Would Barack Obama be an ethical president? That sounds like a silly question, but it is a salient question. As far as we know, Senator Obama has been a fairly ethical senator. If there had been much muck on him, the Clinton Machine would have let enough get out to smear him. The brief public history of Barack Obama does not reveal a fundamentally corrupt man.
But being a Leftist is inherently corrupting. Global warming, except for the willfully blind, is a Hitlerian Big Lie. When Speaker Nancy tells the media that the surge has not accomplished anything (something that even the New York Times would not say) then she is either speaking knowingly when she knows that she is ignorant or she is knowingly speaking falsely. Anyone who seriously proposes that government programs will solve social problems, rather than create social problems, is intellectually dishonest. So Obama, the most Leftist senator in the Senate, has the seeds of that political mendacity that ultimately turns men like the Jimmy Carter of 1976 into the perverse moral ugliness of ex-President Carter today.
Obama, as president, will have to be an ethical, lapsed Leftist or he will have to descend into the same immorality that characterized all Democrats who have become president. Why is becoming president such a defining event? Because Senator Obama can propose legislation, argue for legislation, and seek public support for legislation, but ultimately anything he does as a senator will be modified and refined by the input of the other 534 members of Congress as well as the president, who can veto the legislation. A legislator, even a United States senator, is ultimately just a proposer of ideas. Legislators do not have the duty to execute the law.
President Obama, on the other hand, will be the Chief Executive. The buck will stop with him. He will have the responsibility not for making the laws, but the higher moral responsibility of seeing that the laws are faithfully executed. That is why chief executives of lower governments, like states and cities, regardless of their ideology, are ultimately defined by their integrity as public officers.
So, conservatives had little trouble rallying around Mayor Giuliani, despite his Leftish positions, because he governed New York with a much higher decree of integrity that was typical for New York government. What was true of Giuliani was also true of Romney. It is also true of Huckabee. The perception of their success in office, whatever one thinks of the policies of the three, was largely a consequence of the fact that they behaved ethically.
Conservatives correctly sense that President Bush, who was Governor Bush before that, is an exceptionally ethical president, so his miscues and mistakes (which are many) are forgiven by conservatives who rightly judge ethical behavior to be the most important quality in a chief executive. Ethical behavior is also the lynchpin of leadership, which is something that we expect our president to provide.
But how can a Leftist lead, without first either abandoning Leftism or abandoning truth? Bill Clinton was not perceived as particularly Leftist when he was elected president. He was, in fact, perceived as less Leftist than most Democrats in Congress. His Leftism was manifested in the tapestry of lies and deceptions which provided leadership in the same sick way that Hitler's Big Lie provided leadership in Nazi Germany: It was leadership that lead to the moral debauchment of the presidency, the rise of pandemic cynicism, the use of goon squads, the selling of pardons, and all the rest that we associate with Clintonism.
Will Obama fall into this trap? Much depends upon how open he is to truth and how committed he is to decency following truth where it leads him. The balloons, shadows, shallow platitudes and media puppy love which have characterized his candidacy will fizzle very quickly when he becomes President Obama. Very quickly Obama will have to choose between Leftism and honor.
As the first black president, Obama will know that history will judge his actions critically. If he descends into the awfulness of Clinton, which means simply trying to be a Leftist president, then inevitably that will reflect on his race. That may not be fair, but it is fact. On the other hand, if Obama decides deliberately to be noble, then he will have to also abandon, bit by bit, the Leftism which he has worn his adult life. As one who has studied that pathology which we call the Left for many years, I know the grim statistics: moral survival is rare. But hope lives even when the odds are bad.