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October 23rd, 2017

Insight

The Hillary Myth

Fred Barnes

By Fred Barnes

Published May 16, 2016

The Hillary Myth

Hillary Clinton sounds like Paul Ryan on the economy. She says she’s for "strong growth, fair growth, and long-term growth." She would abandon the slow-growth economics of President Obama and return us to those wonderful days in the 1990s when husband Bill was in charge. This is a different Hillary Clinton from the one we've seen in debates with Bernie Sanders, her socialist rival for the Democratic presidential nomination. It's the centrist-at-heart Clinton whom conservatives and Republicans eager for an acceptable alternative to Donald Trump can vote for.

Only there's a problem: This Hillary Clinton is entirely mythical. She doesn't exist. As the Democratic party has lurched to the left, she has lurched with it.

Hillary Clinton sounds like Paul Ryan on the economy. She says she’s for "strong growth, fair growth, and long-term growth." She would abandon the slow-growth economics of President Obama and return us to those wonderful days in the 1990s when husband Bill was in charge. This is a different Hillary Clinton from the one we've seen in debates with Bernie Sanders, her socialist rival for the Democratic presidential nomination. It's the centrist-at-heart Clinton whom conservatives and Republicans eager for an acceptable alternative to Donald Trump can vote for.

Only there's a problem: This Hillary Clinton is entirely mythical. She doesn't exist. As the Democratic party has lurched to the left, she has lurched with it. While talking up growth, she has proposed no incentives to produce it. She relies on government spending to stir growth, Obama's woeful policy. On tax cuts, she's for boosting the top rate on individual income to 45 percent, the highest in three decades. Under her complicated plan, the tax rate on capital gains would jump from 23.8 percent to 39.6 percent, then to 47.4 percent with surtaxes. The Tax Foundation concluded her tax hikes would cut annual growth by 1 percent and shrink incomes by at least 0.9 percent. That's a recipe for less job creation, more wage stagnation, fewer business startups, and a despondent country.

An element of the Hillary myth is that she's on the same wavelength as her husband. She's not. He cut the capital gains rate from 28 percent to 20 percent, sparking the economic boom of his second term. He fought hard to enact the North American Free Trade Agreement. She attacks NAFTA and opposes the new Pacific trade treaty she once championed as the "gold standard" of free trade. Bill Clinton pushed through welfare reform that dramatically reduced poverty and welfare dependency. She would expand welfare with a new subsidy for child care and much more. And rather than defend his 1994 crime bill, she apologizes for it.

Another part of the myth is that she hasn't changed her views significantly to keep up with Sanders and Democratic progressives. "A lesser candidate would have veered to the left," the Economist wrote admiringly in April. She "has largely stood her ground." This is just plain wrong. On the minimum wage, she's flipped twice, first to $12 an hour, then saying she'd sign a bill setting the wage at $15. She answered Sanders's call for free public college with a scheme for debt-free college. She shifted his way on raising Social Security benefits and promises to make "the rich" pay for it. She's taken steps toward a single-payer, government health system, which Sanders favors. To counter his desire to ban fracking, Clinton says she'll create a maze of regulatory roadblocks to make fracking nearly impossible. Either way, the cost of energy will soar, hurting the lower middle class and poor disproportionately.

Her willingness to placate the left has whetted its appetite for Supreme Court nominations to sweep away conservative rulings and expand liberal ones. As president, she could instantly create a lockstep, five-vote liberal majority with her replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia. And no doubt she would. There's already talk of the Hillary Court's elimination of restrictions on abortion, reversing the Citizens United decision liberalizing campaign finance, ending the death penalty, forcing nonmembers to pay union dues, reviving an expansive reading of the commerce clause to justify government interference in the economy, and reinterpreting the Second Amendment to outlaw an individual's right to bear arms. None of this is farfetched with Clinton.

The Hillary myth ignores her reputation for dishonesty and untrustworthiness, since the public has caught on to her dubious ethics and penchant for lying. She lies when it's necessary and when it isn't. Her lies are so numerous—and palpable—that it takes 13 minutes for a new video to show even a fraction of them. In the past two weeks, she lied about her stated intention to shut coal mines. She lied in referring to the FBI's criminal investigation of her private email operation as a "security review." The FBI doesn't do security reviews. She lied in claiming to have never sent national security secrets by email. The lies never stop. She denied telling the parents of two security guards that an anti-Muhammad video caused rioters to kill them in Benghazi, Libya. Irrefutable evidence shows she knew she was lying.

Nor does the myth of mainstream Hillary deal with the corruption associated with her since the $100,000 she collected on a $1,000 investment in cattle futures in 1978. The Clintons always find ways to make money in politics or on the public payroll. The Clinton Foundation, which is more a slush fund than a charity, is only the latest and most extravagant example. Foreign governments and unsavory billionaires have donated millions, even as Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. Bill Clinton was hired to speak for as much as $750,000 a pop. We may never know what the donations brought about. But imagine if a Republican secretary of state had been engaged in such conflicts of interest? Heads would roll.

Only on national security and foreign policy does the Hillary myth come close to the truth. She is said to be a hawk. Indeed, she qualifies when measured against Sanders and Obama, both dovish in the extreme. Against President Reagan, she falls short. But, yes, she's become the friend of generals and she approves of military intervention on occasion. She pushed for arming Syrian rebels. She endorsed a surge of troops in Afghanistan. She favored leaving a residual force of troops in Iraq, as Obama did initially. She voted to invade Iraq when that was popular, then changed her mind as soon as it wasn't. She claims tough sanctions against Iran were her idea. Sorry, but they were forced on her by Congress. She was against the surge in Iraq in 2007. But after it succeeded, she is reported to have admitted privately she was wrong. But a hawk? No.

What about Trump? At best, he's a conservative by instinct, but not by philosophy. He's no supply-sider but he would cut personal and corporate tax rates substantially to create incentives to work, save, invest, and generate economic growth. Like Hillary, he's no free trader. He hasn't drifted to the left or, for that matter, to the right. He's asked for a list of potential conservative successors to Scalia. He exaggerates and mangles facts. But a nonstop liar like Hillary? Hardly. He's used every legal trick and heavy-handed tactic in the book in his business career. If he's corrupt, prosecutors haven't noticed. On foreign and national security affairs, he's a rookie, which is worrisome. He promises to stamp out ISIS quickly and build up our depleted military. He's not a hawk either.

On November 8, we'll choose between Clinton and Trump. It's not so much that he is better, though he is. But she fails to meet minimal standards a conservative or a Republican should insist on. A vote for Clinton would be wrong. Voting for a third-party candidate or not voting would be half a vote for Hillary. To defeat her and the myth, a vote for Trump is required.

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Fred Barnes is Executive Editor at the Weekly Standard.

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