, strong on foreign policy matters, fiscally—prudent, and socially centrist. His sobriquet as 'The Conscience of the Senate' seems well—deserved. Many feel that Lieberman would be an excellent candidate: fully vetted by his years of Senate service and his run for Vice President, well—informed about national security issues, known and respected on the international stage.

Yet if offered the position, Lieberman would find himself in a very tenuous situation. His acceptance would create a vacancy in the Senate, a vacancy that, under current Connecticut statutes, would be filled by appointment by Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell, who is a Republican. Replacing Democrat Lieberman with a Republican senator would further shift the balance in the Senate from its current 55—45 to 56—44, making the threat of Democratic filibusters even less maleficent. The filibuster weapon is one of the few remaining political arrows in the Democratic quiver, and its removal would ensure that even more of President Bush's judicial nominees and policy proposals would pass unfettered.

So Lieberman would face a conundrum with both moral and political implications. Would he put service to country ahead of political considerations? Would his desire to bolster our nation's safety be outweighed by the pressure exerted on him by the DNC to decline the nomination to thwart Republican initiatives? It would be an interesting test of character.

The character issue is fascinating, because the electorate's perception of character goes a long way to explaining why a given politician engenders trust or skepticism in peoples' minds. Many times, a politician whose actual policy positions are at odds with a voter's can nonetheless receive that voter's support, because of the perceived genuine nature of that politician's character. John McCain is a perfect example of a pro—military, pro—life, tax—cutting, small—government Conservative who nonetheless enjoys widespread public and media approval from conservatives and liberals alike. He is thought to be the 'genuine article,' and that buys him substantial credibility.

The trait about John Kerry that bothered many voters was that once you got past his reflexive liberal—Democrat instincts to use the government as the instrument to cure all of society's ills (by creating more and more tax—funded give—a—way programs and minority/immigrant pandering initiatives), he didn't actually appear to have any overriding core beliefs. Kerry seemed willing to say anything at the moment to any particular audience, if he thought it would bring him political advantage.

On the other hand, President Bush is given credit by most of the public for having real core beliefs: He believes in America's role in the post—9/11 world to defeat Terrorism and spread democracy, thereby helping keep America safer; he believes in lower taxes as being fairer to the individual and more beneficial to the economy as a whole; he believes in an "ownership society" where people have the option—not the requirement—of owning their own healthcare accounts, retirement accounts, and educational accounts; he has definitive beliefs regarding stem cell research, partial birth abortion and faith—based initiatives; he has a definite philosophy on judicial appointments and Constitutional interpretation.

People don't necessarily agree with him on all of these issues, but many are comforted by his resolve and strength of character, and by his motivations, which seem to originate more from his own beliefs and desire to make things better, and less from the need for outside approval or trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator by using cheap, misleading sound bytes. Obviously, President Bush is not courting NPR's or the New York Times' or Dan Rather's or France's approval.

Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, JFK, Ronald Reagan and now George W. Bush all share the common attribute of appearing to have authentic, heartfelt policy positions which stem from an unaffected desire to do what's in the best interests of the country, rather than taking their positions for reasons of maximizing their public approval numbers or enhancing their personal legacy. The phrase "the courage of one's convictions" most assuredly applies to President Bush, and regardless of which side of the policy fence people find themselves, he deserves—and has earned—our respect for that.

Steve Feinstein is corporate is a frequent contributor.

One of the names recently bandied about to fill the President's last remaining Cabinet position, that of Director of Homeland Security, has been Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman. Among the country's most well—known Senators—even before his run as Al Gore's Vice—Presidential candidate—Lieberman is highly respected on both sides of the aisle as being reasonable, strong on foreign policy matters, fiscally—prudent, and socially centrist. His sobriquet as 'The Conscience of the Senate' seems well—deserved. Many feel that Lieberman would be an excellent candidate: fully vetted by his years of Senate service and his run for Vice President, well—informed about national security issues, known and respected on the international stage.

Yet if offered the position, Lieberman would find himself in a very tenuous situation. His acceptance would create a vacancy in the Senate, a vacancy that, under current Connecticut statutes, would be filled by appointment by Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell, who is a Republican. Replacing Democrat Lieberman with a Republican senator would further shift the balance in the Senate from its current 55—45 to 56—44, making the threat of Democratic filibusters even less maleficent. The filibuster weapon is one of the few remaining political arrows in the Democratic quiver, and its removal would ensure that even more of President Bush's judicial nominees and policy proposals would pass unfettered.

So Lieberman would face a conundrum with both moral and political implications. Would he put service to country ahead of political considerations? Would his desire to bolster our nation's safety be outweighed by the pressure exerted on him by the DNC to decline the nomination to thwart Republican initiatives? It would be an interesting test of character.

The character issue is fascinating, because the electorate's perception of character goes a long way to explaining why a given politician engenders trust or skepticism in peoples' minds. Many times, a politician whose actual policy positions are at odds with a voter's can nonetheless receive that voter's support, because of the perceived genuine nature of that politician's character. John McCain is a perfect example of a pro—military, pro—life, tax—cutting, small—government Conservative who nonetheless enjoys widespread public and media approval from conservatives and liberals alike. He is thought to be the 'genuine article,' and that buys him substantial credibility.

The trait about John Kerry that bothered many voters was that once you got past his reflexive liberal—Democrat instincts to use the government as the instrument to cure all of society's ills (by creating more and more tax—funded give—a—way programs and minority/immigrant pandering initiatives), he didn't actually appear to have any overriding core beliefs. Kerry seemed willing to say anything at the moment to any particular audience, if he thought it would bring him political advantage.

On the other hand, President Bush is given credit by most of the public for having real core beliefs: He believes in America's role in the post—9/11 world to defeat Terrorism and spread democracy, thereby helping keep America safer; he believes in lower taxes as being fairer to the individual and more beneficial to the economy as a whole; he believes in an "ownership society" where people have the option—not the requirement—of owning their own healthcare accounts, retirement accounts, and educational accounts; he has definitive beliefs regarding stem cell research, partial birth abortion and faith—based initiatives; he has a definite philosophy on judicial appointments and Constitutional interpretation.

People don't necessarily agree with him on all of these issues, but many are comforted by his resolve and strength of character, and by his motivations, which seem to originate more from his own beliefs and desire to make things better, and less from the need for outside approval or trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator by using cheap, misleading sound bytes. Obviously, President Bush is not courting NPR's or the New York Times' or Dan Rather's or France's approval.

Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, JFK, Ronald Reagan and now George W. Bush all share the common attribute of appearing to have authentic, heartfelt policy positions which stem from an unaffected desire to do what's in the best interests of the country, rather than taking their positions for reasons of maximizing their public approval numbers or enhancing their personal legacy. The phrase "the courage of one's convictions" most assuredly applies to President Bush, and regardless of which side of the policy fence people find themselves, he deserves—and has earned—our respect for that.

Steve Feinstein is corporate is a frequent contributor.