On what basis do we determine the character of our leaders? The fundamentals for judging those who would lead us aren't so much what they choose to publicize as their core values, but rather how they behave when they aren't being choreographed by handlers and are forced to answer questions to which they haven't memorized answers. Values that reside in the heart and are woven into the mental process don't need to be referenced with note cards and rhetorical flourishes. They just are.
This campaign season has been littered with false premises and outright lies and it is unfortunate that the "fourth estate" hasn't always seen fit to make truth a foundation for discussions of policy and platforms. When a candidate promises to change things for the better, what is he actually talking about? It's easy for anyone to say they will change the fortunes of the country by creating more jobs, trimming the deficit and making us energy independent. What is often missing from these pronouncements, however, is anything concrete in the way of realizing these goals. Impassioned supporters at rallies often cheer the generalized formulas their chosen candidates propose without the slightest idea of what their wannabe leaders really have in mind.
Those sign-holding Tea Partiers who want their Social Security and Medicare benefits to remain in tact, seem blissfully unaware that these government programs require a revenue stream sufficient to maintain them. They are divorced from the reality that programs and agencies incorporated in our social compact cannot simply be put on the chopping block without considering how a one-size-fits-all deficit-reduction agenda would impact their most cherished institutions. Many of their newly found champions have given themselves over to a pact with the devilish Grover Norquist and voters act as it they owe nothing to constituents and support instead a manifesto thrust upon them by an unelected ideologue.
To be sure, Mitt Romney has a core set of principles even if they aren't always obvious from the stands he takes and his changing emphasis on things that matter to a majority of Americans. Some point to his family and his religion as values of which he can be proud. But is he on sound footing when his "charitable" contributions to the Mormon Church are used to help defeat the California proposition supporting gay marriage? He tends to avoid extended conversations about his religion, the gay lifestyle, his dog-on-car-roof decision and other personal matters, pushing questioners aside by asking them if there aren't weightier, more important issues to consider.
Indeed there are matters of greater global import, though few things are as instructive regarding someone's character as those that animate one's daily existence - in Romney's case a pathological indifference to telling the truth whether it is about political rivals or past events. The Romney team may claim that incidents from high school are hardly the measure of today's man and that, in fact Romney isn't even sure if they actually occurred, as for instance the matter of bullying a fellow student by holding him down and cutting his hair because he objected to the boy's appearance. Classmates seem to remember the incident clearly enough and it isn't unusual for people to remember events from an even earlier age without the aid of hallucinogens or psychiatric interventions. What seems to be a personality trait in Romney is an inability to understand the pain of others whether it is in the area of finance or emotional condition.
When he attended a fundraiser recently at a luxurious estate boasting a private golf course and lake he posited that Democrats would look around and say, "no-one should live like this," while Republicans would visit and say, "everyone should live like this, ...a tribute to America, to entrepreneurship." Perhaps Bill Maher put this in perspective when he said that most people aren't aspiring to such grandiose digs, they are looking for a less spectacular outcome - jobs.
Romney's' focus on the grandeur of corporate wisdom shows where his heart is and what his core "values" are. Oddly, Romney is transmitting a vulgar rather than an upper-class image. All that money and no character.