These are anxious times. Americans are concerned about economic stagnation, terrorism and spasms of gun violence. A chaotic presidential campaign has not improved the national mood. But this remains a resilient nation determined to pursue a brighter future, and there is a clear way forward to renew our common bonds and build upon the gains of these last eight years.
Hillary Clinton is the only candidate for president with the values, experience and knowledge to meet the challenges at home and abroad. Donald Trump is stunningly unprepared and temperamentally unfit for the presidency, and he has played upon our deepest fears and worst impulses with reckless rhetoric, wild promises and flagrant disregard for the truth. His bombast makes for entertaining television, but it is not suited for the Oval Office.
Perspective gets lost in the Twitter era. America is on firmer ground than when President Barack Obama took office. The country teetered on the brink of economic collapse, and we came through the Great Recession. We were mired in two wars, and thousands of our troops have returned home. Osama bin Laden is dead, the Islamic State is under strain and the doors to Cuba are reopening. In Florida, unemployment is down, housing prices are up and urban areas from Tampa Bay to Orlando to Miami are experiencing a renaissance.
DON MORRIS | Times
In every respect, Clinton is well prepared to capitalize on those successes and ensure more Americans benefit. Her experience as a young lawyer, first lady, U.S. senator from New York and secretary of state during Obama's first term is unmatched. She has spent a lifetime advocating for children, health care and economic opportunity regardless of race or class. Her attention to policy details and her negotiating skills are well established, and her toughness has been tested through decades of public life.
Clinton would continue the encouraging trend lines that show household incomes are up and poverty is down. She offers detailed plans for targeted tax breaks, investments in infrastructure, clean energy incentives and robust job training. She would improve the Affordable Care Act that has brought health coverage to millions. She would support women and families by boosting early childhood education, closing the pay gap and supporting reproductive freedom.
Like Obama, Clinton would push for tighter background checks for gun buyers and seek comprehensive immigration reform including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The Democrat also recognizes climate change as a "defining challenge of our time,'' which is critical as Florida copes with evolving weather patterns and rising sea levels.
Abroad, Clinton would strengthen relationships with our allies in the global fight against terrorism. She would use tough sanctions she helped negotiate to enforce the nuclear agreement with Iran that has made the world safer. Her reversal of support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership is disappointing, but she recognizes the benefits of trade agreements that open up markets for Florida and create thousands of jobs.
Clinton is a flawed candidate, and there are legitimate concerns about her honesty and candor. While she was secretary of state, her use of a private email server was an egregious error that smacks of self-entitlement. The Clinton Foundation, whose initiatives have saved lives around the world, should have been held at greater arm's length. As president, she would have to be more candid with Americans and fight her tendency to withhold information she fears would be damaging. Eventually, it always comes out.
But putting Trump in the White House is simply unthinkable. Compared to him, Clinton's issues of integrity are minor. His are monumental.
Trump's grim view of a declining America that has lost standing in the world is at odds with reality. The billionaire's tax cuts would primarily benefit the wealthy. He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act but offers no serious alternative. His pledges to round up and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and to force Mexico to pay for a border wall are nationalistic nonsense. His Rust Belt promises to revive steel mills and reinvigorate the coal industry are fantasies, and he is in denial about climate change.
But Trump's hostile takeover of the Republican Party makes this election unlike any other in our lifetimes. It is not about the size of tax cuts, or the scope of government regulation, or the details of health care reform. At its core, this election is about uniting behind a tested, thoroughly vetted candidate and preventing a dangerous demagogue from taking office.
Trump has a long record of sexist, derogatory comments about women that he continues to expand. He has mocked the disabled and warned of Mexican rapists rushing across the border. He has fueled religious and ethnic discrimination by advocating a ban on Muslims entering the country and denigrating Muslim parents whose son was killed while serving in the Army in Iraq. He refers to "the Hispanics" and "the blacks," embraces "stop and frisk" policing that has been widely discredited and has not renounced support from white supremacists. He has no respect for an independent judiciary or constitutional protections such as due process and free speech.
This is not a man to be trusted with his "secret plan" to fight terrorism, dangerous disregard for our historical alliances and fascination with Russian President Vladimir Putin's thuggish rule. Trump consistently lies that he was against the war in Iraq when he was for it. He lies when he blames Clinton for originating the baseless birther attacks on Obama that he fueled for years. The billionaire's business history is filled with examples of bankruptcies, failed casinos — and countless customers and suppliers who were scammed. He brags of Trump University's success while students felt cheated, and the Trump Foundation is a shell that benefits his own aims. Trump's bravado may appeal to some voters, but do not mistake hollow boasts for principled leadership.
Americans are looking for reassurance they can succeed in the new economy, their neighborhoods are safe and their children have opportunities to build successful lives in a less dangerous world. The best way to advance those universal goals is to elect a president with a record of addressing those concerns with care and competence.
Clinton is well-qualified to be president, and her election as the first woman to lead the nation would shatter another glass ceiling. The Tampa Bay Times recommends Hillary Clinton for president.