You’ve caught me on a bad day. I don’t want to keep talking politics. But, as when I’m driving and find myself in a gawker’s delay due to a train wreck, I simply can’t stop myself from slowing down to take a look. It’s embarrassing really.

Our current situation is that train.

The midterms are less than a month away and the absolute worst behaviors by our elected officials and those wishing to be elected are on full display – no better angels on either side here!

New reports show our national debt to be ballooning out of control. Healthcare availability and cost plague our citizenry. Full-time workers cannot support their families. Dire predictions about our environment have been documented by international experts. Our infrastructure is deteriorating by the second; and all sense of the “heart” of our nation has been pushed aside, with outright lies ignored, to make way for monetary considerations, ideologies and power plays.

Two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and noted presidential scholar Doris Kearns Goodwin is promoting her new book "Leadership in Turbulent Times." The state of our nation and the presidential terms of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson came under her meticulously researched scrutiny. All four had to deal with a country divided, questions of dramatic national changes, and fear by many that the fabric of our country was unraveling. Sound familiar?

While not a stated theme of the book, from her descriptions of these leaders one has to surmise that their great accomplishments were due in no small measure to their basic character.

Teddy Roosevelt said that the most important role of a president is to set an example for the country. Character, with a bit of calming temperament thrown in, is essential for a good leader.

I don’t know about you. I’m not seeing either from anyone in Washington.

I saw a joint interview of two former secretaries of state – Democrat Madeline Albright and Republican Colin Powell – dealing with our current foreign policy.

In their interview, they were lamenting just how devastating our current foreign policy decisions are. Both stated that the world is watching and cannot believe what is happening in our country. We are doing things like separating mothers and children. We have retreated, rhetorically or otherwise, from agreements and alliances that have served as a bulwark against anti-democratic forces. And, perhaps most importantly, the increasing divisiveness of U.S. politics is causing alarm internationally.

Albright drew parallels between what is happening in our country to dictatorships. "There [are] a lot of ... steps that don't seem big at the time, but if you put them all together, they are moving more and more into a direction where there is no respect for institutions, where we call the press the enemy of the state, where the President thinks he's above the law..."

An outside observer acquainted with our history as a nation would have to conclude that the very character of our country has changed – and not for the better.

The theme in all of this is the question of character.

It’s all about character and we better start reestablishing ours as a nation if the democracy upon which we pride ourselves is to survive.

Wendy J. Levenfeld is a published novelist, playwright and columnist. Send comments to Visit Wendy’s website at

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