Clinton our choice, and a clear one


The Ledger-Enquirer editorial board endorses Hillary Rodham Clinton for president of the United States.

This call is not close. Her opponent, Donald Trump, lacks even so fragile a grasp of core American principles as to make it past Amendment 1: He has repeatedly threatened to muffle the media and retaliate against critics once he is in office.

Ours is not a backhanded endorsement. Clinton, by experience, competence, temperament and familiarity with how the American constitutional republic actually works, is qualified for the presidency.

She has a history of public service, especially with regard to children’s issues, that dates back to her college years. She is almost universally acknowledged, even by Trump, to be a diligent and tireless worker. The Dallas Morning News noted, in its first presidential endorsement of a Democrat since World War II, that more than two-thirds of Clinton’s bills as a U.S. senator had Republican co-sponsors, so her ability to work across party lines is a matter of record.

She left her post as secretary of state in 2013 — after the tragic events in Benghazi, but before they had morphed from tragedy to would-be political scandal — with a 69 percent approval rating, according to the Wall Street Journal. Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser to two Republican presidents, said Clinton “helped broker a cease fire between Israel and Hamas, assembled a global coalition to impose sanctions on Iran, and played a crucial role in persuading Iran to accept limits on its nuclear program.”

Her flaws and failings are real, and all too well known. Her use of a private server for classified emails was not just stunningly bad judgment, but a national security threat. Her shifting and contradictory explanations — for the email flap, for access through her office to the Clinton Foundation, for flip-flops on policies like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which she helped craft — are beyond troubling. They reflect an infuriatingly familiar Clintonian hubris about accountability.

But Donald Trump’s pathological disdain for the truth — indeed, for documentable historical fact — is nothing short of reckless, and dangerous. He perpetuated the ridiculous and racist “birther” myth about Barack Obama with one lie, and has since tried to negate it with another. He has blamed President George W. Bush for the terror attacks of 2001. He insinuated that Sen. Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the JFK assassination. He shamelessly claims to have opposed events and decisions (the Iraq war, the Libya invasion) he is on record as having supported. He says Clinton “created ISIS.”

As a catalogue of Trump lies, that’s among the shortest of short lists.

Many in his own adopted party are repelled by Trump. Some, like John Kasich and John McCain, have publicly repudiated him, and others, including former Sen. John Warner of Virginia, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Whitman and, most recently, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, have endorsed Clinton.

Some voters might understandably justify a vote for Trump as a principled matter of supporting a conservative platform, including the naming of future Supreme Court justices. But Trump is by no credible definition a conservative, and the specifics of any “platform” are anybody’s guess. (He says he will “destroy” ISIS, spend tens of billions more for defense, save programs like Social Security and senior entitlements and rebuild the American infrastructure … all while cutting taxes.)

As for the idea of either a President Clinton or a President Trump stocking the courts with ideologically correct judges, Senate Republicans have already exposed that self-refuting fallacy by holding an eminently qualified Obama nominee in indefinite political limbo. Court appointments are not unilateral executive decisions.

What we do know about Trump’s idea of leadership ranges from bizarre to horrifying. He thinks he can simply dissolve trade and defense agreements. He has advocated torturing terror suspects and killing their families. In the last two debates, he repeatedly demanded of Clinton why she hadn’t “done anything about” tax loopholes and other matters of law, apparently oblivious to the political math of unilateral legislation by one senator in a chamber of 100. He still thinks we can build a wall along the Mexican border and make Mexico pay for it. He has proposed banning not just Muslim immigrants, but anybody from any country that has experienced terrorism. (Trump, one of whose most revolting lies is that American Muslims cheered the attacks on us in 2001, seems to have forgotten that the United States is one such country.)

Even worse are his irresponsible appeals to racism, nativism, islamophobia, misogyny and paranoia. The 2016 standard-bearer for the party of Lincoln has aggressively courted the meaner angels of our nature.

Hillary Clinton has been acknowledged by prominent officials, past and present, Democrats and Republicans, as capable and qualified to perform the duties of the presidency. If for no other reason (and there are countless others) than his disdain for that freedom the Founders chose to enshrine before all the others, Donald Trump is unfit for such a daunting responsibility.