A guide to decide: Twelve tests to choose between Clinton and Trump
November 6, 2016 12:07 AM
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
An editorial from the Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio
Many of us are unhappy with the choices the two major parties have offered for the presidency this year.
But that doesn’t take us very far.
While every American has the right to say “Hell, no” — to cast a protest vote for a third or fourth party or to abstain altogether — many Americans will see the choice, however unsavory, as binary: Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be president in the end. For those people, we propose a 12-part test to apply to choosing our next president. Our assessments are necessarily subjective, but we hope they will constitute a useful exercise for the citizen’s own decision-making.
This exercise is designed for the undecided voter, struggling with how to resolve the choice before us. The tests are grouped according to values, issues and leadership traits:
1. Willingness to change Washington.
The advantage here, for all his gaucherie, goes to Donald Trump. He would be able to address the inside dealing and corruption in that city. Mr. Trump’s political and intellectual independence gives him the freedom to question assumptions and to sunset some of Washington’s corrupt folk ways as well as some of its outdated laws.
2. Protecting natural resources.
Here, Ms. Clinton is better. She understands environmental issues. Protecting and preserving the earth is the most vital issue of our time. (How does climate change never get mentioned in presidential debates?) Moreover, the Humane Society says she is manifestly better on animal rights.
3. Right to life.
Ms. Clinton is essentially an abortion-on-demand person. Mr. Trump seems genuinely appalled by partial-birth abortion. If you are a right-to-life person, Mr. Trump is likely to be your choice.
4. A woman’s right to choose.
If this is the issue for you, it would be very hard to vote for Mr. Trump, who has said that there should be some penalty, or punishment, for women who have abortions.
1. NAFTA and trade.
For many Americans, this is the premier issue of the election. Trade goes to the heart of the Rust Belt’s and America’s deindustrialization. NAFTA took away jobs from many communities. While Pittsburgh’s steel industry began to falter long before NAFTA was signed, it was hurt by foreign imports and continues to suffer from unfair dumping. We must at least name the problem: The elites have failed the American people on trade.
Mr. Trump overstates his ability to “bring back” the steel and coal industry. Yet it is to his credit that he made trade — and therefore lost jobs — a vital issue this year. If trade and manufacturing are your issues, Donald Trump is your man.
2. Economic growth.
Given our anemic rate of economic growth, it stands to reason that the government needs to try something new. Here, too, the nod must go to Mr. Trump, not only because he is new, and not just because he has committed to tax cuts for small business, for estates, and for the middle class, but because he is a businessman and a total pragmatist. He understands money, he understands power, and he is impatient with inaction. He embraces increased energy production, which, done safely, is key for Pennsylvania gas drilling and related industries.
He is dynamic — a builder and deal maker. Being the ultimate political outsider, Mr. Trump, again, has the freedom to experiment. And we need something of the New Deal spirit now — willingness to try new things and throw out what has clearly failed.
3. Fixing Obamacare.
Ms. Clinton understands that millions of Americans would be damaged physically and financially, perhaps irreparably, if the program is abolished. Clearly we need to repair, not repeal Obamacare. Repeal would be a disaster. Ms. Clinton gets that. But Mr. Trump gets that it is broken and is willing to say so. Arguably, they both get a check here.
4. A strong national defense.
Many will argue that Ms. Clinton wins this category because she has trod the world stage and knows its contours and its leaders. That’s a fair point.
But the Obama/Clinton record in Syria and Libya is an unmitigated disaster. And Ms. Clinton would make matters worse in Syria by expanding the air war. Further, she would escalate the Cold War with Russia, which could turn into a hot war. Mr. Trump wants to try detente with Putin. We should try, but with eyes wide open. Mr. Trump is enormously naive about Putin – a diabolical gangster by any reckoning.
With a good team, a Trump administration might be able to find a balance between intervention and paralysis by applying a simple principle: Where do the interests and security of the American people lie?
5. The Supreme Court and respect for law.
Both major candidates have promised to appoint Supreme Court justices after applying “litmus tests.” For Ms. Clinton the test is abortion. For Mr. Trump, the Second Amendment. Both present themselves as absolutists on their respective issues. If you, as a voter, are an absolutist, either way, your choice is clear. But there are no absolute rights under our system of government and litmus tests are a terrible way to pick jurists or apply the law.
1. Understanding the presidency.
Having been first lady and secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton has seen the presidency, for 12 years, in a way that almost no modern politician has. That unique experience is without parallel. She knows the job.
2. Ability to work with Congress and foreign leaders.
This is the flip side of willingness to change. A president has to be willing to “play well with others.” And here Ms. Clinton is also the superior candidate. She would almost certainly work better with Republican leaders, as well as Democratic ones, than Mr. Trump. The ability to engage in diplomacy, to compromise, and to move the ball down the field in matters of legislation, treaties, or budgets should be a prerequisite for the presidency.
There is no winner here.
Mr. Trump is a vulgarian who never seems to study, to apologize or to learn. He is also a sexist and a cad (as is Bill Clinton, whose return to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. might require adult supervision).
Ms. Clinton would begin her presidential term under criminal investigation. Impeachment is a very real possibility from Day 1. How would she function? Like Richard Nixon, who won in a landslide in 1972, she might not serve out her term. But her dishonesty is more than legal — it is deeply embedded in her every word and gesture. The WikiLeaks provide us many smoking guns, not least of which is this: Nothing about her is genuine.
Ms. Clinton understands the office she seeks, but she might well lose it. Mr. Trump understands something profound about the country – about what we have lost and the people we have left behind, but he understands little about politics or the presidency. And he lacks discipline. For some Americans the choice is between a crook and a nut. What a conundrum.
Neither person has “a first-class temperament,” like Franklin Roosevelt, or for that matter Dwight Eisenhower or Ronald Reagan.
All we can do, as citizens, is set aside the very real personal limitations of these two deeply flawed leaders and try to decide which issues are fundamental, and on which this election should turn. Let us pray that, no matter who wins the presidency, many Americans will be pleasantly surprised. We need the next president to surprise us.
This is an editorial from the Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio, the two newspapers of the Block News Alliance.
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