Now that you have read various articles on the upcoming presidential election and the candidates running for the highest office in the land, it’s time to consider the issues. Write an op-ed that makes a case for what single issue is the most important going into this election. Consider: Why is this the single most important issue? Whom does this issue affect? How does it affect them? Make sure to provide reasons and evidence to support your position.
Due Date: Tuesday, September 27. Minimum 2 pages, typed in MLA Format.
by Patricia Smith
Sept. 5, 2016
Very little about the 2016 election has gone as expected.
Few thought Donald Trump, a billionaire real estate mogul and reality TV star with a penchant for insulting opponents and shocking the public, could defeat 17 other Republicans to win his party’s nomination.
And no one would have guessed that Democrat Hillary Clinton—a former first lady, senator, and secretary of state trying to become the nation’s first female president—would face a bruising primary fight against Bernie Sanders, a largely unknown senator and self-described socialist.
With Trump and Clinton now set to square off in November, the one thing pundits can say for sure is that many Americans are deeply frustrated with the status quo. Two-thirds of those surveyed in recent polls believe the nation is on the wrong track and 80 percent disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job.
The challenge for voters will be to look beyond the campaign’s circus-like atmosphere and weigh the candidates’ very different visions for the nation.
“We have two candidates here who disagree on practically everything and who stand for opposites, so it’s a choice that has enormous consequences for every citizen, and people around the globe,” says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
Trump says he’ll take a hard line against undocumented immigrants, ban foreign Muslims, beef up America’s military, and reverse some of President Obama’s signature achievements, like Obamacare(see “Where They Stand” below). Clinton says she’ll give undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, ask the wealthy to pay higher taxes, and continue Obama’s push to curb the greenhouse gases that scientists say are causing climate change.
A Trump victory would put a man who has never held political office in the White House, and for some Americans that’s a big part of his appeal.
“We don’t need a politician for president; we need a businessman,” says Tom Krzyminski, 66, a hairstylist from Bay City, Michigan.
The Crook & the Bully | For many other voters, though, Clinton would also be a huge departure from business as usual. Forty-three men have served as president since 1789,* so the election of a woman would be historic.
“The symbolic importance of the fact that there’s going to be a woman on the ballot for president shouldn’t be underestimated,” says Ruth Mandel of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
So far the candidates have waged what might be called a war of warnings. Trump calls his opponent “crooked Hillary”—a reference to controversies like her use of a private email server to conduct government business during her time as secretary of state. And he dismisses her as too weak to deal effectively with ISIS and China and not economically savvy enough to create jobs.
Clinton says Trump is a bully whose take-no-prisoners style and weak grasp of foreign policy make him “temperamentally unfit” for the presidency. She says his plan to build a wall to seal off the border with Mexico—and force Mexico to pay for it—is ridiculous, and his proposal to ban foreign Muslims from the U.S. to prevent terrorist attacks “goes against everything we stand for as a country founded on religious freedom.”
One problem neither candidate faces is lack of name recognition. Clinton, a Chicago native, was a lawyer until her husband, Bill Clinton, became president in 1993. After eight years as first lady, she was elected in 2000 to the U.S. Senate from New York. She lost the 2008 Democratic presidential primary to Barack Obama, then served as his secretary of state for four years.
Trump is a New Yorker who inherited a real estate business from his father and expanded it into a high-profile global brand of Trump hotels, office buildings, resorts, and golf courses. In 2004, he became a major TV personality, starring in the hit reality show The Apprentice.
But as the old saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt: Voters know Trump and Clinton, but many just don’t like them. According to a recent Gallup poll, 64 percent view Trump unfavorably and Clinton fares a little better, with 54 percent viewing her unfavorably. It’s rare for the two major party nominees to have such high negatives going into the general election. Whichever of them can convince enough undecided voters, especially in battleground states like Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania (see map), will probably prevail on November 8.
Economic Unease | As in previous elections, the economy will likely play a big role. A strong economy helps keep the party in the White House in power. When the economy is weak, voters often seek new leaders.
The U.S. unemployment rate, hovering around 5 percent, is relatively low—down from 10 percent in 2009 during the financial crisis. But because many people haven’t seen much of an increase in their wages and because there’s such a huge gap between Americans at the top and bottom of the income ladder, there’s a feeling of economic unease in the electorate.
