The following essay is a slightly edited version of a letter I left in response to this article by Joan Walsh that was posted on circa January 14, 2010.

Thank you for giving us your analysis of this book, Joan. I haven't read it yet myself, but after what you said about it I am not sure I should, though I might do so just to be as fair as possible to the authors.

A few things I would like to say about this topic.

How important are the personalities and character traits of our politicians? Based on all my years of interest and activism in politics I would opine that while these traits aren't entirely insignificant, our modern culture puts too much emphasis on them and too little on what the policies of the candidates are. I am sick of seeing people support and/or vote for politicians (both Republican and Democratic) on the basis of how charming they come off in public, how articulate and sophisticated they are when they make a speech, how attractive they may be, how much people get the impression that they can sit down and have a beer with them, or what their personal opinions are in regards to "wedge" issues that should never be in doubt or "controversial" in a truly democratic system in the first place (e.g., gay marriage, the legality of abortion and use of contraceptives, what their religious beliefs are, whether or not their "family values" are traditional enough, sex education, etc.).

Are modern Americans unaware that Hitler was reportedly an amiable individual in person who gladly signed autographs for his supporters, was a terrifically gifted and articulate speaker who could really excite his audience, and that he was known for being kind to children in person (provided said children were fellow Aryans, of course)? Considering what Hitler did to the world, I think we should take the lesson that what his policies consisted of ultimately trumped the importance of his supposedly positive personality traits by a vast degree. Yet it can hardly be doubted that Hitler's personality traits and oratory skills went a long way towards getting an entire nation to follow such a dangerous psychopath.

I sympathize with your statement that women were treated particularly badly in the book you described in your article [linked above]. I must say, however, as I have said in the past, I am totally puzzled by the Right's incessant hatred of Hillary Clinton. She is a card-carrying "centrist" along the lines of her husband and a diligent warmonger and chronic capitulator to the Right who would give the Republicans in Congress over 90% of what they wanted had she been elected. The only possible reason they could hate her so much is because she is a Democrat and that party would end up getting credit for doing what the Republicans like doing best if she was elected instead. She has continued capitulating to the Republicans on numerous issues since being appointed to Secretary of State, but since she is not a member of their party, they still take pot shots at her no matter what she does. As much as I like Al Franken, I think he was smoking something when he once called Hillary a "visionary" on Bill Maher's HBO talk show.

This is the exact same simplistic reason why the Right attacks Bill Clinton and President Obama so much no matter how much either of them shifted as far to the Right as any right-winger on any number of issues, such as how friendly they are to Wall Street and how many wars they may be fighting at any given time. I don't think the problem with the Republicans is nothing more than good old-fashioned sexism, since the Right has proven more than willing to embrace women with destructive policies and impulses as long as they are Republicans, such as Sarah Palin, Michele Malkin, and (especially!) Ann Coulter, the latter of whom is one of their most beloved engines of destruction. Though I think it's wrong for the Right to say things about Hillary that aren't true and to jump on her for her normal human foibles that the Republicans themselves doubtlessly have in abundance themselves, I am not going to go out of my way to defend her simply because she is a Democrat or simply because she is a woman, because her policies and level of personal integrity are putrid.

I would have loved to have seen a woman become president, but I would be consigned to a decade in Guantanamo before I voted for someone with Hillary's principles and credentials. I really wanted to vote for Cynthia McKinney, who ran on the Green ticket, but I ended up being talked into voting for Obama by a friend of mine instead simply because I had to face a hard fact: as great as McKinney was in terms of policies and principles, she wasn't electable and Obama was, and this despite the fact that McKinney would have made a far better candidate than either him or Hillary. If McKinney got elected, at least then the Right would actually have a good reason for hating her, and we progressives would have had a good reason for liking her.

So while I think it is important to consider the personalities of those we elect to control--er, lead the country (sorry, it slipped out!), I am far more interested in what their foreign and domestic policies are and what types of laws they support than I am with whether or not they are religious, what they think of gay marriage (as long as they are not for criminalizing it), whether or not they use profanity when they speak (didn't Nixon swear a lot?), or what they like to do with their partners in the privacy of the bedroom. I just don't like when the Republicans attack progressives for their "immoral" personal behavior when they often hypocritically do the exact same things in their own lives. By the same token, I do not like it when people of any political affiliation support or like politicians solely--or largely--on the basis of how likable they are as a person and personal lifestyle choices that have nothing to do with major things which actually effect the personal lives of people in society, such as the economy, war, civil liberties, etc.