Politics & Policy

Hillary Clinton Relentlessly Exploits Voter Ignorance

Clinton on the debate stage in Las Vegas, Nev., October 19, 2016. (Reuters photo: Carlos Barria)
From gun rights to partial-birth abortion, she offers a haze of vague words and obfuscation.

Let’s suppose for a moment that you’re a normal human being. And by “normal” I mean a person who keeps politics at a healthy distance. You’ve got kids, a challenging job, and thriving relationships. Your spare time is precious, so when you do get those few extra hours, you’re far more likely to spend them binge-watching Stranger Things on Netflix than brushing up on the latest trends in abortion legislation or on the text of unconstitutional municipal statutes.

So, as a matter of necessity, to make informed political decisions, you depend on candidates and members of the media to tell the truth. I mean that you depend on them not just to avoid bald-faced lies but also to be forthcoming, to accurately describe, as best they can, the issues and the meaning of any given controversy. At the very least, we demand that they not be deceptive, that they not exploit our understandable ignorance for partisan gain.

If last night’s debate was a preview of a likely Clinton presidency, get ready for the Great Exploitation. On two key issues, the Second Amendment and abortion, Hillary Clinton so grotesquely mischaracterized the stakes of the dispute that I literally laughed at the television screen — until I realized that her points just might hit home.

Here’s a pop quiz. Before the landmark Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller, how did D.C. regulate gun ownership? It’s okay if you don’t know. I had to refresh my memory for the details, and I’m an attorney who writes about the Second Amendment. The answer is pretty shocking: As the Court noted, the city “generally prohibit[ed] the possession of handguns.” Regarding registered rifles and shotguns, the city mandated that they be kept “unloaded and dissembled or bound by a trigger lock or similar device.”

Let’s be clear: These provisions functionally destroyed the right of individuals to defend themselves in their own home. They couldn’t possess a pistol, and any intruder would have free reign until a desperate homeowner could unlock or reassemble his shotgun. But here’s how Hillary defended Heller:

You mentioned the Heller decision, and what I was saying that you referenced, Chris, was that I disagreed with the way the Court applied the Second Amendment in that case. Because what the District of Columbia was trying to do was to protect toddlers from guns. And so they wanted people with guns to safely store them. And the Court did not accept that reasonable regulation, but they’ve accepted many others. So I see no conflict between saving people’s lives and defending the Second Amendment.

Ahh, so the D.C. handgun ban should be known as the “Toddler Protection Act.” This is news to D.C., which was plainly and clearly trying to ban handguns from the city entirely — not for the sake of “toddlers” but in a foolish and misguided effort to stop gun violence. Hillary is insulting our intelligence to argue otherwise. Moreover, her reading of the Second Amendment creates a toddler-protection exception so vast (ban handguns?) that it swallows the constitutional rule.

The same principle applied when she addressed the extraordinarily uncomfortable topic of partial-birth abortion. It’s one of the most gruesome procedures in all of “medicine,” involving the partial delivery of a living child, killing it with a sharp object, and crushing it to ease removal from the mother’s womb. It’s barbaric. The vast majority of Americans are revolted by it, in large part because at that late stage the fundamental humanity of the baby is undeniable.

But Hillary has been steadfast in her belief that a woman should be able to hire a doctor to kill her child at any moment before the child is entirely delivered. Yes, even when it’s halfway out, the doctor should be able to lawfully jam scissors into the back of the child’s skull. That’s Hillary’s belief. She cannot, however, own it honestly to the American people. Defending her vote against banning partial-birth abortion, she said this:

The kinds of cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are often the most heartbreaking, painful decisions for families to make. I have met with women who have, toward the end of their pregnancy, get the worst news one could get. That their health is in jeopardy if they continue to carry to term. Or that something terrible has happened or just been discovered about the pregnancy. I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions. So you can regulate if you are doing so with the life and the health of the mother taken into account.

She’s counting on the fact that most Americans have no idea that when she’s referring to health, she’s referring not just to physical health — physical harm or injury to the mother — but also to the mother’s psychological, emotional, and even familial sense of “well-being.” How do we know this? Because it’s in the very Supreme Court jurisprudence, the Doe v. Bolton case, that she so proudly protects.

Hillary’s tactics wouldn’t work so well in a functioning media environment. But when reporters largely agree with her policy positions, the various “fact checkers” and other watchdogs are off to the races to find some way, any way that her arguments have merit. I mean, if there are no handguns in the home, then toddlers can’t grab them, right? If a woman will suffer anxiety and depression carrying a child to term, we can’t really say that’s “healthy,” right?

In the meantime, the core founding values of life and liberty are further diminished, without their chief antagonists even advancing their core political arguments. Instead, we lose freedom in a haze of misdirection and obfuscation. The Great Exploitation begins.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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