The Times' purpose becomes obvious when you look at the subheads used to divide its argument into sections:
A financial wizard who can bring executive magic to government?A straight talker who tells it like it is?An expert negotiator who can fix government and overpower other world leaders?A change agent for the nation and the world?
It is no coincidence that these are four of Trump's chief selling points. The editorial seeks to discredit each one.
"Despite his towering properties," the Times wrote, "Mr. Trump has a record rife with bankruptcies and sketchy ventures like Trump University, which authorities are investigating after numerous complaints of fraud." That doesn't sound like the resume of a financial wizard.
Trump definitely represents change, "but voters should be asking themselves if Mr. Trump will deliver the kind of change they want," the paper added. "Starting a series of trade wars is a recipe for recession, not for new American jobs. Blowing a hole in the deficit by cutting taxes for the wealthy will not secure Americans’ financial future, and alienating our allies won’t protect our security."
You get the idea. A roughly translated summary of the entire editorial might be: "Here are the things you like about Donald Trump, and why they aren't actually real."
In many ways, the Times editorial echoes one written by the conservative magazine National Review in January. In that piece, the National Review appealed to conservatives who might be tempted to vote for Trump, telling them his campaign is essentially a mirage.
"Any candidate can promise the moon," the National Review wrote then.
Previewing the anti-Trump editorial in Sunday's Clinton endorsement, the Times wrote that "Donald Trump discloses nothing concrete about himself or his plans while promising the moon and offering the stars on layaway."
How often do the editorial boards of the New York Times and National Review sound so similar?
The Times took a very different approach from one that might have included subheads like these:
Trump is a liarTrump is a bigotTrump is a flip-flopperTrump lacks a presidential temperament
Those are favorite attacks of Trump's usual detractors. They might have fired up voters who already have resolved never to support the real estate mogul, but they probably would not do much to convince people who are open to Trump or in his camp. They've heard those charges a million times, and automatically tune them out.
It is possible, of course, that Trump backers will tune out the New York Times anyway, simply because it is the New York Times — one of their candidate's favorite targets for ridicule. But if their objection to the "elite media" is that it doesn't speak to them, they can't make that claim this time.