Let’s make clear what the 2016 presidential election isn’t about:
It is not about choosing between a bad candidate and a worse one. The narrative that Hillary Clinton is the lesser of two evils is patently wrong. Ms. Clinton is a pragmatic, tough-minded woman of accomplishment and political conviction with a demonstrated mastery of policy. She is politically flawed. However, Donald Trump is a damaged human being.
It’s not about an entertaining, shoot-from-the-hip renegade outsider taking on a mainstay of the entrenched political elite. That was Sarah Palin vs. Joe Biden back in 2008. No, Mr. Trump is the elite, one who has managed to talk a good game to fire up frustrated and frightened mostly white Americans with a campaign of hate and xenophobia.
For her part, Ms. Clinton has used her insider status to work aggressively on behalf of the disenfranchised, here and around the world. She has not won every battle, but she fights the good fight, and she fights the right ones in the name of equality and democracy.
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It is not about Bill Clinton. He’s not running for president. Been there, done that.
It’s far more important for Americans to understand what election 2016 is about: Most starkly, our values, our national identity and even the enduring power of the Constitution are in question — and at stake. Most simply, Americans will define just who we are.
And Hillary Clinton is by far the best person in this race to lead us to a definition of which we can be proud. She will protect the best interests of this nation, its standing on the world stage and even democracy itself.
THE CASE FOR HER
Ms. Clinton, as we have said throughout the campaign, is not spotless. She has been slow to admit error, as in the email controversy. In that case and others, she has shown a penchant for secrecy and an unfortunate tendency to dismiss legitimate criticism as uninformed or ill-intentioned.
But what she offers is an actual record of accomplishment and a willingness to take on hard challenges. Throughout her career, Ms. Clinton has been a leader, not a follower.
She has not won all of her policy battles, most notably failing early in her husband’s administration to reform the healthcare industry. But in that instance and so many others she had the courage to speak up, as when she declared in Beijing in 1995 that women’s rights are human rights.
She has fought for the right causes. She was one of the first on the national level to press for ways to stop gun violence and to protect the planet from climate change. She has been a lifelong advocate of children and families, championing the Children’s Health Insurance Program that now covers millions of lower-income kids.
IN THE SENATE
As a U.S. senator from New York, Ms. Clinton joined the Armed Services Committee and did her homework well enough to earn the respect of legislative experts on the military and national security like Sen. John McCain, the Vietnam hero whom Mr. Trump disparaged early in his campaign. She was a serious, engaged, productive legislator and showed a surprising ability for bipartisan collaboration, which will stand her in good stead in the White House when she must work with Congress to overcome paralyzing gridlock. She successfully fought for giving full benefits to 9/11 rescue workers and the families of survivors, building the kind of legislative record that won over the skeptics in New York who had once labeled her a carpetbagger.
SECRETARY OF STATE
Her dogged determination and inexhaustible energy — it’s called stamina, Mr. Trump — were on display when as secretary of State she circled the globe to repair America’s image and reputation with friend and foe alike after a trying period during the preceding administration. Her efforts to impose sanctions on Iran and force that country to the negotiating table over its nuclear program have made the world safer.
Though she failed to “reset” relations with Russia, she never indulged in any false illusions about Russian intentions or flirted with Vladimir Putin in the shameless way that Mr. Trump has. She knows who America’s allies and enemies are. Mr. Trump, to judge from his statements, doesn’t have a clue.
Ms. Clinton understands the urgency of climate change, and as her recent local appearance with former Vice President Al Gore highlights, she gets that South Florida is Ground Zero for the ravages of sea-level rise. More important, Ms. Clinton has laid out a multi-pronged achievable plan to tackle it. Mr. Trump, by the way, has said climate change is a hoax perpetrated by China.
A Clinton presidency would mean a similar policy toward Cuba as launched by President Obama, but Ms. Clinton would likely carry a bigger stick in demanding that the Castro government display concrete examples of human-rights reform before the United States makes further concessions.
And Ms. Clinton may take a similar stance against Venezuela’s “chavista” government of Nicolas Maduro in demanding more civilian reforms.
For Haiti, a Clinton administration would likely be good news given the Clintons’ work there following the devastating 2010 earthquake.
Ms. Clinton has been a solid defender of the Jewish state. While in the Senate, she supported Israel’s right to build a security barrier and co-sponsored legislation to block foreign assistance to Hamas. As secretary of State, she affirmed that should Iran launch a nuclear attack on Israel, it would “incur massive retaliation from the United States.” Israel will have a long-lasting friend in the Clinton White House.
TRUMP IS UNFIT
Mr. Trump’s demerits are well-documented — in print, on video, on the debate stage. And they are legion, so the CliffsNotes version will do:
The billionaire Republican candidate is a boastful, self-centered egomaniac who lacks a record of public service or familiarity with the issues. Indeed, he clearly seems to lack any political convictions whatsoever, except those of convenience.
