The Character Factor: How We Judge America's Presidents

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Texas A&M University Press, 2004 - History - 209 pages
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WATERGATE. MONICA LEWINSKY. PAINKILLERS IN THE OVAL OFFICE. IRAN-CONTRA. READ MY LIPS. THE CHARACTER FACTOR.

The American president’s character matters. To most Americans, it matters deeply. But how do we define what character means, and why can’t we agree?

In this sober, probing consideration of “the character factor” and the presidency, veteran political analyst James P. Pfiffner leads us through a survey of three aspects of presidential character that have proved problematic for recent chief executives: lies, promise-keeping, and sexual probity. His goal is not to tell us which presidents have been “good” and which “bad.” Rather, he helps us think critically and impartially about complex character issues and invites us to reach our own conclusions.

The Character Factor avoids both the abyss of moral relativism and the desert of political cynicism. It helps us look at our presidents (and our presidential candidates) without illusions, knowing that flawed men can still be great leaders but that some flaws deserve defeat at the polls—or even the ultimate presidential sanction, impeachment.

  

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Contents

Judging Presidential Character
3
The Nature of Presidential Lies
18
Serious Presidential Lies
39
Sexual Probity and Presidential Character
64
Character Consistency and Campaign Promises
91
Three Presidents in Crisis
119
Character Complexity
140
NOTES
171
SOURCES FOR EPIGRAPHS
201
INDEX
205
SERIES PAGE
210
Copyright

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About the author (2004)

James P. Pfiffner has written or edited ten books and many articles about the presidency. A professor of government and public policy at George Mason University, he is frequently invited to lecture on various topics related to the American president. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison

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