Clinton, Obama, McCain, Romney – Are There Ethics in Presidential Campaigns?

With New Hampshire behind them and other states primaries staring them squarely in the face – I wonder if the population feels that the front runners in this presidential campaign are ethical?

As I began to ponder that question, a larger more important question loomed. What is the definition of ethics or ethical behavior?

The copyrighted world wide definition of ETHICS involves two parts:

  • Doing specific things to make yourself and the world better, and
  • Avoiding doing other things so that you don’t needlessly hurt yourself, or others with bad personal judgement.

While I am sure that those who have clearly found the candidate they wish to support in this 2008 presidential election will have a strong opinion, the question is – do the front running candidates (thus far) have the ethics or ethical foundation to stay the course and make American’s proud?

All the candidates (as far as I can tell) would meet the first qualification for ethics – doing specific things to make yourself and your world better.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won New Hampshire’s Democratic primary Tuesday night, pulling out a stunning victory over Sen. Barack Obama in a contest that she had been forecast to lose.

“I come tonight with a very full heart and I want especially to thank New Hampshire,” she told a jubliant crowd at her campaign headquarters in Manchester. “Over the last week I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice.

Clinton has stated that she is an agent for change. She clearly wishes to get the message out that she desires to do something good for America.

Barack Obama speech excerpt: “We are choosing hope over fear. We’re choosing unity over division, and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America.

The time has come for a President who will be honest about the choices and the challenges we face; who will listen to you and learn from you even when we disagree; who won’t just tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to know.”

Obama, likewise, has a vision and passion for where he sees America headed. Clearly the first definition of Ethics – meet.

Senator John McCain speech excerpt: “We live in momentous times. We face a global threat from enemies for whom no attack is too cruel. The world is changing in profound ways. We need to make those changes work for us and for all people who share our beliefs in free markets and free people. Our government has failed to meet some of its most basic responsibilities and the American people have lost trust i n their leaders. This election is about big things, not small ones. We can’t muddle through the next four years, bickering among ourselves, and leave to others the work that is ours to do.”

McCain – ethical – yep – as far as the first definition goes as you can see from his remarks above.

Mitt Romney comments in a speech: “My campaign is about changing Washington to strengthen America: I want to build a stronger military, a stronger economy, and stronger families. I call these the three legs of the Republican stool. These three unite the coalition of conservatives that Ronald Reagan championed – defense conservatives, economic conservatives, and social conservatives.

“We won’t win the White House with only two out of three or one out of three. Republicans win the White House by motivating all three parts of our coalition to carry us to victory. We’re not going to beat Hillary Clinton by acting like Hillary Clinton.”

Well…by my account much less vision here with Romney than with the others, but it might be in appropriate to judge based on a quote from a speech.

The real issue with ethics won’t necessarily be found in the first part of the definition, that’s the easy part for most. Rather, it will be found in the second part. “Avoiding doing other things so that you don’t needlessly hurt yourself, or others with bad personal judgment.”

When the heat of the campaign arises – the real test will be who sticks to the VISION for the future of America or who gravels in the mud to sling the most dirt.

Chuck Gallagher - The Ethics Expert

Speaking of Ethics a little advertisement:

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