He’s the star of this political reality show of his own making, a sick parody of a real political contest. He’s the ringmaster of a circus that attempts to conceal his lack of gravity by relying on the entertainment value of insults, exaggerations, lies and promises completely devoid of credibility and substance, characterized by his pie-in-the-sky vow to “make America great again.”
It’s telling that it has played so well.
Americans are legitimately — even universally — frustrated with our dysfunctional government and the two-party system. There are many causes for the problems that plague us: hyper-partisanship; the outsized voice that our campaign finance system gives people of great wealth; the lack of civics education; the coarsening of public discourse — to name a few.
The media — both entertainment and news — also share blame. Talk radio and cable TV play to what divides us, and too many of us have reveled in the carnival that the 2016 election process has become. Too often, the media have irresponsibly valued style points and show biz over facts. Mr. Trump has seized on these opportunities.
And he has given voice to many voters’ anger and forced us all to grapple with it. He deserves credit for that. But nothing more.
His repeated demonization of Mexicans, immigrants, women and African Americans, among others, has brought campaign rhetoric to its nadir. His vile words in that 2005 “Access Hollywood” video were not so much a revelation, but rather more of the same sordid history. His business dealings have been called into question; he has threatened to abandon our allies while praising our enemies; he has claimed to have a secret plan to defeat ISIS and boasted that he knows more about the terrorist group than America’s generals, insulting some prominent military veterans and war heroes along the way. He has waffled on torture, abortion and his proposed ban on Muslims; he has claimed repeatedly that he’ll force Mexico to pay for a border wall.
Even more worrisome is the threat that he represents to constitutional freedoms. In normal times, the Constitution is not at stake in a presidential election, but this year is a frightening aberration.
Mr. Trump, who has barred some reporters from his campaign because he dislikes what they’ve written, has threatened to change libel laws to punish critics. During his second debate, he vowed to put his opponent, Ms. Clinton, in prison. Only a candidate who’s a dictator at heart could see such a threat as a campaign talking point.
Religious freedoms are also under siege. He has repeatedly targeted Muslims; last month, he joked about excluding people who aren’t “conservative Christians” from one of his rallies. But to any one who reveres what this country truly stands for, it was no joke.
He has incited his supporters to go to polling places in “certain neighborhoods” to make sure “bad things” don’t happen. It is chilling reminder that voter intimidation is a battle that, incredibly, still must be fought in 21st-century America.
With such horrible judgment, his Supreme Court appointments could wreak havoc for generations to come.
Mr. Trump has shown neither the desire nor the potential for growth. We would add “shallow” to that long list of negatives. On the debate stage, he reiterated that the campaign has “changed” him, presumably for the better. But he punted when asked how meeting single moms and unemployed Americans had made him a different man. In addressing the 2005 video, he was contrite for a nanosecond, then said, incredibly, that no one had more respect for women more than he. As women come forward with stories of unasked-for and humiliating groping, the word “contempt” comes closer to the mark. When an African-American man at the town-hall debate asked if Mr. Trump could represent all Americans, the candidate launched, insultingly, into his simplistic “the inner city is a disaster” refrain.
This man, so shallow, so lacking in self-awareness, cannot possibly represent this nation’s “better angels.”
We remain struck by the image of Khizr Khan, a grieving father brandishing his Constitution at the Democratic National Convention in July. He asked if Mr. Trump ever read it. We implore all Americans to read or reread it to renew their sense of who we are as a nation. Within lies the glorious answer to “Who are we?” Hint: We are not what Mr. Trump seeks to bring to the Oval Office.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Ms. Clinton is often accused of being secretive, which is true up to a point. Yet most of her adult life has been lived in the glare of the public spotlight. She has the scars and headlines to prove it. She may be the most scrutinized individual in public life. Her flaws have been chewed over for years. And yet she’s still standing, an accomplishment in itself. Throughout her trials and triumphs, she has shown an admirable level of resilience and self-confidence.
The sum of all her flaws amounts to little compared to Donald Trump’s total lack of fitness for the presidency. Hers are the mistakes of someone who has been in the public arena, fighting for policies she believes in and battling critics, throughout her entire adult life.
His flaws are the product of self-indulgence, the absence of contributions to the betterment of society and the lack of discipline he has shown throughout the campaign. To believe they are both equally flawed is to indulge in false equivalence.
That goes double for anyone in Florida thinking of “sending a message” by voting for a third-party candidate. A vote for such a candidate means taking a chance that the rest of the electorate will do the right thing. That worked out well in 2000, didn’t it? This year, the stakes are too high to sit it out or vote for an also-ran.
The priority of every voter who cares about standards of honesty and decency, not to mention the future and direction of this country, is to reject what Donald Trump represents. America does not need an arrogant, self-absorbed charlatan in the Oval Office. It needs a steady hand in perilous times, a voice of compassion in pursuing policies that help, not hurt, the disenfranchised; a leader capable of narrowing, if not healing, this nation’s divisions.
For all these reasons, the Miami Herald recommends HILLARY CLINTON for president of the United States.