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High hopes

High Hopes

Throughout Stanley Renshons' book, High Hopes: The Clinton Presidency and the Politics of Ambition, the president's ability to govern has to do with three main concepts: ambition, courage, and integrity. Proving this, Renshon believes that the presidents psychology explains everything. "By examining the range of choices available to the president as well as those he selects, both within and across circumstances, one can begin to discern the underlying patterns of psychology that shapes his behavior" (4). I tend to agree with Renshon when he states that Clintons' psychology has a lot to do with how he reacts to a given situation and performs all tasks bestowed upon him.

"The term character is derived from the Greek word meaning 'engraving'" (38). It can be defined as a trait or distinctive combination of traits. Bill Clinton's personality, beliefs, and attitude are a very distinctive part of his character. As Renshon states, "Character shapes beliefs, information processing, and, ultimately, styles of behavior. It is therefore deeply embedded in the foundation of psychological functioning" (38). The three elements of character that Renshon states as being the "core" factors of a persons character are: ambition, character integrity, and relatedness.

Ambition is a strong element is one's character which can be defined as; a persons achievement and self regard. I tend to disagree with Renshon, when he states that their is a danger with ambition, it "reinforces their sense of being special... it may facilitate their grandiosity" (40). According to Microsoft Bookshelf '95, grandiosity is someone or something that is characterized by the greatness of scope of intent. Renshon says that childhood grandiosity is the foundation of adult ambition and that this is all instituted by a person's parents. I believe that a person's ambition is something that should be elaborated on more often. It shows a person's moral and ethical beliefs.

A person's integrity is an important element when shaping a person's ambition and relatedness, according to Renshon. Throughout the book, when Renshon refers to a person's integrity, in actuality he is referring to their honesty and how well they adhere to commendable values. The reason he is using the vocable, character integrity is, the term shares the same perspectives but uses a more "psychologically grounded perspective" (41). He believes that ideals are an important part of the word integrity's definition. He states that they are the framework for interpersonal and personal ethics, they show how a person conducts themselves when dealing with many different types of situations, they are a person's goals. "Ideals are aspirations that are often easier to hold in the abstract than they are to live by the face of real-world temptations and disappointments" (41). I feel that one's ideals are obtained early on in one's life. In Clinton's experiences, those who influenced him and prepossessed his ideals the most were his mother and stepfather. A president's integrity, or lack of, suggests his basic motivations, skills, and ideals into an coherent understanding of who he really is.

When one speaks of relatedness, I feel that they are referring to one's relationships with others and how it is formed. Renshon used a very interesting quote from Freud, which he first stated in 1921.

The contrast between individual psychology and social or group psychology, which at first glance may seem to be full of significance , loses a great deal of it's sharpness when it is examined more closely...In the individual's mental life someone else is invariably involved, as a model as in object, as a helper, as an opponent: and so from the very first individual psychology...is at the same time social psychology as well (qtd. in 46).

Through the use of this quote, Renshon was able to prove that from the start, "analytic theory stated that the others are always central to an individual's psychological development and functioning" (46).

Every since Clinton was a child, he was always involved in many activities. He had to always come out on top and be the best of the best, he was always full of ambition. Throughout his presidency, Clinton has also shown to be a very ambitious man. After an intense three hour meeting with the president, Alan Greenspan said, "He wouldn't need a chief of staff. He would be his own. The president-elect was not only engaged, he was totally engrossed (56).

Even though I feel that having a lot of ambition is a positive quality in a person, I have noticed that there are also a few downfalls to it. Renshon feels that there are four skills that have facilitated Clinton's ambition. They are: a high level of physical and emotional energy, the ability to invest in one's work, a high level of understanding, and the ability to express one's self and to engage in meaningful conversation.

Renshon says that, "a president who feels he can or must do everything will not be able to delegate and will have problems setting appropriate limits for himself and others" (57). He also states that since the president is so motivated to be unconditionally involved, he runs the risk of overextending himself both physically and psychologically.

Another complaint that has been made about Clinton's ambition, is his need and ability to "wing it." Critics say that since Clinton is so intelligent, he has a great advantage. This great ability allows him to rely on his ability to pull something together at the last minute, and has been fairly dependable in the past. However, Renshon feels that for a president this a potentially dangerous psychology.

Intelligence is not equivocal with good decision making, or the level he applies himself, these are matters of judgment and character. Intelligence also doesn't guarantee that a situation is always going to go the way it was planned. Just because he is president, doesn't mean he won't make mistakes, but it alleviates the chances that it will reoccur. Understanding that once in a while he will make mistakes, although he is not the type of man to openly admit it, Clinton began his term by stretching the limits of government.

In the recent past we have learned again the hard lessons that there are limits to what government can do-indeed, limits to what people can do. We live in a world in which limited resources, limited knowledge and limited wisdom must grapple with the problems of staggering complexity (66).

I feel that this quote has more to do with Clinton protecting himself and all of his decisions throughout all of his term, instead of admitting there was a problem.

Taking his ambition to the limit, Clinton proposed that he was "a president who would return to traditional values and who, in discussing the importance of personal responsibility, seemed to be conveying an appreciation of the limits of government" (67). This new approach that Clinton swept his nomination away with, is commonly being referred to as a New Democrat. Through this approach Clinton believed he understood the limits of government, but, upon gaining office he attempted to launch an, "ambitious personal and public agenda" (68).

