Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016 | 2 a.m.
The Democrats heading to Nevada’s caucuses Saturday have a simpler task than their Republican counterparts three days later, thanks to having just two candidates — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Sen. and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
They share the same essential values and genuinely champion the middle class. The difference is that Sanders, the rebellious democratic socialist, would be going into battle outnumbered in pursuit of his domestic agenda and poorly equipped in foreign affairs. Clinton has established strengths and demonstrated successes in both arenas.
On national security
Our next president must wield a command of the world stage and all its dynamic, shifting intricacies.
Sanders has correctly acknowledged his lack of experience in foreign affairs, at a time when the Islamic State has introduced a new brand of terrorism to the world, unpredictable North Korea is developing its nuclear program and a proven belligerent nuclear power — Russia —is trying to destabilize Europe. Sanders has indicated he is less inclined to be militarily proactive abroad and says — with little argument from anyone — our allies in the Middle East need to step up more in the battle.
Clinton has consistently presented a more aggressive and realistic tone in dealing with terrorists — a stance that will bode her well in the general election as the nation worries about threats from abroad and within. Clinton would bring surety and confidence to the White House. This is not the time for a new president to learn as he goes.
In Clinton we also have a savvy stateswoman with an established understanding of world affairs and building allegiances. She is widely applauded for shaping and executing — with the support of Russia, China and the European Union — economic sanctions against Iran that crippled the nation and were used as leverage to bring Iran to the negotiating table. Clinton’s diplomacy also dissuaded Hamas from firing rockets into Israel. While Clinton was traveling to 112 countries, her campaign for gender equality has been woven into our foreign-policy mission.
On health care
Sanders’ idea of a universal, Medicare-like health system must be viewed through the prism of political reality. With Republicans incessantly attacking the Affordable Care Act, how would Sanders’ more-progressive blueprint, with a price tag in the trillions of dollars, get past their suffocating filibusters? Democrats would be nominating a man who has no chance to enact his signature plank because it would be politically unachievable.
We prefer the pragmatism embraced by Clinton: to further develop the foundation of Obamacare that already is law. It has extended the security of health insurance to 17.6 million Americans and brought down to 10 percent the number of Americans without insurance, thanks in part to the law’s requirement that everyone be allowed coverage no matter what their pre-existing conditions might be. Honing the law is more achievable than starting anew with a plan that would be dead on arrival on Capitol Hill.
Clinton is no newcomer to the plight of the uninsured. As first lady, she played a crucial early, inside role in shaping and winning bipartisan support for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which delivers health care to millions of children.
If health care is a pivotal issue on which to select between the two candidates, Clinton’s stewardship of the Affordable Care Act will do the country more good than a vision that, at least for now, is but a seductive fantasy held by the most progressive Democrats.
On gun control
Our society has gone irrationally bonkers for personal weapons. It makes no sense, the amount of killing power we keep in our homes, too often within easy reach of those who need only the slightest nudge to commit suicide.
For those who wish for stronger gun control, Sanders’ record won’t bring much confidence. He explains that because Vermont is a rural state with many hunters, guns are part of the region’s fabric. And that’s fine, but as a federal lawmaker, Sanders voted five times against the Brady bill, arguing that the issue of waiting periods should be left to the states. More troubling, Sanders supported a law that protects gun manufacturers, dealers, importers and distributors from being held liable when their weapons are used criminally. For years, that bill was at the top of the NRA’s agenda. Sanders helped pass it.
For her part, Clinton supports comprehensive background checks, closing loopholes in purchasing weapons at gun shows and online, keeping weapons away from domestic abusers and those with serious mental health issues, and banning people on no-fly lists from acquiring weapons. None of these regulatory measures would violate the Second Amendment.
On the economy
Sanders’s populist campaign zeros in on reforming Wall Street and big banks, a reason younger Democrats are smitten by his candidacy. In fact, the two candidates agree on the need for greater regulation of Wall Street, and each proposes a new tax on it. Sanders would tax stock and bond trading, while Clinton would employ a tax to discourage volatile, high-frequency trading. Sanders wants to break up big banks while Clinton would impose “risk fees” on banks as they grow in size, and give regulators the power to break up big banks if they saw fit. On every front, Clinton seeks more measured, realistic approaches to effectively keep Wall Street reined in.
Shifting to Main Street, we applaud Clinton’s efforts for working Americans, especially in addressing labor law and leveling the playing field for female workers as well as advocating for child care, paid sick leave and improved hourly wages — especially for tip workers in low-wage jobs.
We understand why younger voters find Sanders appealing: He clearly enunciates the problems that beset us, and offers a romanticized vision of how to solve them. But even as Clinton, somewhat wonkish by natural inclination, ruminates on all the important questions of how we can get it done, voters seem to think she lacks vision. Hardly.
Clinton comes from a generation that fought the really tough fights — for civil rights, for women’s rights, for reliable health care, for protection of workers, for the frail environment, for a safer world. To suggest in any manner that Clinton lacks vision is to fall prey to disingenuous campaign rhetoric. She has always clung to a vision of a better America when those beliefs could cost a person dearly.
Sanders knows this, being of the same generation and a witness to the same important fights. But pitching a vision, and executing it, hinges on experience, leadership, tenacity and the ability to build coalitions. Sanders, cloaked in idealogical purity, hasn’t occupied positions that required him to build coalitions through compromise, a strategy so vital in governing and achieving goals that our Founding Fathers created a system around it. Clinton, though, has a history of achievements and moving our country forward through coalition-building. She understands, too — having done this as a senator and secretary of state — the necessity of compromise or deferring on some parts of a vision in order to achieve the larger ones.
Sanders hasn’t proved he can bring these qualities to the White House. Clinton has.
Ours is a complex world brimming with challenges and opportunities. It is crucial that our next president not only bring vision and leadership to the job, but the experience of dealing with Congress on the home front and world leaders abroad.
Only one candidate among Democratic and Republican candidates alike can claim that experience. We confidently endorse Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee for president.