This week the Chicago Tribune endorsed Gary Johnson for President of the United States. What, if anything, does it mean that the editorial board suggested its readers vote for someone who will not be elected? Here's an opinionated look at the guts of this appalling endorsement.
On one hand, the Tribune continues its wholehearted rejection of Mr. Trump. They note that there are red, white and blue coffee cups more genuinely Republican than he is. Opining that "he has ridden to the gates of the White House on the backs of Americans who believe they've been robbed of opportunity and respect," they correctly add that "inaugurating a bombastic and self-aggrandizing President Donald Trump isn't the cure."
On the other hand, the editors acknowledge that Ms. Clinton, unlike her opponent, "is undeniably capable of leading the United States," and reject even "rough equivalence" between her flaws and his repeatedly demonstrated lack of the qualities needed by a U.S. president.
Having proclaimed the Republican candidate unfit, the Republican-leaning newspaper declines to support Ms. Clinton mostly because she doesn't adhere to GOP dogma about the role of the Federal government and consequent policies about taxation and spending priorities. No surprises there.
Without mentioning specifics, the Trib also cites "serious questions about honesty and trust" as reasons not to endorse her. These concerns are indeed the reasons so many Americans disfavor the Democrat nominee. But the paper falls into the trap skillfully set for the electorate by Mr. Trump, along with his witless and gutless acolytes in the leadership of the Republican party.
They hold against her behavior in the handling of her e-mail communications that is not substantially different from that practiced by Republican Secretaries of State in the last several administrations. They charge her with destroying thousands of "possibly incriminating" e-emails, but ignore a Republican administration's suspicious "loss" of 22 million, not to mention the FBI's refusal to recommend that she be indicted for what even she agrees was unwise behavior.
They spent tens of millions investigating the Benghazi fiasco without finding a shred of evidence that Ms. Clinton had more responsibility than, say, the Republican Congress that refused to provide adequate funding for the security of diplomats. Nevertheless Trump surrogates continue to refer to her as a "murderer," while of course ignoring attacks on embassies and deaths of diplomatic staff under Republican watch.
This is a serious evaluation of a candidate's honesty and trustworthiness? Granted that Ms. Clinton has spun, dissembled and outright lied about certain parts of her record. I don't like it either. But that is politics in the 21st Century United States.
And so the Tribune endorses Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson "to encourage voters who want to feel comfortable with their choice. Who want to vote for someone they can admire."
But here's the thing: while finding Mr. Johnson a "principled candidate" with an agenda that "appeals" to the paper's conservative economic principles, the editors never assert that he is qualified to be President of the United States. Instead a vote for him is recommended to those who "want to send a message about the failings of the major parties and their candidates."
To send such a message, the Tribune editors encourage a vote for a candidate who brushes off his failure to recognize a center of the painful conflict in Syria as "an Aleppo moment" when he has trouble thinking of a single foreign leader he admires. He supports fracking, while acknowledging it is a singularly inefficient and environmentally dangerous practice. He seems to be unaware of the details of the Trans Pacific Partnership, but favors it nevertheless.
Rolling Stone's analysis also shows that Mr. Johnson seeks to out-conservative the Republican party, perhaps partially explaining the Tribune's support: he seems to know nothing about how important the minimum wage is to millions of workers, saying it is "a non-issue." He opposes paid medical and family leave and would seek the repeal of Obamacare. In 2011 he said there should be no restrictions at all on guns; his running mate has suggested a hotline rather than policy changes to keep guns away from terrorists and the mentally ill.
Though he trusts science on the reality of climate change caused by humans, he rejects the consensus of public health officials that vaccines should be required.
Mr. Johnson may be "principled," but his principles disqualify him to serve as President of the United States. The Tribune's ridiculous "none of the above" endorsement should be ignored.