Trump has seized on that anxiety, telling voters that the economy is a mess and promising to use his business skills to “make America great again.” Clinton wants to raise the minimum wage and says income inequality is “the defining economic challenge of our time.”
But since the mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in June, the issues of terrorism and gun control have taken center stage. The shooter, Omar Mateen, was a Muslim who pledged allegiance to ISIS in the midst of the attack. Trump responded by renewing his call to ban Muslim immigrants. Clinton called for a ban on military-style assault weapons like the one Mateen used.
The fallout could affect the election. “Headlines matter, and terrorism and guns are in the headlines daily,” says Sabato.
Another issue on voters’ minds this year is the Supreme Court (see Debate). The death in February of Justice Antonin Scalia—and the refusal of the Republican-controlled Senate to consider Obama’s nominee to fill his seat—has left a vacancy on the nine-member Court that the next president could end up filling.
That person might serve for decades, so the stakes are high, says Costas Panagopoulos, a professor at Fordham University in New York: “Now we’re talking about an ideological view that could be in place not four years, but 40 years.”
Sanders or Bust? | With so much on the line, the 2016 race could be the most expensive ever.
“The presidential election has become a fundraising arms race,” says Anthony Corrado, a professor of government at Colby College in Maine, who predicts that the total cost of this year’s race could approach $3 billion.
Republican leaders, who shunned Trump throughout the primaries, have mostly endorsed him, but the embrace has been lukewarm at best.
Clinton has her own worries. In particular, will young voters turn out for her? In the primaries, young people ages 17-29 cast more ballots for her opponent, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, than for Clinton and Trump combined. It’s unclear whether Sanders’s young supporters will vote for any other candidate or sit the election out, as they’ve done before (see graphs below).
If they do go to the polls, young people have a real opportunity to sway the outcome of this year’s race.
“The data suggests that in the last two elections, President Obama really won because of the youth vote,” says Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, who studies youth voting trends at Tufts University in Massachusetts. “So young people shouldn’t underestimate the importance of their participation.”
By Editorial Board
July 22, 2016
DONALD J. TRUMP, until now a Republican problem, this week became a challenge the nation must confront and overcome. The real estate tycoon is uniquely unqualified to serve as president, in experience and temperament. He is mounting a campaign of snarl and sneer, not substance. To the extent he has views, they are wrong in their diagnosis of America’s problems and dangerous in their proposed solutions. Mr. Trump’s politics of denigration and division could strain the bonds that have held a diverse nation together. His contempt for constitutional norms might reveal the nation’s two-century-old experiment in checks and balances to be more fragile than we knew.
Any one of these characteristics would be disqualifying; together, they make Mr. Trump a peril. We recognize that this is not the usual moment to make such a statement. In an ordinary election year, we would acknowledge the Republican nominee, move on to the Democratic convention and spend the following months, like other voters, evaluating the candidates’ performance in debates, on the stump and in position papers. This year we will follow the campaign as always, offering honest views on all the candidates. But we cannot salute the Republican nominee or pretend that we might endorse him this fall. A Trump presidency would be dangerous for the nation and the world.
Why are we so sure? Start with experience. It has been 64 years since a major party nominated anyone for president who did not have electoral experience. That experiment turned out pretty well — but Mr. Trump, to put it mildly, is no Dwight David Eisenhower. Leading the Allied campaign to liberate Europe from the Nazis required strategic and political skills of the first order, and Eisenhower — though he liked to emphasize his common touch as he faced the intellectual Democrat Adlai Stevenson — was shrewd, diligent, humble and thoughtful.
In contrast, there is nothing on Mr. Trump’s résumé to suggest he could function successfully in Washington. He was staked in the family business by a well-to-do father and has pursued a career marked by some real estate successes, some failures and repeated episodes of saving his own hide while harming people who trusted him. Given his continuing refusal to release his tax returns, breaking with a long bipartisan tradition, it is only reasonable to assume there are aspects of his record even more discreditable than what we know.
The lack of experience might be overcome if Mr. Trump saw it as a handicap worth overcoming. But he displays no curiosity, reads no books and appears to believe he needs no advice. In fact, what makes Mr. Trump so unusual is his combination of extreme neediness and unbridled arrogance. He is desperate for affirmation but contemptuous of other views. He also is contemptuous of fact. Throughout the campaign, he has unspooled one lie after another — that Muslims in New Jersey celebrated after 9/11, that his tax-cut plan would not worsen the deficit, that he opposed the Iraq War before it started — and when confronted with contrary evidence, he simply repeats the lie. It is impossible to know whether he convinces himself of his own untruths or knows that he is wrong and does not care. It is also difficult to know which trait would be more frightening in a commander in chief.
