Campaign 2016

LA Times declares Trump 'unsuited' to be president


On its first day under a new publisher, though I don't know if it mattered, the Los Angeles Times editorial board used very strong rhetoric in an editorial blasting the whole Donald Trump phenomenon sweeping the Republican side of the race for president. "Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States," the lede says. How's that for plain spoken? Voter support for Trump is characterized as "misplaced affection for a plain-speaking cartoon character."

Here's an excerpt of the editorial.

The reality is that Trump has no experience whatsoever in government, interacting with the machinery of state only as a supplicant. He has shamefully little knowledge of the issues facing the country and the world, and a temperament utterly unsuited to the job. He is a racist and a bully, a demagogue. He has proposed killing the families of terrorists, a violation of international law so blatant that a former CIA director predicted that U.S. troops would refuse to carry out such an order.

He mocked a disabled person at a campaign rally. He has vowed to reinstate waterboarding and forms of torture that are “much worse.” He intends to seize and deport 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally. He would bar all Muslims from entering the country until further notice. He would “open up our libel laws” so that news organizations are punished for writing critical “hit” pieces. He wants to build a wall along the entire Mexican border, on the fantastical premise that he could force the Mexican government to pay for it. He has threatened to start trade wars with two of the country’s biggest trading partners, Mexico and China, by slapping on the kind of protectionist tariffs that U.S. leaders have been trying for decades to eliminate worldwide.

Often enough he says nothing at all, promising to replace Obamacare, for instance, with “something great” or assuring listeners vaguely that a winner such as himself — someone who never tires of telling the world he’s rich, successful and famous — will make it all work out one way or another.

It isn't easy to tell how much of Trump's performance is merely shtick and how much is real.

The bottom line? Trump isn’t the answer for frustrated voters — "he’s just a cynical manipulator playing on the very real frustrations of voters tired of a government that takes big, difficult problems and makes them intractable."

Regardless of how you feel about the Times taking this kind of stand, this could signal the start of an interesting era around the Times' opinion pages. The paper's publisher typically oversees and shapes the slant of the editorials, but as of today the publisher, Davan Maharaj, is also the editor in chief of the paper and in charge of political news coverage. So Maharaj could be in the position of explaining editorials like this one — declaring a major party's front-running candidate unsuited to be president — while also directing news coverage that makes no such conclusions about Trump. Unless Maharaj, who has a vision for what the successful newspaper of the future might look like, has designs on blending the distinction between news and opinion the way that magazines and blogs do, or otherwise trying a new course.

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