Cal Thomas: For Donald Trump: Character matters

From the commentary: 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.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at an election campaign event on Jan. 28, 2023, in Columbia, South Carolina.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at an election campaign event on Jan. 28, 2023, in Columbia, South Carolina.
(Logan Cyrus/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

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.

Cal Thomas commentary
Cal Thomas Commentary
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Summary: I once heard the late evangelist Rev. Billy Graham say America was not at a crossroads, but had traveled down the wrong road and needed to come back to the crossroads and take the right road. What if we can no longer agree on the right road and where the wrong road is leading us?
Summary: Donald Trump would do well to withdraw from the field and allow younger and less controversial candidates to replace him. His record of policy successes while president are undeniable (except for those in denial), but his narcissistic personality contributed to his loss. It is also contributing to the work of the January 6 committee. If that committee wishes to "bring us together," it will forgo recommendations of criminal prosecution and let voters decide, as they should and ultimately will, the future of Donald Trump.
Summary: When rhetoric gets heated, perhaps the best way to be heard is to speak in a tone Scripture attributes to God โ€” "a still, small voice." As noted by the writer of Proverbs: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
Summary: Many viewers might want to know why Congress can't seem to fix any of the country's real problems. That perennial question is why increasing numbers of Americans have grown sour about Washington. They see members of Congress more interested in re-election, in their careers and in perks than in the people they are supposed to represent.

That something is character. 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." โ€”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..."

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From the commentary: Now it is up to the whips in the Congress to deliver. I always get nervous when politicians start talking about what the "American people" want, as if anyone can speak for a monolith, let alone one as divided as we are.

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.

This Cal Thomas commentary is his opinion. He can be reached at

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