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Essay/Term paper: Stanley renshons' high hopes: clinton's actions

Essay, term paper, research paper:  History Essays

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Stanley Renshons' High Hopes: Clinton's Actions

Throughout Stanley Renshons' book, High Hopes: The Clinton Presidency
and the Politics of Ambition, the president's ability to govern has to do with
three main concepts: ambition, courage, and integrity. Proving this, Renshon
believes that the presidents psychology explains everything. "By examining the
range of choices available to the president as well as those he selects, both
within and across circumstances, one can begin to discern the underlying
patterns of psychology that shapes his behavior" (4). I tend to agree with
Renshon when he states that Clintons' psychology has a lot to do with how he
reacts to a given situation and performs all tasks bestowed upon him.
"The term character is derived from the Greek word meaning "engraving'"
(38). It can be defined as a trait or distinctive combination of traits. Bill
Clinton's personality, beliefs, and attitude are a very distinctive part of his
character. As Renshon states, "Character shapes beliefs, information processing,
and, ultimately, styles of behavior. It is therefore deeply embedded in the
foundation of psychological functioning" (38). The three elements of character
that Renshon states as being the "core" factors of a persons character are:
ambition, character integrity, and relatedness.
Ambition is a strong element is one's character which can be defined as;
a persons achievement and self regard. I tend to disagree with Renshon, when he
states that their is a danger with ambition, it "reinforces their sense of being
special… it may facilitate their grandiosity" (40). According to Microsoft
Bookshelf "95, grandiosity is someone or something that is characterized by the
greatness of scope of intent. Renshon says that childhood grandiosity is the
foundation of adult ambition and that this is all instituted by a person's
parents. I believe that a person's ambition is something that should be
elaborated on more often. It shows a person's moral and ethical beliefs.
A person's integrity is an important element when shaping a person's
ambition and relatedness, according to Renshon. Throughout the book, when
Renshon refers to a person's integrity, in actuality he is referring to their
honesty and how well they adhere to commendable values. The reason he is using
the vocable, character integrity is, the term shares the same perspectives but
uses a more "psychologically grounded perspective" (41). He believes that
ideals are an important part of the word integrity's definition. He states that
they are the framework for interpersonal and personal ethics, they show how a
person conducts themselves when dealing with many different types of situations,
they are a person's goals. "Ideals are aspirations that are often easier to
hold in the abstract than they are to live by the face of real-world temptations
and disappointments" (41). I feel that one's ideals are obtained early on in
one's life. In Clinton's experiences, those who influenced him and prepossessed
his ideals the most were his mother and stepfather. A president's integrity,
or lack of, suggests his basic motivations, skills, and ideals into an coherent
understanding of who he really is.
When one speaks of relatedness, I feel that they are referring to one's
relationships with others and how it is formed. Renshon used a very interesting
quote from Freud, which he first stated in 1921.
The contrast between individual psychology and social or group
psychology, which at first glance may seem to be full of significance , loses a
great deal of it's sharpness when it is examined more closely…In the
individual's mental life someone else is invariably involved, as a model as in
object, as a helper, as an opponent: and so from the very first individual
psychology…is at the same time social psychology as well (qtd. in 46).
Through the use of this quote, Renshon was able to prove that from the
start, "analytic theory stated that the others are always central to an
individual's psychological development and functioning" (46).
Every since Clinton was a child, he was always involved in many
activities. He had to always come out on top and be the best of the best, he
was always full of ambition. Throughout his presidency, Clinton has also shown
to be a very ambitious man. After an intense three hour meeting with the
president, Alan Greenspan said, "He wouldn't need a chief of staff. He would
be his own. The president-elect was not only engaged, he was totally engrossed
Even though I feel that having a lot of ambition is a positive quality
in a person, I have noticed that there are also a few downfalls to it. Renshon
feels that there are four skills that have facilitated Clinton's ambition.
They are: a high level of physical and emotional energy, the ability to invest
in one's work, a high level of understanding, and the ability to express one's
self and to engage in meaningful conversation.
Renshon says that, "a president who feels he can or must do everything
will not be able to delegate and will have problems setting appropriate limits
for himself and others" (57). He also states that since the president is so
motivated to be unconditionally involved, he runs the risk of overextending
himself both physically and psychologically.
Another complaint that has been made about Clinton's ambition, is his
need and ability to "wing it." Critics say that since Clinton is so intelligent,
he has a great advantage. This great ability allows him to rely on his ability
to pull something together at the last minute, and has been fairly dependable in
the past. However, Renshon feels that for a president this a potentially
dangerous psychology.
Intelligence is not equivocal with good decision making, or the level he
applies himself, these are matters of judgment and character. Intelligence also
doesn't guarantee that a situation is always going to go the way it was planned.
Just because he is president, doesn't mean he won't make mistakes, but it
alleviates the chances that it will reoccur. Understanding that once in a while
he will make mistakes, although he is not the type of man to openly admit it,
Clinton began his term by stretching the limits of government.
In the recent past we have learned again the hard lessons that there are
limits to what government can do-indeed, limits to what people can do. We live
in a world in which limited resources, limited knowledge and limited wisdom must
grapple with the problems of staggering complexity (66).
I feel that this quote has more to do with Clinton protecting himself
and all of his decisions throughout all of his term, instead of admitting there
was a problem.
Taking his ambition to the limit, Clinton proposed that he was "a
president who would return to traditional values and who, in discussing the
importance of personal responsibility, seemed to be conveying an appreciation of
the limits of government" (67). This new approach that Clinton swept his
nomination away with, is commonly being referred to as a New Democrat. Through
this approach Clinton believed he understood the limits of government, but, upon
gaining office he attempted to launch an, "ambitious personal and public agenda"
"Character integrity reflects our fidelity to our own ideals as we
pursue our ambitions and forge out identities" (69). Realistically and
psychologically a president must be committed to his own ideals and values. It
seems to be very important that a president's integrity reflects his ability to
maintain boundaries. Renshon ultimately refers to two specific questions that
can help one determine about character integrity: Is Clinton honest? Can
Clinton be trusted?
When examining the president's integrity, there are four interrelated
dimensions that must be examined. The first is the president's ideals and
values; where he draws the line that "separates right from wrong, yes and no"
(73). The last three concern fidelity and follow through, president's own
fidelity, and last is the concerns the president's degree of self confidence in
himself and his personal identity.
Political identity requires a clear, general consistent set of ideas and
values. When one refers to the "traditional Democrat, "New Deal liberal,
"goldwater conservatives," or "new Democrat," according to Renshon, they are all
relatively the same basic idea. Clinton and Gore have stressed that a New
Democrats policies are, "neither liberal of conservative, neither Democratic of
Republican. They are new. They are different. We are confident they will work"
When it comes to fidelity, "it reflects a person's willingness and
capacity to follow through on the commitments that he has chosen to the best of
his ability" (76). According to Microsoft Bookshelf '95, Fidelity means
faithfulness to obligations, duties or observances. I feel that in this
circumstance a related synonym that could be used is allegiance. In my opinion,
I feel that this is one of the most important characteristics a president should
have. Renshon points out many instances that Clinton has backed out of his
promises at the time, but some of the situations have become law since this book
was written. For example, one of Clinton's campaign promises was to raise the
minimum wage, and he never followed through. Again, in the 1994 midterm
election, in his State of the Union Address, again Clinton promised to purpose
an increase in the minimum wage, to only withdraw his statement the next morning.
During the last few months though, Clinton has been arguing with Congress to
get an increase past. After many hours of heavy dispute, Clinton got a bill
passed and the new minimum wage went into affect October 1, 1996.
Many might say that Clinton was just following through with his promises,
I still feel the only reason he did this was because he realized that the '96
election is approaching faster than he thought and wanted to make a better
presentation to the public.
Throughout this argument, the opposition stated that Clinton "could
change his mind in an instant" (83). This could be denoted as a logical and
psychological oxymoron. Renshon agrees with this metaphor but argues that,
"it is not impossible for a president to find some merit in divergent
views and still be able to apply his own developed framework of ideals and
values to sort through them. Not all views can have equal weight, and not all
claim equal worth. The ability to make these distinctions ultimately what
distinguishes judgment for empathy" (83).
Another instance where Renshon rebukes the "myth" about Clinton is when
critics viewed Clinton as a, "rambling, insistent defense of his own character."
Renshon feels that Clinton's self image is: "fair, open, honest, and genuinely
interested in responsive to others' points of view and concerns," (85) He also
feel that Clinton reflected a strong component of self-idealization, which most
people wish to think of themselves as.
Personally I feel that being ambitious is a very good quality but, I
also feel that there is a time when you are ambitious or over-confident. I feel
that this is one of Clinton's downfalls. For instance, Clinton feels that he
can make speeches without any notes, he can just do it off the top of his head.
Some might argue that a high level of confidence masks a deeper sense of
insecurity or it can even lead to vulnerability.
When one speaks of relatedness, one could also say, in psychological
theory, affiliation motive. Affiliation motive is the most common way of
examining a person's connection with others. To affiliate means to want to
belong, they are joiners and want to spend most of there time with others. In
others words, I feel that you can classify this type of person as being insecure.

