Hey, it’s National Character Counts week. How are you going to celebrate?

You mean you didn’t know? Sure President Clinton declared it so — Oct. 18-24. You still have time to make your plans, so get busy.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to commemorate this solemn occasion, perhaps you should look to the president himself for an example.

“One of the greatest building blocks of character is citizen service,” said Clinton in his exciting announcement last week about National Character Counts Week. “We must do more as individuals and as a society to encourage all Americans — especially our young people — to share their time, skills, enthusiasm and energy with their communities. Whether we teach children to read, mentor young people, work at a food bank or homeless shelter, or care for people living with AIDS, citizen service calls forth the best from each of us. It builds a sense of community, compassion, acceptance of others and a willingness to do the right thing — all hallmarks of character.”

I wonder if this is the method Clinton used to build his own rock-solid character? After all, he’s been involved in “public service” all of his life. So committed to citizen service is Bill Clinton that he never really had time for a regular job outside of government.

And make no mistake, by “citizen service,” Bill Clinton means “government work.”

He boasts in his proclamation about the 90,000 young men and women who “have served their communities through AmeriCorps during the past four years, tutoring students, mentoring children, building homes, fighting drug abuse.” And what is AmeriCorps? It’s not a volunteer program coordinated by the government. It is a boondoggle that hands out your hard-earned tax dollars to hire “volunteers” to work in such programs.

Does that build character? Is that the kind of public service Bill Clinton is talking about? You bet it is. It’s a program his administration invented. It costs millions of dollars — money that could be diverted directly to help those in need, but instead gets filtered through Washington and used to pay for the kinds of programs we used to call charity.

If working for the government, as Bill Clinton suggests, built character, he should be the paragon by which we measure it. Has it worked out that way? I don’t think I have to answer that. Even the president’s fiercest defenders admit he’s a little challenged in the character department.

But now we begin to understand why. It seems Clinton doesn’t even understand what character is, nor how one develops it.

“During National Character Counts Week, let us reaffirm to our children that the future belongs to those who have the strength of character to live a life of service to others,” Clinton concluded.

Character is better defined by our behavior when no one is looking than by our behavior when we are out in public.

There are lots of motivations for people to devote their time to what Clinton calls public service. Just look at what the president has received from it. He uses this life he built and the power he has accumulated from it to get dates.

Even people who give their lives over to more traditional forms of charitable work often derive some kind of benefit from it themselves — intangible, though it may be.

The real acts of charity and citizen service that relate to character are done in secret. They have nothing to do with government. They certainly have little to do with taxpayer subsidies. And they certainly don’t initiate from the most corrupt, unethical, law-breaking White House in the history of the American Republic.

Character? Bill Clinton is a character, all right. The very fact that he can issue such a proclamation with a straight face and no sense of shame or embarrassment, after dragging this once great nation through scandal after scandal, crime after crime, shows he is a very unusual person. But character?

Character has to do with moral constitution, strength, self-discipline. Are these traits that make you think of Bill Clinton? So why is Bill Clinton lecturing the nation on character?

Because he’s trying to redefine it. Since he doesn’t have any character, Clinton seeks to change the definition in a way that suits him.

So how should we celebrate this new national holiday? I would say it would be a good time to ensure that the congressional candidate you vote for in two weeks has some character — and some backbone, some common sense and some moral courage.

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