Only one candidate is acceptable for president

The time is past ripe to say to Donald Trump what Joseph Welch said to Sen. Joseph McCarthy in 1954: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”

Mr. Welch gave that rebuke in a Senate hearing as the chief lawyer defending the U.S. Army against charges of harboring communists. It is often seen as a turning point of when Sen. McCarthy, R-Wisc., crossed an invisible line in his anti-communist crusade, and the tide of the American public turned against him.

The emotional outburst worked because decency mattered a great deal to Americans in the 1950s. Does it matter less now? Are people so sick of political correctness that they are willing to normalize bad behavior? How else to explain why so many Americans support a candidate for president with such a stupendous lack of decency?

Mr. Trump is an entitled celebrity who brags of groping women; a “fortunate son” who, by request, received five Vietnam War draft deferments and then mocked Sen. John McCain for serving five years as a prisoner of war, saying soldiers who get captured aren’t heroes; a sexist playboy who publicly mocks his Miss Universe beauty queens for gaining weight; a billionaire who doesn’t pay federal taxes – leaving the burden to the rest of us – because, he says, he’s “smart”; a candidate who casts doubt on the U.S. election system by saying that if he loses, it may be because the election was rigged; a man who threatens, in a public debate, to prosecute and imprison his opponent if elected; a candidate whose campaign staffers have close ties to Russia and its state-run industries; a businessman who outsources his manufacturing to China and then blames politicians for letting U.S. companies do the same thing; a Republican – the party that, in principle, stands up for personal responsibility – who, when faced with his offenses, turns the blame on others.

Was Sen. McCarthy anywhere near this indecent?

We know that many people who plan to vote for Mr. Trump do value decency. Hillary Clinton was wrong when she described “half” of Mr. Trump’s supporters as bigoted “deplorables”; she later apologized for it. While it’s alarming how enthusiastic white nationalist and nihilistic alt-right activists are about Mr. Trump, most of his supporters aren’t like that.

Many are simply Republicans voting for their party’s candidate, which is understandable. They might not have picked him in the primary, but they weren’t united enough behind any of the 16 other GOP candidates to turn the tide. For example, Franklin County Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill, who’s running for state Assembly, told us he was troubled by Mr. Trump’s lewd talk about groping women and took the opportunity to tell his teenage daughter that’s never OK. Yet he said he will still vote for Mr. Trump in hopes that he’ll listen to the Republicans he surrounds himself with, such as Rudy Giuliani and Ben Carson.

The thing is, when we see how quick Mr. Trump is to take revenge on Republicans who call him on his irresponsible behavior, when we see how his positions on abortion and universal health care have changed over the years, when we see how little he cares about policy positions and how much he cares about himself, we believe he’s not so much a Republican as the leader of the Party of Trump.

Some are so enamored of Mr. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan that they overlook his lack of concrete plans on how to accomplish that vague goal, as well as his lack of moral decency that should be part of America’s “greatness.” Sorry, but we know a con when we hear one.

Many others are so fed up with business as usual in Washington that they want a non-politician who can break through barriers. We get that, but we think they’re falling into a trap.

Mr. Trump’s appeal is largely based on the premise that government and politicians are so broken that they’re unfixable – that we need someone strong and angry enough to smash the existing order in Washington. That’s been the argument of strongmen in countries around the world, from Napoleon to Mussolini to Castro to Mugabe to Chavez. If elected, Mr. Trump would at some point be blocked by the checks and balances our founders built into our system of government; knowing his temperament and record, we’re sure he will try to smash through those, too. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama each asserted more Executive Branch power than his predecessor, so imagine what powers the belligerent Mr. Trump, an avowed admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin and critic of everything American government does, would try to seize.

“What do you have to lose?” has been Mr. Trump’s catchphrase appeal to African-Americans, but really it’s implicit in his appeal to everyone. We suggest you take a sober moment to ask yourself that question. Compare the U.S. with other countries you don’t want us to emulate. You may realize we have a great deal to lose. This country is not so hopeless after all.

We have said many times in editorials that when voting for a president, one should give extra weight to foreign and military policy, since the president has almost unchecked power and responsibility there, whereas Congress tends to hold sway over domestic issues. Imagining Mr. Trump as commander-in-chief of our military, as spokesman for our nation on the world stage, with almost no checks and balances, scares the bejesus out of us.

Therefore, we endorse Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the United States. First of all, she is the only qualified candidate; in fact, she is extraordinarily qualified, having served as secretary of state, senator from New York (which made her familiar with upstate and its concerns), first lady and as a lawyer on the post-Watergate impeachment case, back in the early ’70s when Mr. Trump was fighting the Nixon administration’s charges that his family’s apartment buildings rejected black people for housing. (That case was settled out of court with no admission of guilt.)

Mrs. Clinton has weaknesses as well as strengths. She and her husband have a questionable record of using their charitable foundation for leverage in foreign countries. They have lied to try to weasel their way out of trouble, although we believe her level of dishonesty is less than that of Mr. Trump, who routinely spouts untruths. Whereas he is reckless, she is cautious to a fault.

These faults have been on full view during this brutal campaign, but her strengths have not. They may emerge once she is elected.

Mrs. Clinton has been in public life for so long that she is one of the most predictable presidential candidates in U.S. history. We know, pretty well, what she would be like as president – a typical, professional Democrat. Mr. Trump, on the other hand, is a wild card. He could do some serious damage to this country. Some people are ready to take that chance, but we are not.