Aesop’s fable is on trial: Will presidential candidates be judged by the company they keep?

One of the renowned Greek storyteller Aesop’s 725 fables was called “The Donkey and His Purchaser.” In summation a man wished to purchase a donkey and decided to give the animal a trial to see how the donkey would fit in with his herd.

He took the donkey home and put him 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 the donkey-on-trial would also become lazy and greedy. The moral of the story: a man is known by the company he keeps (www.grammarits.com and Greta Dsouza).

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 who our mainstream 2024 presidential candidates associate with assist America’s 161.4 million registered voters in picking out who to vote for on Nov. 5? Your choice for president could also be a direct reflection on your judgment capability, moral standards and character.

Let’s examine Biden and Trump’s respective election associates as they seek to become the 47th president of America.

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

Biden’s national campaign co-chairs include Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (Delaware), Rep. Jim Clyburn (S. Car.), Sen. Chris Coons (Delaware), Sen. Tammy Duckworth (Illinois), Jeffrey Katzenberg (media proprietor), Louisiana Emeritus Rep. Cedric Richmond (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.

The remainder of Trump’s re-election campaign aides, allies, assistants and associates who — according to Reuters News — have faced criminal prosecution include 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 the Reuters News list by what MSNBC has 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 include Jeffrey Clark, John Eastman, Jenna Ellis, Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows.

The right-wing conservative-based Wall Street Journal notes to 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, alleged for mishandling — with Trump — federal secret classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

And, let’s not forget Trump acolytes and Republican Representatives Andy Biggs (Arizona), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Kevin McCarthy (California) and Scott Perry (Pennsylvania) have violated Congressional ethics rules by defying legitimate Congressional subpoenas related to their involvement in or knowledge of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol meant to overturn the results of a free and fair election.

The Washington Post described the number of people in Trump’s orbit “who’ve been convicted of crimes is so great” as a “remarkable universe of criminality.” Those statements were made 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, character and 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.


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


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