Given his ignorance, it is perhaps not surprising that Mr. Trump offers no coherence when it comes to policy. In years past, he supported immigration reform, gun control and legal abortion; as candidate, he became a hard-line opponent of all three. Even in the course of the campaign, he has flip-flopped on issues such as whether Muslims should be banned from entering the United States and whether women who have abortions should be punished. Worse than the flip-flops is the absence of any substance in his agenda. Existing trade deals are “stupid,” but Mr. Trump does not say how they could be improved. The Islamic State must be destroyed, but the candidate offers no strategy for doing so. Eleven million undocumented immigrants must be deported, but Mr. Trump does not tell us how he would accomplish this legally or practically.
What the candidate does offer is a series of prejudices and gut feelings, most of them erroneous. Allies are taking advantage of the United States. Immigrants are committing crimes and stealing jobs. Muslims hate America. In fact, Japan and South Korea are major contributors to an alliance that has preserved a peace of enormous benefit to Americans. Immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans and take jobs that no one else will. Muslims are the primary victims of Islamist terrorism, and Muslim Americans, including thousands who have served in the military, are as patriotic as anyone else.
The Trump litany of victimization has resonated with many Americans whose economic prospects have stagnated. They deserve a serious champion, and the challenges of inequality and slow wage growth deserve a serious response. But Mr. Trump has nothing positive to offer, only scapegoats and dark conspiracy theories. He launched his campaign by accusing Mexico of sending rapists across the border, and similar hatefulness has surfaced numerous times in the year since.
In a dangerous world, Mr. Trump speaks blithely of abandoning NATO, encouraging more nations to obtain nuclear weapons and cozying up to dictators who in fact wish the United States nothing but harm. For eight years, Republicans have criticized President Obama for “apologizing” for America and for weakening alliances. Now they put forward a candidate who mimics the vilest propaganda of authoritarian adversaries about how terrible the United States is and how unfit it is to lecture others. He has made clear that he would drop allies without a second thought. The consequences to global security could be disastrous.
Most alarming is Mr. Trump’s contempt for the Constitution and the unwritten democratic norms upon which our system depends. He doesn’t know what is in the nation’s founding document. When asked by a member of Congress about Article I, which enumerates congressional powers, the candidate responded, “I am going to abide by the Constitution whether it’s number 1, number 2, number 12, number 9.” The charter has seven articles.
Worse, he doesn’t seem to care about its limitations on executive power. He has threatened that those who criticize him will suffer when he is president. He has vowed to torture suspected terrorists and bomb their innocent relatives, no matter the illegality of either act. He has vowed to constrict the independent press. He went after a judge whose rulings angered him, exacerbating his contempt for the independence of the judiciary by insisting that the judge should be disqualified because of his Mexican heritage. Mr. Trump has encouraged and celebrated violence at his rallies. The U.S. democratic system is strong and has proved resilient when it has been tested before. We have faith in it. But to elect Mr. Trump would be to knowingly subject it to threat.
Mr. Trump campaigns by insult and denigration, insinuation and wild accusation: Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy; Hillary Clinton may be guilty of murder; Mr. Obama is a traitor who wants Muslims to attack. The Republican Party has moved the lunatic fringe onto center stage, with discourse that renders impossible the kind of substantive debate upon which any civil democracy depends.
Most responsible Republican leaders know all this to be true; that is why Mr. Trump had to rely so heavily on testimonials by relatives and employees during this week’s Republican convention. With one exception (Bob Dole), the living Republican presidents and presidential nominees of the past three decades all stayed away. But most current officeholders, even those who declared Mr. Trump to be an unthinkable choice only months ago, have lost the courage to speak out.
The party’s failure of judgment leaves the nation’s future where it belongs, in the hands of voters. Many Americans do not like either candidate this year. We have criticized the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, in the past and will do so again when warranted. But we do not believe that she (or the Libertarian and Green party candidates, for that matter) represents a threat to the Constitution. Mr. Trump is a unique and present danger.
By William McGurn
The Wall Street Journal
July 18, 2016
What’s the best case for Donald Trump?
