Republicans claim they're up in arms over Clinton’s “incendiary” remarks. But if any of them want a shot at the White House, they might want to consider what she actually did say.
“Are you a terrorist?”
I am fairly certain that Rev. Lou Sheldon was not referring to me, personally, when he sent out a fund-raising email last Friday with that sentence in the subject line. Still, I’m sure his words no doubt resonated with many of the hundreds of thousands of people who are on his “Traditional Values Coalition” email list. Sheldon, a decades-long leader in the religious right, is just the latest in a pool of social conservatives allegedly up in arms over a comment made last week by former secretary of State and presidential contender Hillary Clinton. They claim the Democratic front runner was comparing those who oppose abortion to members of ISIS.
Of course, few would be surprised to learn that abortion opponents are exaggerating, and that the exaggeration has rippled through the right-wing media like a game of telephone, embellished at each stop. Sheldon’s email was referencing a LifeNews article titled “Hillary Clinton Compares Pro-Lifers to Terrorists.” In it, LifeNews editor Steven Ertelt writes, “Attention pro-life Americans. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton thinks you have something in common with terrorist groups like ISIS if you favor de-funding the Planned Parenthood abortion business after it was recently caught selling aborted babies and their body parts.”
But Clinton’s real remarks were far less incendiary. At a campaign stop in Cleveland, she lashed out at GOP presidential candidates, including local Ohio Governor John Kasich, for their continuing attacks on access to abortion and contraception.
“Marco Rubio brags about wanting to deny victims of rape and incest access to health care, to abortion,” she stated. “Jeb Bush says Planned Parenthood shouldn’t get a penny. Your governor right here in Ohio banned state funding for some rape crisis centers because they sometimes refer women to other health facilities that do provide abortions. I would like these Republican candidates to look a mom in the eye who caught her breast cancer early because she was able to get a screening for cancer. Or the teenager who didn’t get pregnant because she had access to contraception. Or anyone who’s ever been protected by an HIV test.”
“Extreme views about women—we expect that from some of the terrorist groups, we expect that from people who don’t want to live in the modern world,” she continued. “But it’s a little hard to take from Republicans who want to be the president of the United States, yet they espouse out of date, out of touch policies. They are dead wrong for 21st century America. We are going forward, we are not going back.”
Now, did Clinton really “compare pro-lifers to ‘terrorists’?” You would have to stretch pretty far to say yes. So of course stretching is exactly what most of the GOP slate has decided to do.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio declared her “desperate,” telling Fox and Friends, “Her views are the ones that are radical.” Over on the Hugh Hewitt show he hit the same note, stating “Look, she’s a failing candidate, has no credibility, being exposed for being deceitful on the whole issue of her server, compromised the national security of the United States. And quite frankly, she’s been chasing Sen. Bernie Sanders and others in her party to the extreme left. So obviously, she’s going to go around saying outrageous things, and I expect more of it in the months to come.”
Carly Fiorina, the sole woman in the Republican line up, even took the opportunity to throw a gender card into the mix. “What it tells us is that Hillary Clinton has no qualms about continuing to try and wage this supposed ‘war on women’ card as she runs for president,” Fiorina told Fox News. “We ought to expect this. Democrats are continually describing Republicans as extreme when the truth is, it is Democrats who are extreme … So Hillary Clinton and her party are the extremists here on a whole series of issues, and her comparing any Republican to a terrorist is simply over the line.”
Hoping to fan the flames even more, the Republican National Committee itself is in on the act, and demanded an apology to appease their faux outrage. “For Hillary Clinton to equate her political opponents to terrorists is a new low for her flailing campaign,” declared RNC National Press Secretary Allison Moore in a statement. “She should apologize immediately for her inflammatory rhetoric.”
Purposefully misconstruing and exaggerating a political opponent’s comments in order to gain media attention, grassroots support, or financial donations is a time-honored campaign tradition, and one that the Republican presidential candidates and their supporters seem happy to embrace. However, the reality is that Clinton did not, in fact, call the entire pro-life movement terrorists. Meanwhile, her real statement—that many of the presidential candidates’ extreme views of women are similar to those within the terrorist organizations that the GOP oppose—is actually true.
Let me be very clear: Abortion opponents are not terrorists. Unless of course we are actually talking about the ones who bomb clinics, stalk or threaten doctors, murder providers, burn down clinics, attempt to burn down clinics, plot to kill doctors, or, wait, did I mention trying to burn down clinics yet? Those people are in fact engaged in a series of terroristic attacks and their actions should be properly called out as such.
And when Rick Santorum opines that birth control shouldn’t exist because it provides unmarried women a “license to do things in the sexual realm that should be saved for the marriage bed. Or Mike Huckabee states that a 10-year-old rape victim should be forced into a c-section birth because there is an “innocent child” whose life is at stake, and he is referring not to the pregnant tween, but to the fetus, then yes, recognize that these extreme positions—which are being promoted and espoused by people campaigning for your vote to be in the White House—echo those by some religious terrorist groups as well. If a candidate finds that accusation offensive, well, perhaps he or she needs to take a deeper look inside, and consider the real-world implications of their allegedly “pro-life, pro-family” stances.
But the odds of that occurring during this highly incendiary primary are slim to none, and fund-raising and campaigning on this self-created controversy makes a far more palatable option for those on the right. So enjoy those extra dollars and sound bites, candidates. We’ll see if they come back to bite you once the general election rolls around.
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