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Aesop’s fable: Will candidates be judged by the company they keep?

Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn is among the many Trump campaign allies who have faced criminal prosecution.

Brooks Kraft/ Getty Images

Corbin is professor emeritus of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa.

One of Aesop’s 725 fables was called “The Donkey and His Purchaser.” In the renowned Greek storyteller’s tale, a man wished to purchase a donkey and decided to give the animal a trial to see how it would fit in with his herd. He took the donkey home and put it in the field with the other donkeys. Quickly the donkey on trial joined the laziest and greediest donkey. Seeing who the new donkey chose to spend time with, the man returned the donkey back to its owner because he knew it would also become lazy and greedy. The moral of the story: A man is known by the company he keeps.


Likewise, a parallel five-word phrase from the Bible speaks volumes: “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

The phrases are all about ethics and morals. If you hang around dishonest people, your association with them reflects a lack of good judgment, moral standards and character. Might an examination of our 2024 presidential candidates’ associations assist America’s 161.4 million registered voters when they decide how to fill in their ballots on Nov. 5? Your choice for president could also be a direct reflection on your judgment, moral standards and character.

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Let’s examine Joe Biden’s and Donald Trump’s respective election associates.

To date, Biden’s re-election campaign is based upon seeking advice, guidance and counsel from Julie Chavez Rodriguez (campaign manager), Quentin Fulks (principal deputy campaign manager) and Mike Donilon (chief strategist).

Biden’s national campaign co-chairs include Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (Del.), Rep. Jim Clyburn (S.C.), Sen. Chris Coons (Del.), Sen. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), media proprietor Jeffrey Katzenberg, former Rep. Cedric Richmond (now Democratic National Committee senior advisor) and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Thirteen others assisting in Biden’s re-election campaign include Colleen Coffey, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Mia Ehrenberg, Grace Landrieu, Charles Lutvak, Alana Mounce, Kevin Munoz, Michael Pratt, Michael Press, Roohi Rustum, Sara Schreiber, Becca Siegel and Michael Tyler.

None of Biden’s 23 re-election associates have a criminal record, are under investigation or on trial.

Donald Trump’s national staff campaign is composed of two co-campaign managers (Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles), two senior advisors (Brian Jack and Jason Miller), Steven Cheung as communications director and Karoline Leavitt as national press secretary. These individuals have no criminal record.

But other Trump campaign aides, allies, assistants and associates — according to Reuters – have faced criminal prosecution, including Steve Bannon, Elliot Broidy, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Peter Navarro, Stewart Rhodes (Oath Keepers), Roger Stone and Allen Weisselberg.

Four more people can be added to what MSNBC referred to as “Trump’s team of felons”: Tom Barrack, Kenneth Chesebro, George Papadopoulos and Sidney Powell. USA Today claims five additional Trump election associates who’ve had legal trouble of their own: Jeffrey Clark, John Eastman, Jenna Ellis, Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows.

The right-wing Wall Street Journal notes that we should not forget Ray Smith III (one of Trump’s 18 co-defendants in the criminal conspiracy to alter the outcome of the 2020 Georgia election) plus Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, who allegedly mishandled — with Trump — federal classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

And let’s not forget Trump acolytes in the House — Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Scott Perry (Pa.) — who have violated ethics rules by defying legitimate congressional subpoenas related to their involvement in or knowledge of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol meant to overturn the results of a free and fair election.

The Washington Post reported the number of people in Trump’s orbit “who’ve been convicted of crimes is so great” and a “remarkable universe of criminality.” That article was published in 2019. The size of Trump’s current universe of criminality is even more daunting.

William J.H. Boetcker (1873-1962), a revered Presbyterian minister, is credited for stating, “A man is judged by the company he keeps and a company is judged by the men it keeps, and the people of Democratic nations are judged by the type and caliber of officers they elect.”

What will be the caliber of officers we the people elect on Nov. 5? Will the ethics, morals, judgment and character of the company Biden and Trump respectfully keep be a plausible voting guide? Your good (or poor) judgment, moral standards (or not) and character (or lack thereof) may very well be measured by who you vote for on Nov. 5.

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