The question comes in the week Republicans here will formally nominate him for president, and the answer is not complicated. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence gave it as his reason for signing on as Mr. Trump’s VP: The alternative is President Hillary Clinton.
This is the reality of choice in a two-party democracy. Still, many have a hard time accepting it. So even as Mr. Trump handily dispatched 16 more-experienced rivals, his shortcomings and unfitness for office have become a staple of conservative fare.
Yes, Mr. Trump elevates insult over argument. Yes, he is vague and contradictory about the details of his own proposals. And yes, he often speaks aloud before thinking things through. It’s all fair game.
Even so, in this election Mr. Trump is not running against himself. Though you might not know it from much of the commentary and coverage, he is running against Mrs. Clinton.
On so many issues—free trade, the claim that Mexico will pay for a border wall, his suspiciously recent embrace of the pro-life cause—Mr. Trump gives reasons for pause. But he still isn’t Mrs. Clinton. That’s crucial, because much of the argument for keeping Mr. Trump out of the Oval Office at all costs requires glossing over the damage a second Clinton presidency would do.
Start with the economy. There is zero reason to believe a Clinton administration would be any improvement over the past eight years, from taxes and spending and regulation to ObamaCare. If elected, moreover, Mrs. Clinton would be working with a Democratic Party that has been pulled sharply left by Bernie Sanders.
Mrs. Clinton’s flip-flop on the Trans-Pacific Partnership is illuminating. As President Obama’s secretary of state, she waxed enthusiastic. But when it came time to take her stand as a presidential candidate, she folded. Mr. Trump has made his own protectionist noises, but if this same trade agreement had been negotiated by a Trump White House, who doubts that he would be telling us what a great deal it was for American workers?
Or what about social issues? Mrs. Clinton has loudly repudiated the moderating language her husband ran on in 1992, notably on abortion. In sharp contrast, she is the candidate who touts the Planned Parenthood view of human life, who sees nothing wrong with forcing nuns to provide employees with contraceptives, and who supports the Obama administration’s bid to compel K-through-12 public schools to open girls’ bathrooms to males who identify as female.
In short, Mrs. Clinton is the culture war on steroids.
Which leaves foreign affairs. Here again, the initiatives where she was front-and-center do not inspire confidence: the Russian reset and Benghazi. More to the point, while she now apologizes for her 2002 vote to authorize the use of military force in Iraq, what she ought to be apologizing for is her admission that her 2007 opposition to the surge in Iraq was dictated not by any military concerns but because she was worried about facing antiwar candidate Barack Obama in the Iowa Democratic primary.
Today this same woman supports the nuclear deal with Tehran and offers an Islamic State strategy that sounds tough but is not materially different from Mr. Obama’s. This is the “hawk” we’re always hearing about?
Nor is the case against Mrs. Clinton limited to policy. It’s as much about personnel, which goes much further than the activist nominees she would almost certainly nominate for the Supreme Court.
When presidents enter office, they bring with them about 6,000 people. From the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and White House assistants down to the lowliest Justice Department lawyer, Mrs. Clinton would fill her government with people who get up each day looking to tax, spend, regulate—and use the federal government to stomp on anyone in their way.
At a time when so much of American “law”—from the Health and Human Service’s contraceptive mandate, to the Education Department’s “Dear Colleague” letters on transgender policy, to the National Labor Relations Board’s prosecution of Boeing for opening a new plant in South Carolina instead of in Washington state—is decided by faceless federal bureaucrats, Mrs. Clinton would stuff these federal agencies from top to bottom with Lois Lerners and Elizabeth Warrens.
Welcome to 21st-century American liberalism, which no longer even pretends to produce results. Whatever the shortcomings of Mr. Trump’s people, non-progressives simply do not share the itch to use the government to boss everyone else around. On top of this, an overreaching President Trump would not be excused by the press and would face both Republican and Democratic opposition.
Fair enough to argue that Mr. Trump represents a huge risk. But honesty requires that this risk be weighed against a clear-eyed look at the certainties a Hillary Clinton administration would bring.
By David Brooks
Oct. 9, 2015
All presidential candidates face a core problem. To win their party’s nomination in an age of growing polarization they have to adopt base-pleasing, pseudo-extreme policy positions. But to win a general election and actually govern they have to adopt semi-centrist majority positions.
How can one person do both?
