Character matters. Or does it?
First off, what is character? The term is used so often that, like other loaded words, it has come to reflect the argument of its user rather than denote an objective meaning.
My perspective on character can be summed up in an old saying. Its origins are in 1850s England, and it drifted around for over 150 years, changing slightly with the times. The adage found worldwide recognition with 2011’s ‘The Iron Lady’, in which screenwriter Abi Morgan lent it to Margaret Thatcher.
Here is my favored version, which was printed in an Indiana newspaper during 1885: “Plant a thought and reap a word; plant a word and reap an action; plant an action and reap a habit; plant a habit and reap a character; plant a character and reap a destiny.”
Hillary Clinton has made numerous attempts to impugn Donald Trump’s character. One of her most recent machinations was publicizing claims made by Venezuela’s Alicia Machado, the 1996 Miss Universe.
Machado alleged that Trump reacted negatively to her rapid weight gain. Specifically, the once-beauty star claimed Trump -- who owned the Miss Universe pageant until last year -- labeled her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping”; the latter on account of her Latin American background.
Machado’s claims have yet to be confirmed. This has not stopped Clinton’s campaign from parroting them, though. Listening to Hillary’s crew, one would imagine Machado a paragon of virtue; the hardworking immigrant who just gained citizenship and pledged to do her civic duty by voting against Trump.
You can practically smell the apple pie and see the Statue of Liberty. Or not.
“Venezuelans are turning in droves to a torrid real-life drama starring a former Miss Universe that promises to outdo the steamy soap operas that dominate local network schedules,” Reuters, as published in Turkey’s English-language ‘Hurriyet Daily News’, reported during 1998. “The latest twist in a story of shootings, threats, suicide and kidnapping came when a judge accused...Alicia Machado of threatening to kill him after he ordered her boyfriend’s arrest.”
Machado’s then-boyfriend, Juan Rodriguez, had a pregnant sister who committed suicide by jumping from a Caracas high-rise. Afterward, Rodriguez raged at his brother-in-law, apparently shooting him in the head and kidnapping his baby boy. Machado was identified as Rodriguez’s getaway driver.
Judge Maximiliano Fuenmayor recalled to Reuters that Machado “said she would make sure, using her friendship with the president (Rafael Caldera), that my career as judge is ruined and then she would kill me.”
Fuenmayor, the nicest of guys on Earth, opted against charging Machado. The arrest certificate he issued for Rodriguez hardly did any good; Machado’s beloved went fugitive.
By 2005, she had moved on -- both romantically and geographically.
She was engaged to Venezuelan-born Bobby Abreu, who rose to baseball prominence under the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets. Amid her engagement, Machado participated in the Spanish reality program ‘La Granja VIP’.
London’s ‘Daily Mirror’ noted that “during the show she struck up a romance with Spanish TV host Fernando Acaso. In X-rated scenes, Miss Machado is shown apparently having sex with Acaso in front of hidden cameras. In between gasps and moans she can be heard complementing his manhood.” When Machado returned to the states, her engagement with Abreu was over. In 2010, there was news of a very different hookup. After drug kingpin Gerardo Alvarez Vasquez was incarcerated, the Mexican Attorney General’s office concluded that he fathered Machado’s daughter.
“You know, I have my past,” Machado told CNN’s Anderson Cooper after the first Clinton-Trump debate. “Of course. Everybody has. Everybody has a past, and I’m not a saint girl, but that is not the point now.”
When allegations are made against someone, the source must be considered; its character subject to prime consideration. Machado’s record speaks -- if not screams -- for itself.
That Clinton was willing to take Machado at her word and allow this woman to represent Team Hillary is troubling. It speaks to Clinton’s own character issues. Like it or not, people are judged by the company they keep.
So, are you, as Clinton’s Machado-headlined campaign asks, “Ready for Hillary”?
Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at email@example.com