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My view: What will Utah do? The world is watching

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
John Locher, AP

Utahns — especially Latter-Day Saints — have pioneer spirit in our blood. As the latest presidential polls show, in politics, we care more about a candidate’s character than their party. We care about integrity, decency and how they will treat others. And now the world is watching. What will Utahns do?

Last spring, Mitt Romney — a man of unquestionable dignity and character — called Trump a “phony” and a “fraud.” Recently, the Deseret News demanded that Trump resign after allegations emerged that he had committed sexual assault. It was the first time the newspaper had weighed in on a presidential election in over 80 years.

Throughout this campaign, Trump has insulted millions of Americans with racist comments and sexist slurs. He has advocated for torture and proposed using nuclear weapons in Iraq and Syria. He has bragged about violating women, and there is considerable evidence that he put action to those words. He has reveled in his own ability to avoid responsibility and take advantage of the vulnerable.

These are not the works of a moral man, a decent man and a man who deserves to be president of the United States. Like many others, I am disgusted, and feel duty-bound to denounce Donald Trump.

But some Utahns have trouble supporting Hillary Clinton. They shouldn’t, and here’s why.

First, we must reject Donald Trump. Trump is anathema to everything we stand for as Utahns and Americans. He has disparaged immigrants, spouted racism and pledged to slam the door in the face of refugees fleeing persecution and war. In the second debate, like an aspiring banana-republic dictator, he threatened his adversary with prison. Just this past week, he even threatened not to accept the results of our democratic election process.

There is only one other candidate who can be elected president this year: Hillary Clinton. A vote for anyone else, no matter how appealing any third option may appear, is a vote that won’t count in the actual process, and every vote that doesn’t count is, in fact, a half vote for Donald Trump.

Second, Clinton has the attributes we respect in a leader.

As secretary of state, Clinton helped re-establish America’s reputation abroad. She spent years fighting for the rights of religious minorities, women and children across the globe. And by negotiating some of the toughest multilateral sanctions in history, she helped lay the groundwork for an agreement that will peacefully end Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Clinton’s previous professional life was devoted to causes that benefit children, women, minorities and the poor.

I wonder how many us know about Hillary Clinton’s faith. She grew up a Methodist in Park Ridge, Illinois. She was active in her church, subscribed to Motive, the official magazine of the Methodist student movement, and maintained such a close relationship with her youth pastor that she exchanged letters with him for decades.

She and her husband were married by a Methodist pastor. During the 1992 presidential campaign, she carried a Bible everywhere she went. As first lady, she participated in a prayer group with the wives of prominent conservatives. As secretary of state, when one of her speechwriters left out the words “God-given” in a speech about human potential, she wrote them back in.

She has long expressed her faith through public service, citing John Wesley’s mantra: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

I saw Clinton’s moral fiber long before this election. After Sept. 11, troops across the country donned their uniforms. As a 39-year veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve, I was proud to stand among them.

At the time, we took note of which elected officials stood alongside us. Hillary Clinton was one of them. I will never forget seeing her rush to New Yorkers’ side after the towers fell. As a senator, she fought to obtain health care for 9/11 first-responders, to expand health care for our National Guard, reservists and their families, and to increase the death benefit for Gold Star families.

On Nov. 8, Utah has a chance to do more than just choose a candidate. We have a chance to stand for principle. True, Hillary Clinton has made mistakes — most presidential candidates have. But she is unquestionably qualified to lead our nation, and she has shown her faith and decency over and over again, even under pressure.

Hillary Clinton will provide steady, moral, inclusive and compassionate leadership in a dangerous time. She deserves Utahns’ vote.

Maj. Gen. Peter S. Cooke (ret.) served 39 years in the U.S. Army Reserve. He also served as director of economic development under former Gov. Scott M. Matheson, and was the Democratic Party’s candidate for governor of Utah in 2012.