Nobody had figured this out until, brilliantly, Hillary Clinton. She is campaigning on a series of positions that she transparently does not believe in. She’ll say what she needs to say now to become Bernie Sanders in a pantsuit (wait, Bernie Sanders already wears a pantsuit!). Then, nomination in hand and White House won, she will, it appears, transparently flip back and embrace whatever other positions she doesn’t believe in that will help her succeed in her new role.
In other words, one of the causes of polarized gridlock and political dysfunction is that we have too many politicians with ideological convictions. Clinton seems to be eliding this problem.
Her most impressive elision concerns trade, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. When she announced her opposition to Judy Woodruff on the “PBS NewsHour” she was performing a flip-flop of the sort that leaves gymnasts gaping and applauding. As CNN pointed out, she’s praised the deal 45 separate times, at one point calling it “the gold standard in trade agreements.”
This was not only a substantive flip-flop. It was so naked it amounted to a bold and clarion statement of faith on behalf of flip-flopping itself. It suggested a whole style of campaigning and method of governing based on the principle of unprincipledness.
In order to navigate her way through the wilds of politics and the morass of an ungovernable nation, she’ll do whatever she needs to do, say whatever needs to be said and fight for whatever constituency is most useful at the moment.
She’ll get things done. (Whatever those things happen to be.)
This flexibility has become something of a leitmotif. The most exhaustively reported account of her various policy adjustments comes from Evan Popp, a journalism student at Ithaca College who documented Clinton’s shifts while he interned at the Institute for Public Accuracy. He has collected Clinton’s statements on either side of various issues.
In 2000 she supported the Defense of Marriage Act, though now she is pro-gay marriage. In the 1990s she was for more incarceration. “We need more prisons to keep violent offenders for as long as it takes to keep them off the streets.” Now she’s against mass incarceration.
In 2007 she was against allowing undocumented immigrants to have driver’s licenses. Now she supports them. In 2002, she was against ethanol subsidies, but now she’s bullish.
We all get to change our mind in response to the facts, but each of these intellectual inquiries happens to have led her in a politically convenient direction.
This deftness could, if used wisely, help Clinton placate the left in order to get the nomination and then placate the powerful in order, as president, to pass legislation. By contrast, if a conviction politician like Sanders or Ben Carson got elected, he wouldn’t be able to get 35 votes for anything he proposed.
But there are downsides to the Opportunist Solution. First, politically. The Clinton theory of the campaign seems to be that people vote on the basis of what policy a candidate can deliver or what interest group he or she kowtows to. But it could be that voters actually vote on the basis of authenticity and trustworthiness. In that case, Clinton could be hurt by the fact that only 35 percent of, say, Floridians think she is honest and trustworthy, according to a Quinnipiac poll, whereas, just to pick a random name, 71 percent think that of Joe Biden.
Second, as a matter of practical governing, it’s hard to organize an administration around an uncertain trumpet. Administrations generally work best when everybody on the team knows consistently what the president stands for. As the old wisdom goes, the problem with pragmatism is that it doesn’t work.
Third, there’s the humanitarian issue. Clinton once supported the Pacific trade deal for good reason. According to a report from the Peterson Institute for International Economics, the deal would bolster U.S. gross domestic product growth and jobs over the next decade. It would lift Malaysian growth by 6.6 percent and Vietnamese growth by 14 percent. It would also build a solid Asian alliance to balance Chinese hegemony. If Clinton’s flip-flop ends up sinking the deal, she will have helped sentence millions of people to further poverty and destabilized the world’s most dynamic region.
Still, it would be interesting to see how government by flip-flop might work. If we had a president hopping opportunistically from issue to issue, that might disrupt our ossified landscape and tear down the old-fashioned partisan walls.
In an era of polarization and dysfunction, maybe authenticity, conviction, consistency and principle are the hobgoblins of little minds!
The Times Editorial Board
May 13, 2016
A year ago, Hillary Clinton seemed to be on her way to a serene, obstacle-free coronation as the 2016 Democratic nominee for president. In an April 14, 2015, editorial, The Times bemoaned the fact that the Democratic race consisted of “exactly one candidate with a truly national profile” — the former secretary of state and U.S. senator from New York. The editorial did mention Sen. Bernie Sanders, but only as one of a group of second-tier figures that also included former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and former U.S. Sen Jim Webb of Virginia (remember them?).
