American Consequences - October 2017

Andrew Ferguson's


How does character actually affect the behavior of people who entangle themselves in politics? Agree or disagree with their particular views, here are a few test cases from recent history.


JOHN McCAIN McCain’s heroism as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War is admired by everybody but the president. Less well known is why his jailers chose him for extraordinary

Any account of Bob Kerrey’s public career should begin with his Vietnam War Congressional Medal of Honor citation: After sustaining massive wounds in a firefight, including the loss of half of one leg, Kerrey directed his Navy SEAL unit in a complicated counterattack, showing “courageous and inspiring leadership, valiant fighting spirit, and tenacious devotion to duty in the face of almost overwhelming opposition.” Back home in Nebraska, first as governor and later as United States senator, Kerrey established himself as a principled centrist, willing to escape his own party’s dogmatism in domestic and foreign matters – which is probably why his 1992 presidential campaign fizzled. The fact that Kerrey lived for a time with the actress Debra Winger doesn’t say much about his character either way, but his remark about the affair does... “What can I say?” Kerrey told reporters. “She swept me off my foot.”

torture: They wanted to release him as a propaganda ploy to embarrass his father, the highest-ranking admiral in the Pacific. McCain refused. So they hung him by his broken arms and beat him continuously because he wouldn’t let them let him go . He’s shown the same obstinacy in the United States Senate, an environment even more cut-throat than a POW camp. McCain oscillates between outraging Democrats and Republicans in varying degrees, true to his own idiosyncratic belief system. Like many men of character, he is a party of one and likes it that way.


In 2000, the former New Jersey

senator and NewYork Knicks star ran one of the most idea- heavy, principled presidential campaigns in memory. As a result, he lost the nomination to Al Gore.

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