Here's why the Free Press will not be endorsing any of the presidential candidates

Here's why the Free Press will not be endorsing any of the presidential candidates

October 16th, 2016 by Clint Cooper in Opinion Free Press

A delegate at the Georgia Republican State Convention in June wears a hat with lots of campaign pins, including two for former Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Photo by Todd Bennett

The Times Free Press has two unique editorial voices: The Chattanooga Times, representing the liberal view, and the Chattanooga Free Press, representing the conservative view.

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Nearly one year ago, when Donald Trump had begun to make believers out of his 16 Republican primary opponents, we wrote that the New York businessman was "not one of us."

In that editorial, we discussed his inconsistency as a conservative, his "bombastic naivety on foreign policy," his "lack of specifics on domestic issues" and his "marked lack of couth."

Nearly a year later, with Trump the Republican presidential nominee, we don't believe much has changed.

Yet the Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, represents an anathema to everything this page has stood for — smaller government, lower taxes, the rule of law, a market-driven economy, strong family values.

Unlike her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who declared in his 1996 State of the Union address that "the era of big government is over" and worked with a Republican Congress to achieve budget surpluses, she as president would greatly expand the role of the federal government.

Not only would she like the government to provide a free public college education to anyone in a family making less than $85,000 a year, but she wants to spend huge sums on child care, student debt forgiveness, family leave and Obamacare expansion (eventually to, most conclude, a totally government-run system). In totality, she is suggesting more than $1 trillion in new spending.

To pay for those plans, Clinton is proposing to raise $1.9 trillion in taxes over the next decade, most of that on the country's job creators. Those include an income tax increase of 4 percent on the top wage earners, an increase in the top rate on capital gains and qualified dividends, a surtax on those who earn more than $1 million a year, a reduction in the percentage of deductions that high earners can take and an increase in the estate tax rate (and a lowering of the exemption amount).

As to family values, instead of the "safe, legal and rare" abortions term the Clintons coined during Bill's presidency, she would expand the availability of abortions, make taxpayers fund them, reduce restrictions on abortions and increase support to abortion chain Planned Parenthood. She's also four-square behind the Supreme Court's controversial 2015 marriage ruling and President Barack Obama's transgender bathrooms decree.

But Clinton, despite a lackluster eight years in the Senate, also has much to defend from her days in the White House, her one term as secretary of state and her most recent family foundation's fundraising.

Among the many scandals she was involved in from the White House days are Filegate, the improper access of FBI files during her husband's tenure; Travelgate, the firing of travel office staffers to replace them with Clinton cronies; Whitewater, a failed Arkansas real estate venture in which the Clintons were involved and from which five people, including a former Arkansas governor, went to jail; the missing billing records from her days at the Rose law firm in Arkansas that later were found in the White House; and cattle futures, in which she made a 9,987 percent profit in nine months with the help of a connection at Tyson Foods, which benefited from several decisions when Bill was governor.

Clinton's most recent, still-burbling offenses include her intentional use of an unsecured private email server as secretary of state and the deletion and scrubbing of tens of thousands of emails from those four years. Although FBI Director James Comey gave her a pass on what she did, he termed her handling of "very sensitive, highly classified information" as "extremely careless." Her other ongoing problem is the pay-for-play aspect of money that flowed into the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of state and seemed to curry access to the State Department and Clinton. An FBI investigation is reported to be ongoing in the matter.

That some of her activities over the years might be deemed questionable is not surprising for anyone in political life. That she was involved in so many questionable situations in which she cast blame elsewhere, denied involvement or lied is appalling.

And then there's her one term as Obama's first secretary of state, where she was to be the architect of the Obama doctrine of, in columnist Charles Krauthammer's words, "universal norms, mutual obligation, international law and multilateral institutions."

In her one term, instead of the Russian "re-set" she so brashly said she would achieve, Russia became more emboldened in geopolitics, annexed the Crimea, continues to threaten the Ukraine and has become the major player in the Middle East, especially where the government of roiling Syria is concerned.