Throughout this book, one can see that Clinton doesn't need to be liked,
he just desires the need for validation. "Validation is a more comprehensive
concept than respect, affection, or, more generally, an individuals need for
external assurances of his own positive self-image" (330).
On the outside, Clinton appears to be a very, "attractive, outgoing,
charming" man but in the inside, he has a very, "angry, demanding, entitled
inner psychology" (104). Many of his friends say that he wears a mask on the
outside hoping that it won't eventually reveal his inner-self.
"Clinton has been characterized frequently as a man who is too trusting,
but his persistent use of charm suggests otherwise. The use of charm can also
stem form the belief that if you don't use it, you cannot depend on others to
respond to you. Clinton's tendencies to mislead and equivocate, to market and
sell his policies rather than deal with his cost and implications honestly, and
his rages …" (105). To me, this again leads to a very interesting question, Is
Mr. Clinton trustworthy?
From the beginning of this book, I have been pondering that question.
Renshon makes many statements that could rebuke my idea, but I found that there
are many gaps in a lot of Clinton's ideas. He has made many promises but has
not followed through unless his idea's were going to be viewed in a positive
manner. I believe that he has plenty of good ideas and he is a very intelligent
man, but I tend to agree with critics when they say he is too smart for his own
good. He feels that he can do anything and with that ambition, it leads him to
overexert himself.
Through this book, I have learned to respect Clinton in a different way.
I have realized that there are reasons he reacts in the way he does. I believe
that he is a reliable man and can be trusted to a point. I would recommend this
book for one reason, to understand how the president reacts. I found it very
interesting to see how Clinton was so much like his mother. The whole section
revealed how Clinton became the man he is. Understanding Clinton to the extend
I know do makes me want to learn more about Dole so I can make a more educated
vote this November.


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