In this distasteful election cycle, there is only one reasonable choice for stable leadership at a time when Americans yearn to move past gridlock and tackle long-standing problems with pragmatic solutions. Hillary Clinton is the Star Tribune Editorial Board’s choice to become the next president of the United States.
As with every leader, Clinton is not without her failings. She relies too heavily on a small coterie of longtime loyalists. She allowed a brutal primary to push her toward positions on trade and other issues that will need readjusting. Her tendency toward obfuscation and evading the truth when cornered — as seen in her handling of State Department e-mails and alleged Clinton Foundation conflicts — is a trait that must be overcome with a new commitment to candor and transparency.
But when those weaknesses are considered against the towering flaws of her opponent, Donald J. Trump, Clinton clearly is the nation’s best hope.
Her commitment to public service is bedrock-deep and has been evident throughout her life. As a student president at Wellesley College, Clinton pushed the administration to increase black enrollment. Fresh out of law school, she investigated discrimination at private schools in the South for the Children’s Defense Fund. As first lady of Arkansas, she used her office to fight for literacy, improved education standards and children’s welfare.
With a formidable intellect, Clinton has a command of policy that is legendary, stemming from a lifetime of attention to detail and from the studious nature so necessary to grasping the complexities a president faces. She has always pushed boundaries, which has made her a lightning rod for those uncomfortable with a woman’s ambition. As the nation’s first lady, she rewrote the book on that office, using its power to champion the cause of women’s rights across the globe and leading President Bill Clinton’s effort for affordable, accessible health care that critics back then labeled “Hillarycare.”
Opponents were savage, and the plan failed, triggering a furious backlash against her that, in a real sense, has never abated. But the nation also saw something about the grit and persistence of a woman who refused to give up. Denied the whole loaf, she instead reached out to those who had lambasted her and worked toward a compromise that resulted in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which came to cover 8 million children. Some have attempted to downplay her role in its development, but Sen. Ted Kennedy, the architect of that plan, later noted that the program “wouldn’t be in existence today if we didn’t have Hillary pushing for it from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Nearly a quarter-century later, Clinton knows she will again have to reach out to opponents for a reasonable compromise that will address the problems in the Affordable Care Act while preserving the gains that have benefited so many. Cautious and pragmatic, she is willing to play the long game, and can be expected to bring that same determination to mental health care, poverty and other long-standing problems.
Americans are understandably frustrated by years of gridlock and endless partisan posturing, of brinkmanship and manufactured, either-or choices. They know, deep down, that’s not how problems get solved. Unlike her rival, Clinton has shown time and again her willingness to work with opponents to close divides, forge relationships, listen as well as talk, and develop a middle ground that gives a little to both sides. If this nation’s democracy is to function and progress, it must restore value to the idea of compromise.
Trump entered the race with a bigoted bluster, scapegoating Mexican immigrants and Muslims, insulting women, and mocking those who dared to disagree with him. Since then, he has continued to embarrass himself. His history of bankruptcies, stiffed contractors and questionable practices are a red flag — particularly in the wake of his refusal to release his taxes.
Trump, whom this page previously had urged to leave the race, belittled NATO and fawned over Vladimir Putin in a way that displays his political naiveté and threatens to further embolden the Russian leader. Trump’s totalitarian bent is alarming, and the string of sexual assault accusations that followed a tape where he boasts of just such action is beyond what the American public should have to excuse.
He has harmed the democratic process with his unfounded claims of a rigged election, and his point-blank refusal to say he would accept the certified outcome of an election is without precedent. Just as disconcerting is his temperament, disregard for facts and unwillingness to even attempt to master complicated issues. The most powerful nation in the world cannot take the kind of risk that a Trump presidency would bring.
It is important to remember that while Republicans now daily call Clinton “corrupt” and a “liar,” many earlier have praised her intellect, seriousness of purpose and, yes, even likability. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said of Clinton in 2007: “We have become, actually, good friends. And that was a surprise to both of us.” Years later, when she was nearing the end of her time as secretary of state, Graham noted that Clinton was “extremely well-respected throughout the world, handles herself in a very classy way and has a work ethic second to none.”
And as the global refugee crisis worsens, terrorism looms and a resurgent Russia flexes its muscle, the U.S. needs an experienced, coolheaded pragmatist guiding its foreign policy.
Clinton’s years as secretary of state gave her a window into world leaders and experience forging multilateral responses. She had the opportunity to take measure of Putin, whose incursions into Ukraine and seizure of Crimea have sent tremors through NATO allies in the region.
Finally, while many have pointed out Clinton’s shortcomings as a candidate, it must be said that she has displayed a continued grace and courage under rhetorical fire, with Trump attacking her health and her looks, and even dredging up her spouse’s decades-old infidelities. Through it all, she has maintained her composure and stayed on task. Those are the qualities needed in a president, not the boorish behavior and explosive temperament repeatedly shown by Trump.
A vote for Hillary Clinton is a historic choice for a woman who is fiercely committed to using government as a force for good, who is capable of working to strike a pragmatic balance among competing interests and who brings a lifetime of experience to one of the toughest jobs the world has to offer.