The 2016 presidential election is giving us heartburn.
The candidates for both major parties stretch the truth. Neither is particularly trustworthy. Republican nominee Donald Trump is a clueless outsider; meanwhile, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is the mirror opposite, a chameleonic insider.
But one of these candidates understands our political process, has deep experience in world affairs and appears to have the temperament to lead our nation. The other does not.
This newspaper cannot give an enthusiastic endorsement to Hillary Clinton. But we cannot give any manner of endorsement to Donald Trump.
Trump’s shortcomings are many, and transgress our highest ideals of truth, intelligence and respectability. Sadly these qualities were evident even before the recent revelation of sexist and sexually entitled statements in a video from behind the scenes of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” shoot related to his work on “The Apprentice.”
His shaky sense of the truth alone is enough to give us pause. Simply put, the man is a serial liar. How else can you describe a business person who manufactures products overseas, then turns around and claims he wants to end the export of American jobs? A business person who touts his wealth and success at every turn, yet has left decades of failed ventures, debt defaults and unpaid vendors in his wake? At least he had the decency to admit his profound “love” for debt to Wolf Blitzer.
This is a man who admonished the poorer 50 percent of Americans in 2011 with claims that they skip out on taxes, yet who may himself have avoided tax payments for 18 years, according to a 1995 tax return unearthed by the New York Times. Did Trump volunteer that return himself? Of course not: He continues to turn his nose up at decades of political tradition by refusing to make his records public.
If Trump’s capacity for mistruth were his only shortcoming, that would be enough to doubt his competency as commander in chief. But when it rains, it pours.
The man who says he gets his foreign policy information from “Sunday morning talk shows” has repeatedly exhibited a knowledge of United States history and policy that is lacking, at best. Has Trump ever specified what past era he references when he promises to “Make America Great Again?” He certainly didn’t do so in his GOP acceptance speech — U.S. history didn’t come up once.
The implications of his misunderstanding of U.S. policy are chilling. Mr. Trump is on record as saying American forces should match the brutality of the tactics used by ISIS. One anecdote from MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough — admittedly thinly sourced — had Trump repeatedly asking a foreign policy expert “why can’t we use nuclear weapons?”
And he wants his finger on the button.
Trump doesn’t have the temperament or attention to detail to be the American president. He bullies and ridicules women, the disabled, veterans, and religious and ethnic minorities. He associates himself with Russian hackers who threaten our national security. He claims he’ll kick 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the country in one fell swoop (and who will fill that labor vacuum, hm?).
But that’s the kind of candidate a party gets when conservative groups put their influence up for sale through Trump Foundation donations.
Clinton’s no angel, either: She shares some of Trump’s shortcomings, and especially his predilection for dishonesty. The list of donors to the Clinton Foundation revealed in 2008 — a list that included the Saudi government and the troubled mercenary group Academi — was a who’s who of shady influence purchasers.
Unfortunately, the primary and general election processes have had little to do with policy and much to do with name calling. The level of misinformation from our political parties is either a horror or a joke, depending on how much you care.
But we care, and you should, too. The world is a dangerous place, the economy requires thoughtful guidance, social issues are complex.
Simply put, the presidency of the United States is not the place to learn on the job.
TV personality Jerry Springer best summed up the choice in a two-sentence tweet following the Sept. 26 debate: “Hillary Clinton belongs in the White House. Trump belongs on my show.”
Peter Bernhard is the president and CEO of Pacific Publishing.