Donald Trump is no legal scholar, but at Wednesday’s presidential debate he showed a superior grasp of the U.S. Constitution than didHillary Clinton. Amid the overwrought liberal fainting about Mr. Trump’s bluster over accepting the election result (see below), Mrs. Clinton revealed a view of the Supreme Court that is far more threatening to American liberty.
Start with her answer to moderator Chris Wallace’s question about the role of the courts. “The Supreme Court should represent all of us. That’s how I see the Court,” she said. “And the kind of people that I would be looking to nominate to the court would be in the great tradition of standing up to the powerful, standing up on our behalf of our rights as Americans.”
Where to begin with that one? The Supreme Court doesn’t—or shouldn’t—“represent” anyone. In the U.S. system that’s the job of the elected branches. The courts are appointed, not elected, so they can be nonpartisan adjudicators of competing legal claims.
Mrs. Clinton is suggesting that the Court should be a super-legislature that vindicates the will of what she calls “the American people,” which apparently excludes “the powerful.” But last we checked, the Constitution protects everyone, even the powerful. The law is supposed to protect individual rights, not an abstraction called “the people.”
The Democrat went downhill from there, promising to appoint judges who would essentially rewrite the First and Second Amendments. Asked about the 2008 Heller decision that upheld an individual right to bear arms, Mrs. Clinton claimed to support “reasonable regulation.” She said she criticized Heller because it overturned a District of Columbia law intended merely “to protect toddlers from guns and so they wanted people with guns to safely store them.”
Toddlers had nothing to do with it. What Mrs. Clinton calls “reasonable” was an outright ban on handguns. The D.C. law allowed the city’s police chief to award some temporary licenses—but not even the police officer plaintiff in the case could persuade the District to let him register a handgun to be kept at his home.
Anyone who did lawfully possess a gun had to keep it unloaded and either disassembled or bound by a trigger lock at all times, ensuring it would be inoperable and perhaps useless for self-defense. AsAntonin Scalia wrote for the Heller majority, “Few laws in the history of our Nation have come close to the severe restriction of the District’s handgun ban.”