Some of Trump's off-the-cuff remarks didn't do him any favors, but Times analysts say it's unlikely the night shifted many voters in favor of Hillary Clinton.
We endorse Hillary Clinton for president. But let's be honest, you are not surprised by that. Although The Sun's record on political endorsements is more mixed than many might expect (the paper backed Richard Nixon three times and Franklin D. Roosevelt only once), we have supported the Democratic nominee for four presidential elections in a row. And this year, we have not been guarded at expressing our admiration for Ms. Clinton's experience, depth of knowledge, steadiness and leadership, nor have we hesitated to point out the utter lack of those qualities in her Republican opponent, Donald Trump.
We are at a loss as to what more we could say that would persuade anyone who is still undecided in this election. So we won't try. Instead, we offer up an endorsement in the words of others — newspapers and government, military and business leaders — who have consistent track records of backing Republicans but who feel compelled to support Ms. Clinton this year.
Ms. Clinton has spent a lifetime in public service, from the civil rights and educational policy work she did in law school to her four years as secretary of state. During his speech at this summer's Democratic National Convention, President Barack Obama said "there has never been a man or a woman — not me, not Bill, nobody — more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America." He's not the only one to come to that conclusion. The Houston Chronicle, which, with the exception of Mr. Obama in 2008, had not backed a Democrat for president since Lyndon Johnson, concurred in its endorsement of Ms. Clinton: "The only candidate to come close is George H.W. Bush."
The Dallas Morning News, which last supported a Democrat for president in 1940 (The Sun, incidentally, picked Wendell Willkie over President Roosevelt that year), acknowledged that it had been critical of Ms. Clinton at times. But it nonetheless endorsed her, recognizing that "unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has experience in actual governance, a record of service and a willingness to delve into real policy."
The presidency, of course, is not a job we simply hand to the candidate with the best resume. It demands a person with good judgment, even temperament in the face of crises, the ability to work within our system of government and a fundamental respect for American values. Ms. Clinton's record is not perfect — no one who has engaged in as many consequential issues as she has over the years can make that claim — but this election has prompted many who would ordinarily be inclined to oppose her to appreciate her strengths.
Hillary Clinton "does not casually say things that embolden our adversaries and frighten our allies. Her approach to governance is mature, confident and rational," the Arizona Republic wrote in endorsing a Democratic presidential candidate over a Republican for the first time ever, ending a 126-year streak. "Clinton retains her composure under pressure. She's tough. She doesn't back down. ... Clinton has argued America's case before friendly and unfriendly foreign leaders with tenacity, diplomacy and skill. She earned respect by knowing the issues, the history and the facts."
The Cincinnati Enquirer (last Democratic endorsement: Woodrow Wilson, 1916) called Ms. Clinton "a known commodity with a proven track record of governing." It praised her efforts to help get adequate health care for 9/11 first responders and military families, and for her role in developing the Children's Health Insurance Program, which now covers 8 million low-income children. The Enquirer and others noted that despite the low regard many Republicans hold for her, she has, in a polarized era, found success in working with the other party. "Though conservatives like to paint her as nakedly partisan, on Capitol Hill she gained respect from Republicans for working across the aisle: Two-thirds of her bills had GOP co-sponsors and included common ground with some of Congress' most conservative lawmakers," the Dallas Morning News wrote.
A fundamental test for the next president will be to address the economic anxiety that gripped both Republican and Democratic voters during the primaries, leading those at the opposite political extremes to push back against a system they see as rigged against average people. Recent strong wage gains and declines in poverty have done little to dispel a sense among millions of Americans that they are falling behind.
Public opinion polls suggest this is one area in which Mr. Trump is perceived as having a real advantage over Ms. Clinton. Many voters see Mr. Trump as a successful businessman who can turn America's economy around, but conservative critics see no support for that notion.
"When Trump assures us he'll do for the United States what he's done for his businesses, that's not a promise — it's a threat," Henry M. Paulson Jr., the treasury secretary under George W. Bush, wrote in the Washington Post. "The tactics he has used in running his business wouldn't work in running a truly successful company, let alone the most powerful nation on Earth."
As the Houston Chronicle notes, Ms. Clinton has well-developed plans for addressing income inequality and wage gaps through policies like a higher minimum wage and expanded tax credits for low-income families. But Mr. Trump's plan is simply to be Mr. Trump, and a close look at his record suggests that's not a good deal for America. "It's true that he has created jobs," the Cincinnati Enquirer's editorial board wrote. "But he also has sent many overseas and left a trail of unpaid contractors in his wake. His refusal to release his tax returns draws into question both Trump's true income and whether he is paying his fair share of taxes. Even if you consider Trump a successful businessman, running a government is not the same as being the CEO of a company. The United States cannot file bankruptcy to avoid paying its debts" — an idea Mr. Trump appeared to suggest during the primary election.
