Robert Dallek: The character issue is "always out there"





The character issue is back, leaving voters wondering anew if their leaders can be trusted and, in all likelihood, intensifying the anti-incumbent mood across the country. Specifically, two recent incidents have underscored the doubts shared by many Americans about the political establishment and, at the same time, raised familiar questions about whether Washington is populated by phonies, hypocrites, and liars....

As a general matter, the character issue never seems to go away. "It's always out there," says historian Robert Dallek.

What makes all this particularly important now is that the latest moral lapses might further undermine trust in government and contribute to a "throw the bums out" mentality, which is already running strong across the country. One side benefit, however, might go to President Obama, who benefits from pervasive perceptions of his good conduct. By all indications, he has a very strong and committed relationship with his wife, Michelle, and with his two young daughters, Malia and Sasha. In fact, the Obamas seem to embody the kind of family values that Americans admire, which is one reason the president's likability is so high....



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