Today, as California prepares for its primary on June 7, Clinton is again on the verge of victory. But what a difference a year has made. In the intervening months, so many Democrats and independents have felt the Bern that the self-described democratic socialist from Vermont acquired the national stature that seemed improbable a year ago. His passionate excoriation of a “rigged economy” and his call for a sweeping political revolution energized millions of Americans, especially young voters, and he put Clinton on the defensive about her ties to Wall Street, her support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the trade policies of her husband Bill Clinton’s administration.
Yet even though he has proved a far more formidable challenger than we — or Clinton — expected, Sanders lacks the experience and broad understanding of domestic and foreign policy that the former secretary of state would bring to the presidency. Although Sanders has tapped into very real and widespread anxieties about economic inequality, deindustrialization and stagnant economic growth, his prescriptions are too often simplistic, more costly than he would have us believe and unlikely to come to pass.
The Vermont senator has made the race more substantive and has forced his opponent to address issues that might otherwise have gone undiscussed, but in the end he has offered little reason to believe that he would be able to enlist recalcitrant Republicans in Congress in accomplishing his priorities. Rather, he told the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times, he would say to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell: “Hey, Mitch, look out the window. There’s a million young people out there now. And they’re following politics in a way they didn’t before. If you want to vote against this legislation, go for it. But you and some of your friends will not have your seats next election.” If only it were that simple.
By contrast, Clinton, for all her faults — and they range from a penchant for secrecy to a willingness to modify her positions to suit the popular mood to a less-restrained view of the use of military force than we are entirely comfortable with — is vastly better prepared than Sanders for the presidency. She has The Times’ endorsement in the June 7 California Democratic primary.
Clinton may seem inauthentic to some or to lack that drink-a-beer-with-me quality that voters often look for in a candidate. But she has a grasp of the complexities of government and policy that is unmatched by any of the other candidates who ran for president this year — or by most candidates in most years. She is sober and thoughtful, in possession not just of the facts she needs to make her arguments but of a depth of experience that undergirds her decisions. These qualities are reassuring in juxtaposition to a primary opponent who does not offer, at the end of the day, a serious alternative and, and a likely opponent in the general election who is unprepared, unsuited for the job and dangerous.
Clinton would be the first woman elected president of the United States. But the real reason to support her is that she is the Democratic candidate most likely to get the job done.
From her early days as a children’s rights advocate to her role as an activist first lady in pressing for healthcare reform to her public service in the Senate and as secretary of State, Clinton has demonstrated a steely persistence and a keen intellect. She and Sanders agree on many broad goals, including expanding healthcare, regulating the financial sector and reducing America’s reliance on fossil fuels. But where Sanders offers audacious, utopian solutions, Clinton adopts a more incremental approach that has a better chance of success during a time of divided government and political dysfunction when negotiation and compromise will be more important than ever.
For example, Sanders wants to establish a single-payer, British style health insurance system he calls “Medicare for all.” Clinton counters with the obvious: It was difficult enough for President Obama to win congressional support for the Affordable Care Act, and the emphasis should be on building on and improving on the ACA, not tossing it out and starting from scratch. What’s more, some experts say Sanders’ proposal would cost twice as much as he estimates it will and could increase the size of the federal government by 50%.
When it comes to financial reform, Sanders has proposed a bill to break up financial institutions that regulators have deemed too big to fail. But the measure, which offers no clues as to how the Treasury Department would go about doing so, seems aimed at exacting a punishment on companies at the heart of the last recession, rather than addressing the behavior that caused it. To that end, Clinton has called for strengthening the Dodd-Frank Act signed by Obama in 2010, which had many of the right concepts but not necessarily the right details.
The two candidates offer a stark contrast when they discuss the issues facing the country. Sanders focuses — often in an inspiring way — on grand causes and doesn’t sweat the details. Clinton is acutely conscious of the political and practical obstacles that must be negotiated in order to bring about change. In our view that’s an asset.
Clinton is by no means perfect. On foreign policy, for instance, Sanders has faulted her for voting to authorize President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq and warns that she would be more likely than he would to involve U.S. forces in overseas operations.
