Editorial: Hillary Clinton will lead with skill and vision

  • The Gazette endorses Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, seen here during a rally at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth, Fla., on Wednesday.  AP PHOTO

Published: 10/28/2016 9:19:46 PM

Our choice for the next president is an easy call — Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is clearly the best-suited candidate to lead the nation, by virtue of her experience, her temperament and her vision for an America that reduces the gap between the moneyed elite and the rest of us.

During her 18-month campaign, Clinton has offered specific initiatives on many issues, including increased access to health care, debt-free college education, climate change, increasing taxes for the wealthiest and appointing Supreme Court justices who are likely to reduce the influence of big money in politics, safeguard the right to safe and legal abortion and defend the fundamental right to free speech.

Readers may recall that we were one of a small number of newspapers that endorsed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the Democratic primary. Sanders’ brand of populist reform caught fire among many voters and we are happy to see that Clinton has shown a willingness to respond to those voters by supporting a $15-an-hour minimum wage, seeking increased access to Medicare and opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

By contrast, Clinton’s Republican opponent, Donald Trump, 70, unleashed a misogynistic, racist and xenophobic campaign the likes of which have not been seen in modern American presidential elections. Trump’s narcissistic bullying; denigration of women, ethnic and racial minorities and disabled people; unwillingness to accept the result of what he claims is a “rigged” election; and suggestion that he would throw his opponent in jail if he is elected, are character flaws that make him unfit to serve and a danger to the democracy.

Clinton, 69, has a long history of public service and commitment to social justice, fueled at age 14 when she heard Martin Luther King Jr. deliver a speech in Chicago titled “Sleeping Through the Revolution.” She later described that encounter, including a brief meeting with the civil rights leader, as an eye-opening experience that helped shape her adult life as an activist, lawyer, wife and political partner of an Arkansas governor and the nation’s president, U.S. senator from New York and secretary of state.

While Clinton is often described as a battle-scarred political veteran, words she delivered July 8 at the African Methodist Episcopal Church General Conference in Philadelphia reflect the compassion that keeps her fighting: “I’ve tried to say for some time now that our country needs more love and kindness. I know it’s not the kind of thing presidential candidates usually say. But we have to find ways to repair these wounds and close these divides. The great genius and salvation of the United States is our capacity to do and to be better. And we must answer the call to do that again. It’s critical to everything else we want to achieve — more jobs with rising income; good education no matter what ZIP code a child lives in; affordable college; paying back debts; health care for everyone. We must never give up on the dream of this nation.”

To be sure, Clinton has her flaws. Questions about potential conflicts of interest have arisen from her overly cozy relationship with Wall Street power brokers, as well as meetings she had while secretary of state with donors to the nonprofit Clinton Foundation, including those from foreign countries. Her use of a private email server for government communications while she was secretary of state showed terrible judgment. And she, along with other federal officials, shared a measure of blame for failing to adequately protect the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya from a 2012 terrorist attack . 

But on balance, Clinton’s accomplishments and the core values she has demonstrated during four decades of public service and in this campaign far outweigh those negatives.

Clinton is a passionate advocate for the rights of children and families. During her husband Bill Clinton’s presidency, she was widely credited with critical behind-the-scenes work to gain bipartisan support for the most extensive increase of public health insurance since Medicaid was approved in 1965. Last year, 8.4 million youngsters were enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program established two decades ago.

Clinton has promised to work for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to reduce the pay gap between men and women and add workplace protections for women.

As secretary of state, Clinton advanced the rights of women and children globally through measures such as a United Nations Security Council resolution adopted in 2009 that defined how peacekeeping missions should work to prevent sexual violence in areas of armed conflict.

Among the most critical legacies of the next president is shaping the Supreme Court for years to come, with three appointments likely. One seat has been vacant since Antonin Scalia died in February, and two other justices are 80 or older. In the final debate March 19, Clinton said her nominees would support the rights of women and members of the LGBT community, and reverse the Citizens United decision that removed limits on corporate financing of political advertising. Clinton described her vision of a Supreme Court that would “stand on the side of the people.”

Central to her litmus test for Supreme Court appointments is preservation of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on abortion, which she describes as “the touchstone of our reproductive freedom, the embodiment of our most fundamental rights, and no one — no judge, no governor, no senator, no president — has the right to take it away.”

Clinton has identified climate change as “a defining challenge of our time (that) threatens our economy, our national security and our children’s health and futures.” Her ambitious plan to increase renewable energy includes the installation of 500 million solar panels by the end of her first term, and a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge that provides incentives for states, cities and rural communities for improvements ranging from exceeding federal carbon pollution guidelines to cutting the time and cost of getting permits for rooftop solar installations.

Though Clinton’s record is largely one of a moderate, pragmatic Democrat, she has become more progressive on some issues during this campaign, largely due to pressure from leaders to her left, notably Sanders and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

For instance, Clinton now favors a debt-free college plan which would immediately allow students in families earning $85,000 or less annually to attend an in-state, four-year public college or university without paying tuition. That benefit would be extended by 2021 to students from families earning up to $125,000. In addition, all community colleges would be tuition-free.

Clinton has been rightly criticized for her close ties to Wall Street bankers — including accepting millions in campaign donations and thousands in speaking fees. She has toughened her stance on taxing the richest, including their inheritances. Her proposals now include a 4 percent “fair-share surcharge” on taxpayers making more than $5 million a year, and closing loopholes in the tax code that benefit the wealthiest.

We trust that Clinton’s move to the left on these and other issues is not solely one of expediency to ensure the support of Sanders’ supporters and others on Nov. 8, and we expect that reform-hungry voters will hold her accountable for her promises.

Clinton faces a challenge in winning the nation’s trust. Her lapses in judgment and lack of transparency on issues large – the private email account used for official business while secretary of state — and smaller — delaying announcement of her pneumonia diagnosis in September — result in polls which show “liar” is among the words most frequently used to describe Clinton. As a result, more positive terms, including “qualified” and “experienced,” are cited less often than they should be.

Still, her overall record, grasp of the issues and ability to articulate a future that embraces the differences among Americans, make her highly qualified to serve as president. The historic significance of Hillary Clinton becoming the nation’s first woman president — and a role model for a majority of Americans — is a bonus that enriches her candidacy. She has our
enthusiastic endorsement.

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