Newspapers get it when it comes to presidential endorsements. Few of us carry illusions about changing minds, let alone shaping the outcome. Most go through the exercise for the same reason an editorial board expresses daily opinions. We try to add constructively to the debate.

Go back to November to catch a glimpse of the reality. Among the largest 100 newspapers across the country, 57 recommended the election of Hillary Clinton. Two endorsed Donald Trump. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, received more endorsements than the man who now occupies the White House.

Some papers made no endorsement. Others, such as USA Today, framed their choice as anybody but Trump.

Why return to this old business, six months into the Trump presidency? Because there’s something of a rule about endorsements: When practically all the papers agree, they may be on to something. Clinton gained endorsements like no other candidate in recent times.

The unexpected endorsement often is the most eye-catching. Recall newspapers such as the Dallas Morning News and the Arizona Republic that had recommended Republicans for decades making the case for Clinton, the Democrat. The Cincinnati Enquirer broke a string that went back nearly a century.

The consistent theme didn’t involve policies or positions. It went to basic fitness. Newspapers across the spectrum concluded that Trump wasn’t fit for the office.

The endorsement process often is akin to weighing whether to make a hire. Relevant experience plays a part. So do past performance, knowledge and temperament. The Dallas Morning News saw many flaws in Clinton yet concluded: “Her errors are plainly in a different universe than her opponent’s.”

The Trumpian shortcomings were there for all to see, the absence of public service, the serial problems with the truth, the narcissism, flimflam (Trump University), shallow grasp of policy, bankruptcies, fleecing of shareholders and dark associations, including his mentor of sorts, Roy Cohn, one of the most odious figures of the past century.

All of that, and more, disturbed editorial pages, and much of it has been on display since Trump took office. This isn’t a bid to say we told you so, or to diminish what happened: He won the presidency, no matter James Comey and the Russians. At the same time, those shortcomings so far have defined his presidency downward.

The president has missed a rare opportunity in his awkward victory, neither expecting nor prepared for success. A presidential election generates two counts, the popular vote and the deciding tally, the Electoral College. A candidate who only wins the latter does himself no favor ignoring, or denying, the former, especially when he trails by nearly 3 million ballots. In any other election held in the country, he would have lost.

So there is no big mandate — except to respect what voters said and seek to bridge the divide.

In the main, Trump has cast aside such thinking. He won, and thus his administration features the likes of Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency and Betsy DeVos at the Education Department. His budget plan called for gutting the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, among other domestic programs. Where is the support for that? Not in Congress, thankfully.

The travel ban could have been narrowly tailored. Instead, Trump grabbed for more, playing to fears while the courts blocked his way.

Bill Clinton and George W. Bush joined last week for a conversation in Dallas. Clinton explained that the best thing for a politician is to be “consistently underestimated.” That is the opening for Trump, the one he appears unable to seize.

For his part, Bush helped to frame an answer about why Trump struggles (beyond the Russian scandal). The former president sees “humility” as the most important quality for a president. “I think it’s really important to know what you don’t know and listen to people who do know what you don’t know,” he told the audience.

Imagine Donald Trump surrounded less by loyalists and family and more by those best equipped for advancing the larger mission. Or operating with more dignity to ease the raw partisan feelings. That would require a degree of emotional intelligence, or some greater understanding of humility as a strength.

That virtue isn’t something often associated with the president. Its absence adds to why many newspapers concluded, and so far seems clear: He isn’t fit.

Douglas is the Beacon Journal editorial page editor. He can be reached at 330-996-3514 or emailed at