Flaws have a way of surfacing

When I look at the guys who run for the White House a large diamond pops into my mind. A real diamond.

My dad took his own life. He stuck the family with his debts. But...he also left a ring with a huge diamond. He had given that to my mom when they were young and he worked in the jewelry business in Syracuse.

Whenever those debts nibbled at our heels she would whip out the ring. “If worse comes to worse, we can always sell this. Your father knew diamonds. This is worth thousands.”

When the nibbling turned to gnawing, I took the ring to the very jeweler my dad worked for those many ago.

He examined the diamond through magnifying lenses. “Ah yes, your dad knew diamonds,” he said. “He also knew human nature. This diamond has a major flaw within. That makes it almost worthless. He probably bought it for a song. But, of course, most people - your mother too - would be enchanted with the size and color of it. Most people would not notice the flaw. Or would overlook it.”

My point is that flaws have a way of surfacing. Just when you don’t need to see them.

This is what comes to mind when I look at candidates for the presidency. I consider the flaws in their character we already know about.

We knew, for instance, that Richard Nixon was a rat. He had his qualities. He was a decent executive. That was very important. He was a tough negotiator. He knew his way around Congress. He was tough on commies. He was not likely to let a bunch of villains push him around.

But we didn’t call him “Tricky Dicky” fer nuthin’. We called him that because we knew he had employed some dirty tricks to get into Congress. He had smeared his opponents. Accused them of being Communists. “Pink right down to her underwear.” he said of one. She’s the one who stuck him with the moniker.

He admitted later he knew his opponents were not commies. “But I had to win...The important thing is to win,” he said. And he attributed his sleazy behavior to his childhood. His attitudes grew out of the “laughs and slights and snubs” he collected from other kids.

This was a major character flaw. Under pressure it surfaced in Watergate and haunts us still.

Before we elected him, people who knew Jimmy Carter told us he was obsessed with petty matters. He micro-managed to the point where the details blinded him to the larger picture.

And he had a tendency to run to his wardrobe of sackcloth and ashes He kept a supply of canes so he could flagellate himself whenever anything went wrong.

Such tendencies, under pressure of office, surfaced throughout his administration. He still blames America for problems the world over.

We knew Bill Clinton as “Slick Willy” before we elected him. We knew he did not care much where the money came from. We knew he majored in bimbo studies most of his adult years.

Some might consider these to be character flaws. Under pressure, they bobbed to the surface and disgraced his presidency.

John Kerry had a flaw called exaggeration. He liked to practice it. It came home to haunt him in his campaign.

My humble suggestion comes from a friend who is a corporate headhunter. He identifies CEO candidates for big firms. If he chooses poorly he loses his commission. So to survive he has had to be a superb judge of people.

“I never listen to what a candidate for a job promises he will do,” he tells me. “I only look at what he or she has done. If I find any flaw from the past, I know it will surface in the future.”

If you see a flaw in a candidate’s character, figure you will see it again. You will see it when the pressure is great. There is a lot of pressure in the White House. It brings out the best in presidents. And sometimes it brings out the worst.

Let the voter beware.

From Tom... as in Morgan.

For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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