What is Character?

Published: April 14, 2023

By Jim Lichtman
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April 10: At least five people were killed in a shooting at a bank in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

March 27: A heavily armed assailant shot and killed three children and three adults at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee.

March 29: Eleven people were shot, one fatally, at two separate crime scenes in Memphis, Tennessee.

February 17: In Tate County Mississippi, a man went on a shooting rampage at multiple locations killing six people

How many more offenses to safety and common sense must the country endure?

April 7: Tennessee state representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were expelled by Republican lawmakers for standing in the well of the House and using bull horns to protest the latest mass shooting and the need for the legislature to take action. While the act required disciplinary action, their removal was clearly excessive. (Jones and Pearson have since been reinstated by their districts.)

How many more arrogant lawmakers must the country tolerate?

April 7: As reported, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas accepted trips for 2 decades from a Republican donor without reporting them.

How many more offenses to ethics must the country suffer?

May 20, 2022: Ignoring the facts of the 2020 election, Justice Thomas’s wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas personally reached out to 29 Arizona Republican lawmakers by email encouraging them to change the outcome of the election in favor of President Donald Trump.

Clearly, Justice Thomas is unfamiliar with the phrase, “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.” Justice Thomas has seriously undermined the public’s confidence in his decision-making and stained the highest court in the country.

April 6, 2023: US House Judiciary Committee Chair, Jim Jordan issued a subpoena to former New York special assistant district attorney Mark Pomerantz to appear before his committee regarding the Stormy Daniels case after Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted former President Donald Trump on 34 counts of falsifying business records regarding payments to Daniels.

January 2022: Jordan refused to honor a subpoena by the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection of the Capitol.

How many acts of hypocrisy must the country experience?

How many in Congress are aware of the honesty and integrity demonstrated by a Senator from Michigan?

In his 1950, biography, Michael O’Brien writes that “Senator Philip Hart was known as an author and sponsor of important legislation in the areas of civil rights (he was a leader in the fight for the 1956 Voting Rights Act), antitrust enforcement, and consumer and environmental protection.  But most unusual, then and today, Hart frequently took difficult, courageous stands on issues directly against his own political self-interest. In late 1968, for example, a staff aide on the Senate Antitrust and Monopoly Subcommittee, which Hart chaired, proposed that the subcommittee investigate the automobile industry. As recounted in O’Brien’s book, Hart met the aide, Donald Randall, in the hallway:

“‘Don, I understand you’re recommending we go into investigation of the automobile business,’ Hart observed.

“‘Yes, sir,’ said Randall.

“‘Do you know that I’m running for re-election next year?’

“‘Yes, sir.’

“‘Do you know I’m from Michigan?’

“‘Yes, sir.’

“‘You know that the biggest business in my state is the auto industry, don’t you?’

“‘Yes, sir.’

“‘And do you know that if I lose, you lose?’

“‘Yes, sir.’

“‘Do you still want to do it?’ Hart asked.

“‘Yes, sir,’ Randall replied.

“‘Well,’ Hart said, ‘go do it.’

“One of the outcomes of Hart’s hearings was the 1970 Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act, which mandated fragility standards for assembling automobiles. Motor Trend magazine said, ‘Senator Hart is a man of courage. To attack a problem as large and politically explosive as automobile repair, especially for a Senator from Michigan, the home of the auto industry, is no small undertaking.’

“Hart was also upset by monopolistic practices in the communications and newspaper industry, and he held hearings on the subject. He was one of the few dissenting voices against the Newspaper Preservation Act in 1970, which gave a special exemption to competing newspapers that merged their business operations and fixed their advertising rates. ‘Swift congressional rescue of the publishers,’ Hart observed, ‘must make fascinating reading for the blacks who, until the 1964 Civil Rights Act, had waited decades for relief from court convictions for eating in certain restaurants and hotels.’

“Today a Senate office building is named after Hart, and inscribed in marble is the following:

“This building is dedicated by his colleagues to the memory of Philip A. Hart with affection, respect, and esteem. A man of incorruptible integrity and personal courage strengthened by inner grace and outer gentleness, he elevated politics to a level of purity that will forever be an example to every elected official. He advanced the cause of human justice, promoted the welfare of the common man, and improved the quality of life. His humility and ethics earned him his place as the conscience of the Senate.’”

When will we see such integrity again?


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