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
(56).
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