Mr. Trump's bellicose rhetoric about international trade and advocacy for protectionist policies have similarly alarmed conservatives. We share their disappointment that Ms. Clinton has announced opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a trade deal she helped craft while secretary of state and which would not only bolster America's economy but also serve as a crucial counterweight to Chinese influence. But Mr. Trump's anti-trade policies are on another level entirely. "Ripping up our trade agreements, as ... Donald Trump suggests, and raising a tariff wall around the U.S. economy ... would decimate millions of high-wage American jobs and slam families trying to make ends meet," U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue wrote in the Washington Post. "Increasing tariffs on Chinese and Mexican goods — another one of Trump's proposals — could cost American families $250 billion per year."
But it is in the realm of national security and foreign policy that Mr. Trump has truly raised alarm among many Republicans. Dozens of GOP foreign policy experts signed a letter announcing they would not vote Mr. Trump because he would be a "dangerous president" who would "put at risk our country's security and well-being." Not only does he lack experience in foreign policy, they wrote, but he "shows no interest in educating himself." No less a conservative than Paul Wolfowitz, one of the Bush administration's chief proponents of the Iraq war, observed of Mr. Trump, "He says he admires [Vladimir] Putin, that Saddam Hussein was killing terrorists, that the Chinese were impressive because they were tough on Tiananmen Square. That is pretty disturbing." He added: "The only way you can be comfortable about Trump's foreign policy is to think he doesn't really mean anything he says."
"Trump's inability to control himself or be controlled by others represents a real threat to our national security," the Arizona Republic wrote. "His recent efforts to stay on script are not reassuring. They are phony. The president commands our nuclear arsenal. Trump can't command his own rhetoric."
Even those who find fault with some of Ms. Clinton's record acknowledge that she understands the importance of American leadership in the world and of our indispensable role in the system of alliances that has defined the global order since World War II. She understands the potential to defuse conflicts through diplomacy — as when she "helped broker a cease fire between Israel and Hamas, assembled a global coalition to impose sanctions on Iran, and played a crucial role in persuading Iran to accept limits on its nuclear program," Brent Scowcroft, the former national security adviser under presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, wrote in endorsing her. She is, in the Houston Chronicle's words, "knowledgeable, dependable and trusted worldwide."
Robert Gates, a Republican who served as defense secretary under George W. Bush and President Obama, criticized Ms. Clinton in a Wall Street Journal op-ed for failing to provide specifics on how she would handle actual or potential adversaries like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, and for what he sees as her failures in cases like our military intervention in Libya. But her faults are correctable, he wrote, whereas "Mr. Trump is beyond repair. He is stubbornly uninformed about the world and how to lead our country and government, and temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform. He is unqualified and unfit to be commander-in-chief."
To be sure, many of the conservatives who have endorsed Ms. Clinton express misgivings about her. We, too, have criticized her for the way she handled her emails as secretary of state and for her shifting explanations for that lapse of judgment. She is defensive at times and overly guarded. We worry that her administration would lack transparency. As the Dallas Morning News put it, those "are real shortcomings. But they pale in comparison to the litany of evils some opponents accuse her of. Treason? Murder? Her being cleared of crimes by investigation after investigation has no effect on these political hyenas; they refuse to see anything but conspiracies and cover-ups.
"We reject the politics of personal destruction. Clinton has made mistakes and displayed bad judgment, but her errors are plainly in a different universe than her opponent's."
We could make myriad criticisms of Donald Trump, but the fault that worries us most is one that conservatives seem particularly attuned to observing, and that is his penchant for authoritarianism. Concerns that Mr. Trump could fundamentally weaken the checks and balances on which our government is founded — even comparisons between his campaign and the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s — are as likely to come from the political right as from the left.
"Time and again history has shown that when demagogues have gotten power or come close to getting power, it usually does not end well," former Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman told the New York Times. "There is no basis in thinking that our democracy is so strong, our checks and balances so finely hedged, that no single person can lead us off the precipice. Trump can," Mike Fernandez, a Florida health care executive and major Republican donor wrote in the Miami Herald. "His convention-speech comment, 'I alone can fix it,' should make every American shudder," the Houston Chronicle wrote. "He is, we believe, a danger to the Republic." The Dallas Morning News observed, "Trump's values are hostile to conservatism. He plays on fear — exploiting base instincts of xenophobia, racism and misogyny — to bring out the worst in all of us, rather than the best."
This is not an ordinary election offering voters a choice between a more liberal and a more conservative candidate for president. This time, one candidate stands in the broad tradition of American leadership that has made this the greatest, most powerful and most prosperous nation in history. The other would have us trade that legacy for a cult of personality. The choice is clear. Hillary Clinton has the skills, experience and values to navigate these challenging times. Donald Trump, meanwhile, is utterly unsuited and unprepared for the presidency. But don't just take our word for it. This year, you don't have to.