June 25th, 2024


For Trump: Character matters

Cal Thomas

By Cal Thomas

Published April 04, 2023

Leaving aside all the sometimes legitimate and sometimes illegitimate responses from defenders of former President Donald Trump following his indictment by a New York grand jury, there is something that would have made all the difference for the 45th president had he focused on it as his top priority, rather than himself.

That something is character. Dictionary.com defines the word: "the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing." There are those with good and bad character. People who demonstrate good character are generally trusted and thought highly of. Bad things are usually not said about them and any allegations are often disbelieved. When allegations are made against people with bad character, one tends to think any of them might be true. This is the case with Donald Trump.

Even though Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg made a campaign promise to "get Trump," and the case reportedly involves hush money paid to a porn star and testimony by Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen, who served time for facilitating those payments, it is Trump's bad character, displayed in many ways and over many years that has brought him to this breaking point.

One's character determines one's reputation; what others think of you. The late basketball coach John Wooden, who trained and motivated many young men to greatness, said: "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."

The two go together and one inevitably follows the other.

Pauline Phillips aka Abigail Van Buren, author of the "Dear Abby" column, wrote, "The best index to a person's character is how he treats people who can't do him any good, and how he treats people who can't fight back." Must I argue that point when it comes to Trump?

Someone should have taught Trump this in school or at home: "Character is not something that you buy; it is not a commodity that can be bartered for; it is not a quality that is suited only for the rich and famous; rather, character is built on the foundational commitment of love, honesty, and compassion for others." — Byron R. Pulsifer, author

Ancient wisdom has tried to teach us the importance of character. Proverbs 22:1 says, "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches…" That's wisdom for billionaires like Trump.

Back in the '90s, Larry Flynt, the publisher of pornographic magazines, was offering $1 million to anyone who could find dirt on "family values" members of Congress and other well-known religious or conservative leaders who were something different in their private lives than what they professed to be in public.


One day I ran into Flynt at Fox studios in New York. He told me he had done a background investigation of me. "Really?" I said. "Yeah," he replied. "We didn't find anything."

While I am far from sinless, Flynt didn't find the one sin he was looking for, because it doesn't exist. Parents, Scripture and in those days many schools, thought character was important to drum into young people.

Anne Frank said something similar in her World War II diary: "Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness…"

Today, it seems virtually any form of behavior is to be tolerated unless it leads to someone's death. The moral guardrails have been removed and we are reaping the consequences.

If Donald Trump had focused as much on building good character as he did on constructing buildings and being famous he likely would not be in the trouble in which he now finds himself.

And there's more trouble coming.


Cal Thomas, America's most-syndicated columnist, is the author of 10 books.