It happened at a speech in 2015 in South Carolina. Mr. Trump’s target was Serge Kovaleski, of The Times, who has arthrogryposis, a condition that leaves his right arm and hand bent and rigid. “You ought to see this guy,” Mr. Trump told his audience, flailing his own right arm and hand in the air, making spastic movements, disgracing himself. The act was contemptible, and in a way unbelievable: a future president showing the maturity and schoolyard viciousness of an 8-year-old.
This seems like a good example, because when you read this (and see the footage), it does prompt any decent person to wonder about the character of someone who would behave in such a manner. It is jaw-dropping, as we say here in the States. The common definition of character involves personal integrity, respectfulness towards others, honesty, diligence, accountability, grace under pressure, keeping of promises....I think you all can fill in the rest. We seem to believe, most of us, that character matters. And we know it when we see it. It is revealed through words and actions (maybe more in the latter, but in the sphere of politics words can sometimes function as actions, e.g. a president declares war and then certain things start happening).
So, does this cluster of personal attributes matter more, in proportion to the importance of the political office? Or does bad character get more "buffered" by the many layers of personnel who surround those in high office, or by the system of "checks and balances" built into a modern democratic system? How dangerous is a man of poor character when he's got access to the nuclear codes and leads a superpower? Not engaging in rhetoric here - it's a real question, because most of us have such an incomplete understanding of the inner workings of a modern nation-state.