In this last election, many voters mistook rudeness for candor. Events of the last four years have demonstrated the magnitude of this mistake—a confusion in perception that could have been avoided if Stephen L. Carter’s distinction of a quarter-century ago had been kept in mind.
But with all due respect to this incisive thinker, I don’t think that this exhausts all that can be said about the word “integrity.” Many supporters of the now-departing White House regime were right to find Hillary Clinton—and, to a significantly greater extent, husband Bill—deficient in integrity.
It all goes back to the Latin root of the word, integer, meaning “whole” or “complete.” Even more than perpetrating a series of unnecessary lies and incomplete versions of the truth, “Billary” had, in their determination to “compartmentalize” their private personas from their public duties, presented one vision of themselves in opposition to another.
In one sense, their detractors in the electorate understandably wanted an end to the couple’s artifice and broken personas. Where they went wrong was failing to ponder in the Republican candidate four years ago the lack of mental and moral hard work needed for integrity cited by Carter—and in failing to calculate how multitudinous and malignant that opponent’s deceptions were compared with Ms. Clinton.
(The image of Stephen L. Carter accompanying this post was taken at the 2015 Library of Congress National Book Festival, Sept. 5, 2015, by fourandsixty.)