Clinton also was complicit in the 2011 uprising in Libya, where rebels took out strongman Moammar Gadhafi, leaving the country in crisis. That paved the way for the terrorist attack that killed four Americans at Benghazi and left the country to be occupied in part by the murderous Islamic State. Most devious of all were her repeated lies about the cause of the attack that killed the four Americans. Despite knowing the truth, she told families of the slain men that the attack was caused by an internet video and later, during a Senate hearing, asked infamously, "What difference, at this point, does it make [how they died]?"

She also was instrumental in getting talks started with Iran that resulted in the one-sided 2015 nuclear agreement that will allow the terror-sponsor nation to have a nuclear arsenal in a little more than a decade. In this agreement, the U.S. erased red line after red line, moving from an agreement that would shut down Iran's nuclear program to one that now gives it full capacity in only a decade or so and essentially allows the country to police its own compliance.

We won't dwell on Clinton's personal life, but numerous books and magazine articles have described her many private, profanity-filled tantrums in dealing with her staff members and her husband. And she, if nothing else, was a willing part — if not the head of — the team that sought to distort, accuse, cover up or change the subject concerning her husband's sexual peccadilloes during his first run for the presidency.

Taken separately, any of the above areas of concern should be enough to disqualify her. Taken together, they are a devastating indictment of a candidate who should be nowhere near the White House.

And then there is Trump.

Now, as when we wrote about him a year ago, we give him his due. With his boldness, his lack of fear of the media, his eschewing of political correctness, his stance on immigration and his tough talk on foreign policy, the former reality television host has spoken something GOP voters have not heard.

They felt the Republicans they had put in charge of the U.S. House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014 hadn't listened to them, seemed powerless to stop Obama from governing by executive order and did not do all in their power to stop the excesses of the Affordable Care Act, the Clean Power Plan and the erosion of civil liberties.

So, one by one this spring, voters swept aside the candidates they believed to be more establishment driven and — with the help of a media that pandered to him to drive ratings — put their eggs in Trump's basket.

Eventually, he was left standing to face the woman the Democratic Party had been grooming to be the next president: the woman wronged by her wandering husband, the woman who had her 2008 nomination snatched away from her by an upstart freshman senator from her native Illinois, the woman who swallowed her pride and joined the administration of the man who defeated her, the woman for whom the party apparatus had been adjusted for this final run.

The fact Trump led in some polls in mid-September testifies both to the message he offered and to the weakness of Clinton as a candidate, but the Republican candidate has been unable to be reined in. Supporters might slough off some of his early pronouncements about Mexicans and women as early campaign faux pas, letting Trump be Trump, but he has not taken the cure.

Many of his fellow Republicans were waiting for the day when he pivoted to become presidential, when he mastered the issues so well he not only had the desire for change on his side but could elucidate the reasons for such change. To date, it seems a lost cause. And now, after his crude remarks from 11 years ago were aired, still more Republicans have abandoned him, from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Arizona Sen. John McCain to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who never endorsed him and has suggested he step down in favor of vice presidential nominee Mike Pence.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to excoriate fellow GOPers, the very people he would need if he is elected, if they don't say nice things about him. He doesn't espouse the attributes of limited government this page has long believed in. His policy statements are gassy and have no substance. He appears unmoved that entitlement reform is necessary. He wants a $10 minimum wage. His pro-life stance may only be a feint. He has previously advocated for universal — total government-run — health care.

We are shocked and saddened the man so many looking for change believed could help "make America great again" continues to be demeaning in his rhetoric, largely unrepentant in his deeds and not genuinely conservative in his principles.

That said, we respect the new or inactive voters Trump has drawn into the electorate, their appreciation of his no-holds-barred stances, their righteous fear of a more liberal Supreme Court and the desire to vote for any Republican over Clinton. We would not tell you nay.

We continue to believe the Republican Party offers the best hope for the country and are supporting Republicans throughout the ballot, as has been the tradition for this page (with the exception of 2012 when it endorsed libertarian Gary Johnson for president).

We could never endorse Clinton, do not choose to recommend a third-party candidate and never would advise anyone not to vote.

However, because Trump doesn't espouse the traditional conservative values of this page, we cannot endorse him.

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