Want to know why Kirsten Gillibrand’s act has worn thin? This bizarre moment from last night’s Fox News town hall shows why. Gillibrand took the invitation in order to have a breakout moment for her floundering campaign, and used the platform to attack her hosts rather than answer a tough question on late-term abortion.
Chris Wallace was not having it at all, humiliating Gillibrand by pointing out the obvious:
Kirsten Gillibrand is asked if she supports late-term abortion
She responds by blaming Fox News for talking about infanticide after Ralph Northam's remarks
Chris Wallace shuts down her attacks
Gillibrand is again asked about her position, she replies w/she supports Roe v. Wade pic.twitter.com/u0nKVTPrZC
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) June 3, 2019
“What we have created, unfortunately, is a false choice and a false narrative,” Gillibrand said of the climate surrounding the issue. “And Chris, I want to talk about the role that Fox News plays in this because it’s a problem. I can tell you before President Trump gave his State of the Union, Fox News talked about infanticide.”
“Infanticide doesn’t exist,” she said, at which point “Fox News Sunday” host and town hall moderator Chris Wallace cut her off.
“Senator, I just want to say, we’ve brought you here for an hour,” Wallace said. “We’ve treated you very fairly. I understand that maybe to make your credentials with the Democrats who are not appearing on Fox News you want to attack us. I’m not sure it’s frankly very polite when we’ve invited you to be here.” …
“I’ll do it in a polite way,” Gillibrand countered.
“Instead of talking about Fox News why don’t you answer Susan’s question,” Wallace said redirecting the senator to her stance on late-term abortions.
The answer is a mess in more ways than one, but Wallace skewered the worst aspect of it. Gillibrand clearly prepared for the topic and for her attack on Fox; why else would she have the total time that Fox News talked about infanticide? Gillibrand knew that taking the invitation to talk on Fox was controversial among progressives, so she hoped to shore up her street cred with activists by using this moment to claim she took the fight to the enemy, or something. It was so transparently manipulative that Wallace easily depantsed her over it as soon as she made the attempt.
Gillibrand should have seen it coming. Wallace had taken some heat for not sufficiently defending his colleagues in previous Fox News town halls. This time, he came prepared, and Gillibrand made it easy by attacking the entire organization.
The rest of Gillibrand’s argument was almost as bad. If she wants to blame someone for the debate over infanticide, Gillibrand should blame Gov. Ralph Northam. The Virginia Democrat — himself a physician — told an interviewer that a new law proposed by his party would allow “a discussion [to] ensue” if a baby was born alive from an attempted late-term abortion about whether to keep the baby alive. That was about two weeks prior to Trump’s delayed SOTU speech, which is precisely why Fox News and others were covering and discussing it.
Furthermore, Gillibrand’s declaration that she believes in Roe in the context of late-term abortion made it clear that Gillibrand is ignorant on the subject. The court’s ruling opinion clearly declared that the decision applied to first-trimester abortions only. Justice Harry Blackmun wrote in the controlling opinion that states could proscribe abortions past that stage, emphasis mine:
The Court’s opinion decides that a State may impose virtually no restriction on the performance of abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy. Our previous decisions indicate that a necessary predicate for such an opinion is a plaintiff who was in her first trimester of pregnancy at some time during the pendency of her law-suit. While a party may vindicate his own constitutional rights, he may not seek vindication for the rights of others. Moose Lodge v. Irvis, 407 U.S. 163 (1972); Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727 (1972). The Court’s statement of facts in this case makes clear, however, that the record in no way indicates the presence of such a plaintiff. We know only that plaintiff Roe at the time of filing her complaint was a pregnant woman; for aught that appears in this record, she may have been in her last trimester of pregnancy as of the date the complaint was filed.
Nothing in the Court’s opinion indicates that Texas might not constitutionally apply its proscription of abortion as written to a woman in that stage of pregnancy. Nonetheless, the Court uses her complaint against the Texas statute as a fulcrum for deciding that States may [410 U.S. 113, 172] impose virtually no restrictions on medical abortions performed during the first trimester of pregnancy.
It was Casey that moved the goalposts from the first trimester to an ambiguous “viability” standard and allowed late-term abortions. If Gillibrand truly believed in Roe, then she would oppose abortions after the first trimester — or at least support the right of states to bar them.
For those wondering why Gillibrand hasn’t caught fire in the 2020 cycle, this is a perfect demonstration of the difference between resumé and talent. On paper, Gillibrand looks like a perfect candidate. In reality, she’s a lightweight in far over her head.
Update: Justice Blackmun’s first name was Harry, not William, as I originally wrote. (For some reason, I confused him with Justice Rehnquist, I guess.) I’ve fixed it above, and thanks to David V for the correction.