In the article, "The Trouble With Character" from Time magazine , writer Richard Stengel describes Bob Dole's attacks on President Bill Clinton's character during the second Presidential debate and explains why Dole's criticisms did not affect Clinton.
Stengel begins the article by discussing how American parents do not want their children to aspire to become President as much as they used to. Most Americans feel that someone else should do the job, and this person is no moralistic model. Stengel says that the people's negative portrait of the President is demonstrated in the roles the President plays in various movies and novels.
Stengel then discusses the second Presidential debate in which Dole said that Clinton "single-handedly contaminated the highest office in the land" and is the leading cause of the public's distrust of the government. The focus of Dole's campaign was not Clinton's issues, but his moral pertinence. The press were surprised by the fact that most people think that Dole has a better character than Clinton, but they still prefer Clinton as President. This notion comes from the reasoning that most Americans are only concerned with whether or not the country and its citizens are taken care of, and so disregard the President's moral imperfections which, in the people's opinion, have very little to do with the issues. So the President can cheat on his taxes or even his wife and the Americans will overlook it as long as he is getting the job done. Claims such as these lead some to believe that Americans' standards of acceptable moral behavior are going down.
Stengel mentions examples of different presidents and the issues that gave them a bad reputation to demonstrate the fact that the people's expectations of the President have fallen. When it comes to politics, Americans are becoming more European - that is, they are becoming more and more tolerant of the flaws in their leaders. This is why Dole's complaints are ineffective in convincing voters.
In my opinion, I think that Stengel is correct in saying that the reason why Dole's attacks are not working is voters are not concerned with the President's personal shortcomings, but rather his capability of running the country, and the two are not always closely related. I think that Bob Dole is going about the whole issue all wrong, and his tactics are not practical and may even backfire. He is trying to make Clinton look bad by insulting his character, but in doing so, Dole is revealing a lot about his own.
Take for instance the issue of Clinton and his playful attitude regarding his use of drugs. Dole is using a personal attack on Bill Clinton to make the constituents think that Clinton is a drug user saying that he used drugs during the '70s. I think the real issue here is not Bill Clinton's problem, but the question of what we are going to do to stop drugs. Dole made such an effort to attack Clinton, but I never heard what Dole had to say about the issue, and what he is planning to do about it. Looking from his family's point of view and taking into consideration the negative impact drugs has had in his family, I think that Clinton is definitely concerned about drug use in America.
I agree with Stengel's belief that this is the way a majority of the voters feel about Clinton. The lack of conviction that Dole claims is Clinton's character flaw is actually his personal strength. Voters see his being indecisive as "still searching for the answer." Instead of clinging to the same traditional values and principles, Clinton is flexible and can adapt to new concepts and vary along with the times. Like Stengel said, the citizens' expectations of the President are changing and I think the country needs a leader who can keep up with a changing world.