The Washington Post

From Republican presidential candidates, no real courage

There is so little courage in politics, if you define courage as doing something against your interests for the sake of another's. In war, you see it most clearly: Someone puts his or her body down so others can live. But you see it more subtly throughout life: parents working two or three jobs so their kids can go to a better school; older kids taking time away from their own lives to help raise their younger siblings; teachers staying late, giving more to help a troubled student.  

But if the publisher were going to update John Kennedy's “Profiles in Courage,” what would the entries be for the last four decades? Michael Beschloss wrote a book on presidential courage, and he could only come up with one: Ronald Reagan’s work with Mikhail Gorbachev on nuclear disarmament.

The absence of courage is mostly about, I think, an inflated sense of self-value, that somehow there is no cause greater than self worth losing for. This explains why Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Ron Paul, all of whom have said repeatedly that Mitt Romney is a fraud and a sell-out to the  principles they hold so dear, would never consider dropping out of the race and endorsing a more worthy conservative than Romney. They must know that they cannot win, and that their continued presence as a group in the race guarantees their individual demise and Romney's victory. But if Gingrich got out and said he was throwing his support to Santorum, or vice versa, it would give the anti-Romney forces a chance to coalesce.

The chances of this are zero, but its impossibility is instructive. Politicians say they care about ideas and causes; mostly they care about themselves. No courage possible in that.


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