The New York Times endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president Saturday reads almost entirely as a list of excuses for the candidate’s past mistakes, failings and perceived lack of character.
“Running down the other guy won’t suffice to make that argument,” the editorial board writes in a self-described effort to persuade voters she is a good candidate on her own merits. “The best case for Hillary Clinton cannot be, and is not, that she isn’t Donald Trump.”
Yet on issues spanning Clinton’s entire career as first lady, senator, secretary of state and presidential candidate, the editorial board consistently explains away some kind of glaring issue in order to make a positive point about her. All of these issues — from her vote in favor of the Iraq war, to her use of a private email server, to the perception she’s not trustworthy — are lumped together as “occasional missteps,” which the board argues make it difficult for Clinton to “reveal” her true record.
Here’s a sampling of the editorial board’s maneuvering on her behalf.
The issue: A “shift” on immigration
Clinton opposed driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants in the 2008 campaign, but is now calling for blanket amnesty and a dramatic increase in legal immigration. Some would see that “shift” as “opportunistic,” the editorial board admits. “But we credit her for arriving at the right position.”
The issue: A vote for the Iraq war
Clinton voted in favor of the Iraq war, which is widely regarded as a mistake, particularly in Democrat circles, but which the editorial board excuses in her case: “Her vote in favor of the Iraq war is a black mark, but to her credit, she has explained her thinking rather than trying to rewrite that history.”
The issue: A complete 180 on the trade deal she helped promote
One of Clinton’s major achievements as secretary of state was her work to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a massive trade deal that is a key component of Obama’s legacy. But she came out against the deal in its current form as a presidential candidate. The editorial board excuses this reversal as well: “Her election-year reversal on that pact has confused some of her supporters, but her underlying commitment to bolstering trade along with workers’ rights is not in doubt.”
The issue: An attempt to “reset” relations with Russia
The editorial board cites Clinton’s efforts to improve U.S. relations with Russia while secretary of state as an accomplishment, although it concedes the attempted “reset” failed. Once again, an excuse is ready: “Mrs. Clinton’s attempt to reset relations with Russia, though far from successful, was a sensible effort to improve interactions with a rivalrous nuclear power.”
The issue: A completely bungled intervention in Libya
Clinton helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, a move that spun the country into chaos and led to the creation of a haven and training ground for Islamic State. The editorial board acknowledges she “bears a share” of the blame for this foreign policy mistake in particular, but insists: “Her achievements are substantial.”
Those achievements, according to the board, are these: The aforementioned work on the trade deal she is now against, her work on the now widely criticized Iran deal, a negotiated ceasefire between Hamas and Israel in 2012, and the failed Russian “reset.” Oh, and she persuaded Myanmar to adopt political reforms.
The issue: Use of a private email server
Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state has been perhaps the most glaring issue of her campaign, as a stream of seemingly endless revelations on the scandal continue to generate negative headlines. In the latest FBI info dump, embarrassing notes reveal Clinton “could not use a computer” and didn’t know her own email password.
But here’s the editorial board’s take: “That decision deserved scrutiny, and it’s had it. Now, considered alongside the real challenges that will occupy the next president, that email server, which has consumed so much of this campaign, looks like a matter for the help desk.”
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