Rejecting 'So-Called Binary Choice,' Union Leader Picks Libertarians for President

Sep 15, 2016

Joe McQuaid, the newspaper's publisher, says the Libertarian ticket was "by far the best choice for us this year."
Credit Cheryl Senter, NHPR

Today, the Union Leader did something unusual: It endorsed a candidate for president who was not the Republican nominee. The paper bypassed Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to endorse Gary Johnson and his vice presidential running mate, Bill Weld.

Joe McQuaid, publisher of the Union Leader, spoke to NHPR about the paper’s decision.

Here's the Union Leader editorial endorsing the Johnson-Weld ticket, and McQuaid's column explaining the decision.

Why did you endorse Gary Johnson’s presidential bid?

We find him and Bill Weld to be, by far, the best choice for us this year. A lot of people have said that it’s a so-called binary choice, and you have to pick one of these two and one is supposedly the lesser of two evils — Clinton and Trump. And we don’t think that is so. The Libertarians have managed to get their candidates on the ballots in all 50 states, and we think they are the better choice.

In your short editorial, you did not mention any specific policy idea of either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, you focused mostly on character. But how much did policy matter in this decision?

A great deal. Clinton’s have been not good. And her conduct has been not good. And Trump doesn’t know what the heck he’s talking about on any subject on any given day. His policy is to praise Putin from Russia because he says Putin has an 80 percent favorability rating in his own country. I think Joe Stalin had a 120 percent favorability rating in Russia. It’s absurd. The policies of Clinton and Obama have gotten us into quite a fix, and Trump has no solutions for them.

We don’t agree with every policy of the Libertarian candidates, either, but we think those two gentlemen have a lot more hands on experience and pretty good records as Republican governors in blue or purple states, and have managed to get things done.

So was there a specific policy idea that the Johnson-Weld ticket has put forth that you were particularly fond of?

I think limited government is something that the Union Leader has always been particularly fond of, and getting down the debt and not taxing people greatly, are policies that we approve of. And as far as defense goes, they are in favor of defending the United States — they just don’t believe the amount of money that is being thrown at it to do so, by both major parties, is necessary.

Put this decision in context for us, a little bit. Who was the last non-Republican nominee for president that the Union Leader endorsed?

I do not know. I know that since 1912, when a guy named Frank Knox started the Leader, and then bought the Union, that it’s been reliably Republican. He himself was the vice presidential candidate on the ticket in 1936.

And I know that since William Loeb took over in 1948 he was for Dewey and then he was for Taft in ‘52, but I don’t believe William Loeb endorsed Adlai Stevenson in either ’52 or ’56, and since then it had always been the Republican.

Do you believe that Gary Johnson has a chance at winning?

He does. I think our editorial actually helps him, not that anybody is going to follow our instructions to vote for somebody – but it increased his visibility just today, based on the Twitterverse and the cable news reports on this. So he has an outside shot of making the debates, which are very important. And I think a lot of people are displeased that a guy who’s on the ballot in all 50 states is not being given a seat at the presidential debates. So I think he has a chance. It’s a longshot — and it’s going to be a hell of a lot longer shot if he doesn’t get on the debate — but it’s the old college try, and that’s what we think is best.

How concerned are you that Gary Johnson may be the latest incarnation of what some people called Ralph Nader, a spoiler?

I’m not at all concerned by that. We’re endorsing this guy because, given the field, we think he’s the best candidate. And I’ve seen a lot of traffic today about how this endorsement helps Trump or helps Hillary. Obviously, I don’t think it helps both, but there are arguments on both sides that by endorsing Johnson we help one or the other. That was not a consideration in this. Our consideration is that the Union Leader thinks that the Johnson-Weld ticket is head and shoulders above the other two options.