Two fundamentally different visions of America clash on stage for the last time.
The peculiar self-contradiction of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign was on abundant display Wednesday night during her third and last presidential debate with Donald Trump: running as the anointed heir of a two-term president in whose administration she served, she has to maintain both that everything is going great and that the nation in general is in drastic need of repair. Above all, amid all the bluster and platitudes, she and Trump took up opposing sides on virtually all the major fault lines of contemporary America, emphasizing yet again that this election is for all the marbles: either the U.S. will continue on the road to socialist internationalism, or recover a sense of itself. This may be the last time that question is at stake in a presidential election.
“What kind of country are we going to be?,” Hillary Clinton asked near the beginning of the debate, and that indeed was the question. The Supreme Court, she told us, needs to stand on the side of the American people, not on side of the wealthy. What would a Supreme Court that stood on the side of the people, rather than the plutocrats, look like? Why, of course it would be one that said no to Citizen’s United, and yes to Marriage Equality and Roe vs. Wade: as far as Hillary Clinton is concerned, anyone who stands for traditional values is simply not of the people, or any people she has any interest in representing. Nor, presumably, among Hillary Clinton’s people are those who respect and want to uphold the Second Amendment – in which she firmly believes, she assured us Wednesday night, as long as it is gutted of any actual substance.
Trump, on the other hand, affirmed that he would appoint justices who would interpret the Constitution as written, repeal Roe v. Wade and return the abortion question to the states, and protect gun rights. Chicago, he pointed out, has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws, yet also has more gun violence than any other city. This was a telling point; in response, Clinton promised she would give us both the Second Amendment and “reform,” but did not explain how this sleight-of-hand would be performed.
The situation was the same when the topic turned to immigration. Trump spoke of the need for strong borders, pointing to the drugs pouring into the country over the Mexican border as the reason why a border wall was needed, and declaring: “We have no country if we have no border.” In response, Clinton spoke about not wanting to send illegal immigrant parents away from their children who are citizens – an answer that may have tugged at Leftist heartstrings, but left the drug problem unaddressed.
Clinton danced all night. When moderator Chris Wallace quoted her earlier statement saying she wanted open borders, Clinton turned the question into one about Wikileaks, and pressed Trump over whether he would condemn Russia, which she insisted was behind the leaks, for meddling in an American election. “That was a great pivot,” Trump noted drily, “from her wanting open borders.”
Once Clinton had brought up Putin, Trump bored in, charging: “She doesn’t like Putin because Putin has outsmarted her in every way.” In response, Clinton promised to work with our allies all over the world. That highlighted her campaign’s nagging contradiction again, leaving unanswered the question of why the world is so aflame today after eight years of Barack Obama, who came into office with similar promises to mend America’s relationships with friends and foes alike globally – promises that were taken so seriously that he won the Nobel Peace Prize before he had done anything at all. (What’s left to give President Hillary Clinton as she begins her efforts to bring peace to our troubled world? Sainthood?)
There was so much that we had heard before. Clinton promised to make the rich pay their fair share of taxes. Some enterprising and independent-minded historian should research the history of that shopworn phrase, used by so very many Democratic presidential candidates before Hillary. Who was the first to use it? Certainly not Barack Obama, although he made the same promise, or John Kerry or Al Gore, who did as well, or Hillary’s husband. Was it Mike Dukakis? Jimmy Carter? Harry Truman? Woodrow Wilson? Grover Cleveland? How far back does this phrase go, and why, after eight years of Barack Obama, are the poor soaked rich still not paying their fair share? If he couldn’t make them pony up, how will Hillary accomplish it?
That was the rub, on all the issues Trump and Clinton discussed Wednesday evening. She pledged to eradicate the Islamic State, whereupon Trump noted that it was the vacuum created in Iraq by the precipitous Obama/Clinton withdrawal from Iraq that led to the creation of ISIS in the first place. Trump pointed out that the U.S. is pouring money into Syrian rebel groups of doubtful reliability, and noted that if they overthrow Assad (“and he is a bad guy”), Syria might end up with a regime’s worse than Assad, and noted that the chaos in Syria has “caused the great migration, the great Trojan Horse,” with “many ISIS-aligned” coming into the U.S. “Thanks a lot Hillary,” he said acidly, “thanks a lot for doing a great job.”
Indeed. If she didn’t get all this right when she was Secretary of State, how can Americans be confident she will get it right the next time, particularly when all she is offering is more of the same, more of the same failed foreign policies that have gotten the world into the fix it’s in today -- with the centerpiece being the denial of the nature, magnitude and motivating ideology of the jihad threat?
That is what is ultimately the choice Americans face: more of the same, or a drastic change of course. If Hillary Clinton is elected president, and the mainstream media is in a frenzy to do all it can to make sure that she is, Americans will at very least know what they’re getting, and a great many of them will applaud it. Ultimately, however, politically correct fantasies will collapse under the weight of reality. If that happens while she is president, there will be more of the same in another way as well: many Americans who applauded her platitudes, generalities, and appeals to sentiment on Wednesday night will be looking for ways to blame the Republicans.