- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

Tulsa World, Aug. 8, 2016

For president? None of the above

Since 1940, the Tulsa World has consistently endorsed the Republican nominee for president, but we’re not willing to do that this time.

Neither are we willing to endorse the Democratic candidate or any other candidate.

This election, as has been said, is one for the ages: two major party candidates who leave voters with more questions about their character, integrity and policies than anyone can answer.

Hillary Clinton: We don’t trust Hillary Clinton, and we don’t think the nation is ready to follow her. As Barack Obama promised, the electorate wants change. But Clinton offers no change.

From the questionable contributions by foreign governments to the Clinton Foundation to her reckless handling of classified material in emails as secretary of state, it seems there is always something smoldering behind the scenes with Clinton. And from the time she entered the political arena as Bill Clinton’s first lady, the air has never quite been clear.

In a way, those scandals and near scandals seem related to a second problem with Clinton: Her willingness to be inconsistent when it is in her political interest. In other words, she’ll flip-flop regardless of principle. Take as an example her position on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. She was for it, until Bernie Sanders started picking up votes by demagoguing the issue as a job killer. Then she was against it. During the Democratic National Convention, Terry McAuliffe, a long-time Clinton family pal, said he expected her to be for it again if she was elected. When that didn’t go over well, he said he meant she would renegotiate the deal to make it better, but that wasn’t any more popular, so the Clinton people insisted that she was still against it, just like she always was, except for when she was for it.

In the end, Hillary Clinton just does not make the nation want to follow her. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all had the sort of charisma that made the majority want to listen and act. Hillary Clinton is in the mold of George W. Bush and Al Gore, brilliant in their own ways, but uninspired and uninspiring. She is, in short, a lousy politician, and she wants a politician’s job.

Donald Trump: Donald Trump, on the other hand, is a brilliant politician, and a lousy person.

From Day One, the Trump campaign has brought out the worst of America, not the greatness that he promises.

His campaign for president evokes the worst qualities in people: fear and bigotry. From the first day of his candidacy, when he claimed Mexico was sending its rapists and criminals to the United States, to his speech at the Republican National Convention, where he had the gall to suggest that the United States, the world’s only superpower, is not a great nation, Trump has sought to build a political bloc out of misplaced anger and anxiety.

All politicians are egoist, but Trump’s overvaluation of his own self is truly monumental. His claim that only he has the ability to make America great again suffers from two gigantic flaws: America is great, and he isn’t going to make it any greater.

Indeed, if he were elected president, he would probably make it a good deal worse because never in the history of American politics has there been a major party candidate with fewer qualifications to be the president. Trump has never held an elective office or had any significant leadership in legislative action. And, despite what an angry electorate might think, the ability to work through the legislative process is a requisite of the job. He isn’t the only person capable of fixing our nation’s problems. He’s not even on the list of those who should try.

In place of competence or facts, Trump’s campaign relies on faith. And not the type of faith most believe in, but rather a faith in Trump himself. In trade, terrorism and immigration, he promises the moon. Not just any moon, but a HUGE moon, the most magnificent moon ever! But when pressed for how he will produce this lunar miracle, he just says, “Believe me.” We don’t believe.

Never before have we so firmly believed that each of us has to find the answers for ourselves. We encourage every voter to identify what is important to them and their families. Only then can each voter determine who they believe is the best choice in this presidential election.

We encourage all voters to participate in the election and to follow their consciences in making the best choice from the least acceptable list of candidates for president in modern times. We won’t be endorsing any of them.

___

Enid News & Eagle, Aug. 5, 2016

Official policy should bring ethical clarity

We appreciate Enid City Commissioner David Vanhooser taking the lead on planning an ethics forum in Enid.

Dr. Vanhooser said the Nov. 19 ethics forum will be open to the public with an official time to be announced. He is working on securing qualified experts to speak during the event.

Historically, the city of Enid hasn’t followed an official ethics code to provide guidance on certain gray areas in state law, but some officials believe having guidelines for ethical boundaries could be beneficial.

“The more regulation we create, things get difficult to follow, but something like that could be of a benefit,” City Attorney Andrea Chism said. “I don’t know that we’ve had very many situations in the past where it could be used, but, yeah, I think we’d benefit from that - not just for commissioners, but for employees as well.”

Even with hardworking commissioners trying to make the right decision, confusion can arise for well-meaning officials wanting to do the right thing.

Although some commissioners may think an ethics policy isn’t necessary, history tells us otherwise. As Enid Police Department Chief Brian O’Rourke said, “it’s good to have policies because it gives employees and coworkers boundaries.”

We’re not ready to endorse any specific policy at this point, but it’s practical to discuss the issues with qualified advisers. We trust the commission to make the right decision after studying the options and coming to a consensus.

We’re glad Enid’s ethics conversation is continuing. We hope it will bring about meaningful change and ethical clarity.

___

The Oklahoman, Aug. 7, 2016

Oklahoma swimming against death penalty tide

On the issue of the death penalty, Oklahoma appears to be swimming upstream. As the death penalty is either outlawed or effectively abandoned elsewhere, efforts to preserve its use remain strong here.

Being an outlier doesn’t make that stance wrong. But recent events demonstrate that the legal and logistical challenges involved with the death penalty only continue to grow.

This was highlighted again when the Delaware Supreme Court ruled that state’s death penalty law was unconstitutional. The court found Delaware’s law violated the U.S. Constitution because judges were allowed to overrule a jury’s recommendation to impose a life sentence and instead impose the death penalty.

The ruling was tied to a January ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court declaring that a Florida death penalty law violated the Sixth Amendment. Under the Florida law, juries only provided an “advisory sentence,” but a judge was ultimately allowed to determine whether to apply the death penalty.

Delaware and Alabama are the only other states with similar laws.

Technically, Delaware lawmakers could revise their death penalty law to comply with the court’s rulings, but that appears unlikely. In 2015, the Delaware Senate passed a bill to abolish the death penalty. That measure was narrowly defeated in the state House.

Even where the death penalty remains legal, its use has become rare. Although the death penalty in 2015 was legal in 31 states (including Delaware), only six states carried out executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Oklahoma was among that group, carrying out one execution. Other executions have been put on hold in Oklahoma in the aftermath of one botched execution and a second execution that did not follow drug protocols.

The 2015 execution total for the nation was the lowest in 24 years.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there are 50 people on death row in Oklahoma. Although Oklahoma has at times ranked as one of the states most likely to carry out an execution, it ranks lower than 12 states in the number of people on death row.

That trend may continue. The death penalty remains popular, but a majority of Oklahomans now say they would be OK with life without parole instead.

The slowdown in executions is driven by cultural factors in some states and logistical challenges in others. Oklahoma is among those that have struggled to obtain the drugs needed for lethal injections.

Oklahoma lawmakers have responded by legalizing executions using nitrogen hypoxia should lethal injection become impossible. Lawmakers also have proposed a state constitutional amendment regarding the death penalty.

State Question 776 would expressly empower the Legislature to designate any method of execution if a current method, such as lethal injection, is declared unconstitutional. Under SQ 776, death sentences could not be reduced because an execution method is ruled invalid. And the measure also declares the death penalty cannot be declared infliction of cruel or unusual punishment under the Oklahoma Constitution.

Recent polling shows 72 percent of Oklahomans support SQ 776. That continued strong support owes much to the fact that the death penalty is now handed down mostly for crimes so heinous they defy belief.

Time will tell if that strong support is enough to overcome the death penalty’s mounting legal and pragmatic challenges.

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