Paul Krugman is annoyed that the media focuses on character instead of the issues in election coverage, especially because the one character trait that actually matters -- intellectual integrity -- is put aside in favor of measuring sticks like "Would you have a beer with this candidate?" or "What do they do in their bedrooms?"
Such questions, he explains, are irrelevant to good governance -- unlike intellectual integrity, which he defines as "the willingness to face facts even if they’re at odds with one’s preconceptions, the willingness to admit mistakes and change course." He's not calling for an end to ideology, as he acknowledges that's impossible, only for a candidate with an "open mind" and a media that rewards him or her for it:
We’re talking about never admitting error, and never revising one’s views. Never being able to say that you were wrong is a serious character flaw even if the consequences of that refusal to admit error fall only on a few people. But moral cowardice should be outright disqualifying in anyone seeking high office.
Think about it. Suppose, as is all too possible, that the next president ends up confronting some kind of crisis — economic, environmental, foreign — undreamed of in his or her current political philosophy. We really, really don’t want the job of responding to that crisis dictated by someone who still can’t bring himself to admit that invading Iraq was a disaster but health reform wasn’t.
I still think this election should turn almost entirely on the issues. But if we must talk about character, let’s talk about what matters, namely intellectual integrity.