Right in the centre - I don't think people really care


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

To hear politicians, voters and media talk about the attributes they admire in a leader, one would think that people want one who shows a high level of moral goodness. The leader should be happily married, have well-behaved children. They should have a successful career prior to entering politics. Once they get elected, they should be faithful to their spouse, never have stolen any money from anyone and be completely honest in every way.

If you want to hear all the bad things about a leader, just listen to the opposition or the people supporting an opponent. The critics can’t heap enough scorn on their opponents. Hence, these days, the focal point of critics is U.S. President Donald Trump. He does give opponents a lot of target area for sure. He is painted, in some cases and perhaps with justification, as a liar, a buffoon, a fornicator and many other titles. To hear the opposition and the media, one would think Trump was the worst person to ever be a leader.

There are two sources of irony surrounding this whole scene. The howling of Trump’s opponent has a tinny hollow sound to it. Their hero, Bill Clinton, was a moral failure of the worst kind. Without dragging out his several moral failures, one of which was with a person under his authority, how can Democrats elevate him and trample on Trump? Try reading a biography of President John F. Kennedy and not wonder how despicable (and charming) he was. Just to keep a balance, Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, was no angel. It goes back and forth. Regardless of generation, regardless of party, many leaders have fallen far from the accepted ideal.

On the Canadian scene, the criticisms are usually more muted. Most of our prime ministers and federal leaders have to lead a much duller life than the alleged activities of U.S. presidents. They are either of higher moral fibre, have less vigorous critics or are a lot better at hiding their indiscretions. Former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper was harshly criticized for looking shifty and cold. Hardly an issue that ranks with Trump, Clinton or Kennedy. Lester Pearson, along with former Conservative leader Robert Stanfield, was criticized for being dull. John Diefenbaker was dubbed an eccentric with a huge ego.

As the column headline contends, do people really care? They only seem to care about a leader’s shortfalls if they are on the opposite side of the political spectrum. A politician’s supporters only seem to care about results, not moral character or even dullness. The big question in voters' minds seems to be, not the failings of their hero but two basic results: do they win elections and do they get results? No shortcomings seem to matter to loyal supporters, only results.

So, the Trump supporters might be misguided in our view, considering how apparently outrageous Trump seems to be, but they like the apparent results. The North Korea stand down, tighter border controls, standing up to Iran and the most important issue to people, the economy. Remember what Clinton said, “It’s the economy, stupid!”

It does not seem to matter how dull or despicable a leader may be, the apparent results are what counts with supporters. It is the faults that matter to the opponents, but it is the results that matter to supporters. To supporters, no fault seems to matter. To opponents, no results seem to count.

I guess people really do care, it is just about different things, depending on their point of view.