Officially, that is. The Washington Post’s editorial board, which has hardly kept its contempt for Republican nominee Donald Trump under wraps, offered its quadrennial endorsement for the Democratic nominee this morning. The editors insist that this isn’t a choice between the lesser of two evils, or perhaps better put, the evil of two lessers. No, the Post’s editorial argues, Hillary Clinton will make a fine president and has a stellar record to prove it.
Of course, one has to skip a few tracks on the LP to make that argument. For instance, here’s the WaPo editors on the trail of corruption still being uncovered:
Ms. Clinton is inclined to circle the wagons and withhold information, from the closed meetings of her health-care panel in 1993 to the Whitewater affair, from the ostensibly personal emails she destroyed on her own say-so after leaving the State Department to her reluctance to disclose her pneumonia last month. Further, she and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, are not the first to cash in on the speech circuit, but they have done so on an unprecedented and unseemly scale. And no one will accuse Ms. Clinton of an excess of charisma: She has neither the eloquence of President Obama nor the folksy charm of former president George W. Bush or, for that matter, her husband.
That’s not quite all. The editorial returns to her flaws later:
The biggest worry about a Clinton presidency, in our view, is in the sphere where she does not seem to have learned the right lessons, namely openness and accountability. Her use of a private email server as secretary was a mistake, not a high crime; but her slow, grudging explanations of it worsened the damage and insulted the voters. Her long periods of self-insulation from press questioning during the campaign do not bode well.
The Clinton Foundation has done a lot of good in the world, but Ms. Clinton was disturbingly cavalier in allowing a close aide to go on its payroll while still at State, and in failing to erect the promised impenetrable wall between the foundation and the government. She would have to do better in the White House.
She would have to do better as President? Why? Because the checks and balances of government and the rule of law have held her accountable for these peccadilloes? Er … sure. This string of rationalizations neglects to mention the tens of millions of dollars that flooded into Bill and Hillary’s pockets during her tenure as Secretary of State, thanks to sleazy payoff “speaking fees” from people with business before the State Department, such as the Russian oligarchs behind the Uranium One deal. That’s not just “cashing in on the speech circuit,” it’s peddling influence at the expense of Americans.
As for the Clinton Foundation itself, the issues go far beyond Huma Abedin’s moonlighting, and the Post knows it. E-mails that have finally emerged show that the foundation acted as a way for foreign governments to get special access to the Secretary of State, all in ways that boosted the Clintons personally — if not directly through speaking fees, then through the political boon of managing an ever-growing “charity” that allowed them to keep key personnel employed. Bill Clinton took in millions not just in speaking fees but in consultancies and “honorary” positions such as with Laureate, a for-profit chain of schools in foreign countries. It’s corrupt, not unseemly.
The same holds true for the WaPo’s description of the e-mail scandal as a “mistake.” That was no mistake — it was a deliberate choice to hide official communications from Congress and the courts. Numerous FOIA requests went unfulfilled because the State Department claimed those communications didn’t exist, and the same is true for Congressional oversight of State. Those are the checks and balances that would force Hillary to “do better,” but putting her in the White House guarantees that we’ll get even more of the same perversion of legitimate and constitutional oversight of the entire executive branch.
What Hillary did corrupted self-governance and the constitutional balance of power. That’s not a mistake — it’s a strategy. Allowing Hillary to achieve the highest public trust only ensures that it will happen again and on a much broader scale. Trump may have character flaws that rise to disqualifying levels, but he hasn’t done anywhere near that kind of damage, at least not yet.
The Washington Post could have argued that, even with all this on the table, Hillary still is a less-bad choice than Trump. Instead, they chose to micturate on the heads of their readers and assured them that precipitation produces lovely flowers. An intellectually honest argument would recognize that this is the most lesser-of-two-evils election in living memory. Two months ago, I wrote about it for The Week, and the Princess Bride reference looks more apt than ever:
Buttercup is amazed. “And to think all along it was your cup that was poisoned.”
Westley shakes his head. “Both cups were poisoned,” he explains, “and I didn’t even need to add iocane powder, to which I’ve spent the primaries building up an immunity.” But unlike in the film, Westley then also falls over dead, which leaves Buttercup in the lurch and the rest of us holding our popcorn, wondering what to do with the rest of our evening.
This isn’t a perfect analogy. No Man In Black forced us to drink from these goblets. We placed them in front of ourselves. Both parties had other choices, and plenty of opportunities to change directions. The arguments for either goblet at this point rest largely on the assumption that the other would be more deadly, not that either of them are healthy. And that argument is likely correct, which calls for extraordinary discretion — as well as resignation that no matter which we drink, we’re not going to feel good afterwards.
What comes next? We’ll have to hope that America can spend the next four years building up a resistance to the draughts from which we drank.