He is probably right, and that is a serious concern about the former secretary of State. But when to use military force is a difficult question for any president, and the ideal commander in chief will be neither too hesitant to use force when necessary to defend vital U.S. interests nor so reckless as to regard military action as a first resort. Although Clinton has made mistakes — not only the Iraq vote but also in pressing for military action in Libya as secretary of State — we don’t see her as a reflexive advocate of military force. (Like Sanders, she opposes the use of U.S. ground combat forces in the war against Islamic State.) To the extent that she is less committed to restraint, we hope that she will keep in mind the lessons of recent U.S. escapades in the Middle East, which have been terribly expensive in money and lives and yet have repeatedly failed to achieve their goals.
Clinton’s campaign has been dogged from the start by issues related to transparency. Take the question of what Sanders called those “damn emails” — official messages Clinton sent and received on a private email server while secretary of State. It seems unlikely that she is in danger of criminal prosecution, but the fact that the FBI is investigating at all is embarrassing. The same self-defeating resistance to disclosure is evident in Clinton’s stubborn refusal to release the contents of speeches she delivered while out of public office to Goldman Sachs and other corporate audiences.
Clinton also has altered her positions in light of shifting political winds. She has come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiated by the Obama administration, even though as secretary of State she referred to it (before the final details had been agreed on) as setting “the gold standard in trade agreements.” In 2008, she said that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare, and by rare I mean rare.” This February, after being endorsed by Planned Parenthood, she dropped the “rare.”
Clinton, of course, isn’t the only politician who adjusts some of her positions to suit the politics of the day. (Compare Obama’s “evolution” on same-sex marriage.) Still, the perception that she is malleable has been a disadvantage in her race against Sanders, whose message has been remarkably consistent for decades. If she is the nominee, she will need to remind voters — or convince them for the first time — that, while she is open to compromise and willing to consider new facts, she too has core convictions.
As all the world knows, Clinton would be the first woman elected president of the United States. That would be a joyous, long-awaited, landmark moment in American history after centuries of discrimination and second-class status for half the population. But the real reason to support her is that she is the Democratic candidate most likely to get the job done.
Compared to the intoxicating altruism of the Sanders’ campaign, Clinton’s candidacy might seem unexciting. But nominating a candidate for president is, or ought to be, serious business. As Obama himself likely would admit after almost eight years in the White House, there is more to being president than grand promises, whether they are about “hope and change” or a political revolution. We admire Bernie Sanders’ passion for progress and equality, but our endorsement goes to the candidate who is more likely to translate ideals into action.
Sept. 23, 2016
On Monday, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will face off in their first debate at Hofstra University in New York. In a race this close and with as many as 100 million people watching, the debates present both candidates with chances to seize momentum but potential pitfalls as well.
Here are four things to think about as Donald Trump prepares for the debates.
1. Can Trump exceed low expectations?
In a year when voters are clearly ready for change and disgusted with the status quo, Trump has the advantage of being the outsider. But he has big deficits with voters who think he doesn’t have the character and temperament to be president.
On Monday, expectations are low for Trump, but he has one major task — convince enough voters that he is a plausible president.
“If Trump can stand on a debate stage for two hours and not lose his temper and come across as as reasonable person, he’ll have a good night,” said Alex Conant, who was Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s spokesman during the GOP primaries. “And that’s a lot easier than Clinton’s task — which is to convince people she’s not a liar.”
Democrats fume that Trump is graded on an curve, and there’s no doubt the bar for him is lower than it is for Clinton. As long as he doesn’t say something outrageous that’s racist or sexist, he wins the night.
But there is one area where expectations for Trump are high — people expect him to be aggressive and to dominate the debate the way he did during the primaries when he eviscerated one opponent after another.
2. How does Trump face off against a woman?
This could be a tricky one for Trump. He will be doing something no one else has done before: debating the first female candidate for president. Trump will probably try to avoid any obviously sexist put-downs.
One of the few bad moments Trump had in the GOP primary debates was when he disparaged former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina’s looks. Trump might also be asked about his recent comment that Clinton doesn’t have a “presidential look” or his repeated questions about her “stamina.”
3. Can Trump debate the same way he did in the primaries?
Trump has acquired a kind of mythic reputation as a debate performer. After all, he dispatched 16 experienced challengers in the Republican primary. And he does have formidable skills honed by years as a reality TV star. He speaks in simple, clear sentences. He has a commanding physical presence and a “huuuge” personality. And he’s shown on occasion (for example, his press conference in Mexico) that he can, in fact, act “presidential.”
In the primary, whenever the debates were about personalities or personal records, he was very comfortable. But when he tried to talk in depth about his own policy proposals, he was out of his depth.
