Presidential Campaign

Before attacking Sanders on guns, Clinton was ‘Annie Oakley’

The latest saga in the race for Democratic nomination is an attempt by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to paint Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as soft on guns. In reality, Sanders has a lifetime score of D-minus from the NRA, and while Clinton might have a lower score, Sanders is not far removed from Clinton’s overall stance on gun control. However, Clinton’s 2016 viewpoint on the Second Amendment is different from hers of only eight years ago. Her evolution on guns mirrors her flip-flops on Iraq, the Keystone XL pipeline, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), gay marriage, and numerous other contentious issues.

{mosads}Before attacking Sanders on guns, Clinton waged a battle for Democratic nominee against another more progressive challenger. A New York Times headline from 2008 noted that “Clinton Portrays Herself as a Pro-Gun Churchgoer,” specifically because of her fondness of faith and the Second Amendment when speaking to rural communities. Then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) represented a different challenge for the nomination back then, and Clinton tried to label the future president as one who was “elitist” and “out of touch” with rural America. In turn, as noted by the Associated Press, Obama found Clinton’s pro-gun stance amusing, likening her to Annie Oakley:

“She is running around talking about how this is an insult to sportsman, how she values the [S]econd [A]mendment. She’s talking like she’s Annie Oakley,” Obama said, invoking the famed female sharpshooter immortalized in the musical “[Annie] Get Your Gun.”

Obama continued, saying “Hillary Clinton is out there like she’s on the duck blind every Sunday. She’s packing a six-shooter. Come on, she knows better. That’s some politics being played by Hillary Clinton.”

Not long ago, today’s staunch advocate of gun control was referred to as “Annie Oakley” by then-rival Obama.

In addition, Clinton’s own words highlight an enormous shift from her present attacks on Sanders. During the 2008 campaign, Clinton echoed conservative talking points against Obama:

You know, Americans who believe in the Second Amendment believe it’s a matter of Constitutional rights. …

I also disagree with Sen. Obama’s assertion that people in this country “cling to guns” and have certain attitudes about immigration or trade simply out of frustration. People of all walks of life hunt — and they enjoy doing so because it’s an important part of their life, not because they are bitter.

Finally, in the April 2008 primary debate with Obama, the former New York senator seemed to the right of Bernie Sanders on “blanket” federal legislation on guns:

Clinton: What I favor is what works in New York. You know, we have a set of rules in New York City, and we have a totally different set of rules in the rest of the state. What might work in New York City is certainly not going to work in Montana.

So for the federal government to be having any kind of, you know, blanket rules that they’re going to try to impose I think doesn’t make sense.

[ABC News moderator George] Stephanopoulos: But, Senator, you were for that when you ran for Senate in New York.

Clinton: I was for the New York rules; that’s right. I was for the New York rules, because they have worked over time. And there isn’t a lot uproar in New York about changing them, because I go to upstate New York, where we have a lot of hunters and people who are collectors and people who are sport shooters. They have every reason to believe that their rights are being respected.

Back then, Clinton defended the rights of hunters, opposed sweeping federal legislation (citing the differences between New York and Montana, for example) and expressed the antithesis of today’s rhetoric on gun control.

Hillary Clinton’s political attacks on Bernie Sanders ignore her previous pro-gun rhetoric and political attacks on Barack Obama. Ultimately, the gun control debate won’t overshadow Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy, her Iraq resolution vote, the possibility of neoconservative advisers in her administration, her previous support of Keystone XL or a host of other issues that make progressives lean towards Sanders. Because of Clinton’s ability to change viewpoints at will, ignoring prior rhetoric, Sanders is poised to win the Democratic nomination. Unlike Clinton, Sanders has been honest and forthright on the most controversial topics, which will help him overcome any attack from the Clinton campaign regarding gun control.

Goodman is an author and a journalist.

Tags 2008 Democratic primary 2016 Democratic primary 2016 presidential campaign Barack Obama Bernie Sanders Gun control Gun rights Hillary Clinton Second Amendment
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