Crom’s Crommentary: As Midterms Approach, What Character Do We Seek in Our Leaders – and Therefore in Ourselves?

Live from Music Row, Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed the original all-star panelist Crom Carmichael to the studio for another edition of Crom’s Crommentary.


I read an article in The Wall Street Journal, and I would encourage everyone to go try to find this article and see if you can, see if they’ll let you see it at The Wall Street Journal if you don’t have a subscription, and let you read it anyway. It’s called “The Case for an American Revolution in Morals.”

And this is an article about a professor who’s also an author. His name is James Hankins, and he wrote a book called Virtue Politics: Soulcraft and Statecraft in Renaissance Italy. It’s really a great article about how our country was founded, and the suspicions that our founders had with government in general.

Because, let’s remember at that time that England was ruled by a king, and they had a parliament, or I think they did. But the king set the rules. Our folks, Americans, once we defeated the British in the American Revolution, and we started to try to come up with a document that would determine how our country would be governed. We call that the Constitution.

If you look at the philosophy of the Constitution, it assumes that people who ascend to government will become bad over time. And the purpose of the Constitution was to try to create checks and balances and enough disbursement of power so that a few bad people could not ultimately do terrible, terrible things.

And that gets back to the response that Benjamin Franklin gave to the lady that said, “what have you given us, Dr. Franklin?” And he said, “A republic, if you can keep it.” And so what this article is about is that no matter how hard you try to form a government and constrict a government, ultimately the effectiveness of the government and the freedom of the people under that government is determined by the moral character of the leaders themselves.

This article is not kind about the moral leadership of our country. And we’re not talking about just this administration. We’re talking about, frankly, in my lifetime. He goes all the way back to the middle of the last century and looks at the moral character of the people who led our country.

It made me stop and reflect. The book about Italy, there was a philosopher named Plutarch, and he was a humanist. And then there was another philosopher named Machiavelli. And Plutarch believed in the fundamental goodness of human nature.

Machiavelli took exactly the opposite approach to human nature itself. Machiavelli believed that human nature itself was not good and that people needed to have strong leadership in order for there to be a functioning civil society, however you want to define civil.

And so Machiavelli told the Medici family which was a very, very powerful family – told them what to do and how to rule. And a lot of it had to do with deception and telling people what they wanted to hear and then doing what “needed to be done.”

And Plutarch took the other position, that there’s an inherent good in people. Michael, that’s a great question as to whether or not people are fundamentally good. And here’s what I conclude: what I conclude is that people have to be taught what good is and what bad is.

They have to be taught character. But most people are teachable, and most people live more or less by the golden rule. Most people do. But people who seek to have political power aren’t necessarily of that character, and some of the people who seek political power are the opposite of that character.

We can see people throughout history who have been terrible, brutish leaders who have concluded that whatever it is that they chose to do had a positive moral purpose, even as terrible as Adolf Hitler was. And he was terrible by any definition. In his own mind, he had concluded that what he was doing was good for Germany and good for the world.

Now, that’s a crazy guy, but it doesn’t mean that a crazy person cannot ascend to political leadership. So it’s an interesting question to me, because I think 75 percent of the American people, regardless of parties, think the country is headed in the wrong direction.

And a majority even thought that even when things were going well. And so it’s an interesting question to me as we come into the midterms as to the character and what we should be looking for in our leaders and what we should want our leaders to do and then what we should also then expect from ourselves.

Listen to the Crommentary:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.


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