Clinton will be ready to exploit those moments to paint Trump as unprepared for the Oval Office. And Trump has never before debated just one opponent.
4. What happens after the debate?
There are three phases to a debate: pre-game expectation setting, the debate itself and the post-game battle to control the perceptions of who won and who lost.
Trump is already working the refs and creating a narrative in case he doesn’t do well. Just as he’s claimed the only way he can lose the election is if it’s stolen from him, he’s been saying the debates are rigged against him. He claims NBC’s Lester Holt, the first debate’s moderator, is biased.
“Look, it’s a phony system. Lester is a Democrat. They’re all Democrats, Okay? Its a very unfair system,” Trump told Bill O’Reilly on Fox News on Monday.
In fact, Holt, who is an experienced journalist and anchors NBC’s Nightly News, has been a registered Republican since 2003, according to New York state voter registration documents.
Sept. 23, 2016
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be together on stage for the first time on Monday. Both candidates have a lot at stake when they meet at Hofstra University in New York for the first of three presidential debates, this one with moderator Lester Holt of NBC News.
Each has different opportunities and challenges in the debates. Here are four things Clinton will have to think about. We also looked at four things to watch for Trump.
1. What is her goal?
Debate coaches say one of the biggest mistakes a presidential candidate can make is misunderstanding what a presidential debate is and is not. It’s not a forum to score policy points (a Clinton strength). Instead, it’s a contest of character and demeanor. Everyone knows that Clinton is knowledgeable and competent. Now, she needs to use the debate to show she’s also authentic and relatable.
“When I read about those giant debate books they’re preparing for her, I cringe and worry. The smaller her debate book, the better off she’ll be,” said Sam Popkin, who’s prepped four Democratic candidates for debates and played Ronald Reagan in Jimmy Carter’s debate prep sessions.
Popkin said Clinton needs to come prepared with clean, simple “first sentences” instead of trying to litigate Trump on the facts and details.
Ultimately, debates are performance art. Body language matters. No one remembers what policy points Al Gore made in his first debate against George W. Bush. But they do remember the “lies, sighs, and rolling eyes” that led to the consensus that Gore had lost the encounter.
2. How does she deal with the burden of high expectations?
Clinton is an experienced debater. She’s been on the national scene for 40 years. Polls show that voters expect her to “win” the debate. And those high expectations are bad for Clinton because she has the more difficult job on Monday night. The bar for Donald Trump is relatively low — he just has to show he’s a plausible president, and not the outrageous, offensive character some voters see on the campaign trail. But she has to prove that she’s more honest, trustworthy and likable than most voters think.
Clinton’s campaign hasn’t even been trying to lower expectations, typically a time honored tradition before debates. Instead they’ve been pointing out what many Democrats say is a double standard — that Trump, as President Obama said recently, tends to be graded on a curve. Clinton, on the other hand, seems to get the tougher questions and the more intense grilling. Part of that is because she’s been in public service so long and he’s been a businessman. And part of it is just simply unfair, which brings us to the next question.
3. What about gender?
This will be the first time in history that a male and female candidate have faced off on a presidential debate stage. And like it or not, they will be judged differently. Gender communications research shows that men, when they are aggressive, are received positively. When women are perceived as aggressive, they are received negatively. And that puts Clinton in a bind, because as every political consultant will tell you, “If you’re on defense, you’re losing.”
So Clinton has to stay on offense by showing a command of the issues, being calm, and rebutting Trump’s attacks without getting angry or getting into the mud with Trump. As one Republican consultant put it, “if you mud wrestle with a pig, both of you get dirty, but the pig likes it.”
The Clinton campaign complained about criticism of the Democratic nominee for not smiling more during the recent commander-in-chief forum on NBC. That may be a double standard, but that’s how voters perceive it. Voters like a happy warrior, particularly if the candidate is female.
“Clinton needs to look calm, collected and to be enjoying the debate experience, even if deep down, she is not,” said veteran GOP debate coach Brett O’Donnell.
4. Do debates even matter?
Even though debates rarely determine the outcome of presidential elections they do make a difference. You can’t win an election, in a debate but you can lose one (See: Gore, Albert or Bush, George H.W.).
They can also certainly add momentum to a race. And in a race this tight, they will matter a lot. After all, as many as 100 million people are expected to watch.