"Character integrity reflects our fidelity to our own ideals as we pursue our ambitions and forge out identities" (69). Realistically and psychologically a president must be committed to his own ideals and values. It seems to be very important that a president's integrity reflects his ability to maintain boundaries. Renshon ultimately refers to two specific questions that can help one determine about character integrity: Is Clinton honest? Can Clinton be trusted?

When examining the president's integrity, there are four interrelated dimensions that must be examined. The first is the president's ideals and values; where he draws the line that "separates right from wrong, yes and no" (73). The last three concern fidelity and follow through, president's own fidelity, and last is the concerns the president's degree of self confidence in himself and his personal identity.

Political identity requires a clear, general consistent set of ideas and values. When one refers to the "traditional Democrat, "New Deal liberal, "goldwater conservatives," or "new Democrat," according to Renshon, they are all relatively the same basic idea. Clinton and Gore have stressed that a New Democrats policies are, "neither liberal of conservative, neither Democratic of Republican. They are new. They are different. We are confident they will work" (74).

When it comes to fidelity, "it reflects a person's willingness and capacity to follow through on the commitments that he has chosen to the best of his ability" (76). According to Microsoft Bookshelf '95, Fidelity means faithfulness to obligations, duties or observances. I feel that in this circumstance a related synonym that could be used is allegiance. In my opinion, I feel that this is one of the most important characteristics a president should have. Renshon points out many instances that Clinton has backed out of his promises at the time, but some of the situations have become law since this book was written. For example, one of Clinton's campaign promises was to raise the minimum wage, and he never followed through. Again, in the 1994 midterm election, in his State of the Union Address, again Clinton promised to purpose an increase in the minimum wage, to only withdraw his statement the next morning. During the last few months though, Clinton has been arguing with Congress to get an increase past. After many hours of heavy dispute, Clinton got a bill passed and the new minimum wage went into affect October 1, 1996.

Many might say that Clinton was just following through with his promises, I still feel the only reason he did this was because he realized that the '96 election is approaching faster than he thought and wanted to make a better presentation to the public.

Throughout this argument, the opposition stated that Clinton "could change his mind in an instant" (83). This could be denoted as a logical and psychological oxymoron. Renshon agrees with this metaphor but argues that,

"it is not impossible for a president to find some merit in divergent views and still be able to apply his own developed framework of ideals and values to sort through them. Not all views can have equal weight, and not all claim equal worth. The ability to make these distinctions ultimately what distinguishes judgment for empathy" (83).

Another instance where Renshon rebukes the "myth" about Clinton is when critics viewed Clinton as a, "rambling, insistent defense of his own character." Renshon feels that Clinton's self image is: "fair, open, honest, and genuinely interested in responsive to others' points of view and concerns," (85) He also feel that Clinton reflected a strong component of self-idealization, which most people wish to think of themselves as.

Personally I feel that being ambitious is a very good quality but, I also feel that there is a time when you are ambitious or over-confident. I feel that this is one of Clinton's downfalls. For instance, Clinton feels that he can make speeches without any notes, he can just do it off the top of his head. Some might argue that a high level of confidence masks a deeper sense of insecurity or it can even lead to vulnerability.

When one speaks of relatedness, one could also say, in psychological theory, affiliation motive. Affiliation motive is the most common way of examining a person's connection with others. To affiliate means to want to belong, they are joiners and want to spend most of there time with others. In others words, I feel that you can classify this type of person as being insecure.

Throughout this book, one can see that Clinton doesn't need to be liked, he just desires the need for validation. "Validation is a more comprehensive concept than respect, affection, or, more generally, an individuals need for external assurances of his own positive self-image" (330).

On the outside, Clinton appears to be a very, "attractive, outgoing, charming" man but in the inside, he has a very, "angry, demanding, entitled inner psychology" (104). Many of his friends say that he wears a mask on the outside hoping that it won't eventually reveal his inner-self.

"Clinton has been characterized frequently as a man who is too trusting, but his persistent use of charm suggests otherwise. The use of charm can also stem form the belief that if you don't use it, you cannot depend on others to respond to you. Clinton's tendencies to mislead and equivocate, to market and sell his policies rather than deal with his cost and implications honestly, and his rages ..." (105). To me, this again leads to a very interesting question, Is Mr. Clinton trustworthy?

From the beginning of this book, I have been pondering that question. Renshon makes many statements that could rebuke my idea, but I found that there are many gaps in a lot of Clinton's ideas. He has made many promises but has not followed through unless his idea's were going to be viewed in a positive manner. I believe that he has plenty of good ideas and he is a very intelligent man, but I tend to agree with critics when they say he is too smart for his own good. He feels that he can do anything and with that ambition, it leads him to overexert himself.

Through this book, I have learned to respect Clinton in a different way. I have realized that there are reasons he reacts in the way he does. I believe that he is a reliable man and can be trusted to a point. I would recommend this book for one reason, to understand how the president reacts. I found it very interesting to see how Clinton was so much like his mother. The whole section revealed how Clinton became the man he is. Understanding Clinton to the extend I know do makes me want to learn more about Dole so I can make a more educated vote this November.

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