The third and mercifully final presidential debate also turned out to be the most conventional. Fox News' Chris Wallace did a solid job pressing the candidates on issues in Las Vegas, giving them space to spar but not enough space to get out of control.
Of course, not even a strong moderator will deter candidates from misleading, lying and prevaricating all night. And since we know Trump's performance will be comprehensively fact-checked by the entire media, let's talk about three of Clinton's biggest whoppers.
First, was there anything more ridiculous in the debate than Clinton's answer on guns? When pressed by Wallace to explain her opposition to the 2008 landmark District of Columbia v. Heller decision, Clinton went through a checklist of platitudes before saying, "You mentioned the Heller decision, and what I was saying that you reference, Chris, was that I disagreed with the way the court applied the Second Amendment in that case because what the District of Columbia was trying to do was protect toddlers from guns."
Clinton brought up "toddlers" a few more times because little children are mostly adorable and no one wants to see them shot. The thing is, the Heller case revolves around Richard Heller, the then-66-year-old police officer in Washington, D.C., who was allowed to carry a gun in a federal office building to protect politicians and strangers but not in his home to protect himself, his family or his property. Also of note, the Heller decision had nothing to do with toddlers or saving toddlers' lives or toddler gun safety or toddlers shooting at one another. As my colleague Sean Davis has pointed out, the word "toddler" doesn't appear anywhere in either the majority or dissenting opinions in the case.
After she was done fearmongering, Clinton went on to say, "there's no doubt that I respect the Second Amendment, that I also believe there's an individual right to bear arms."
No, she does not. Heller ended the "total ban on handguns" in Washington, D.C. — which was the Supreme Court's description of the gun control laws in the district. It codified the Second Amendment as an individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense. Clinton admits she supports an effective ban on all handguns (for the toddlers), which is what instigated Heller. What application of the decision does she oppose, if not the individual's right to own a gun?
Let's move to the only constitutional "right" Clinton believes shouldn't have any constraints: abortion. Last night, Clinton reiterated her support for legal abortion on demand for any reason throughout the entire pregnancy. Although Clinton is free to hold this position, she's not free to make stuff up.
For starters, the idea that Clinton — the woman who, in 2008, argued that President Obama's health care plans were too modest — wants to keep government out of health care decisions is worthy of 8,000 Pinocchios. While one hopes that those who are anti-abortion remain sensitive to the heartbreaking, painful decisions women make, Clinton's insinuation that most late-term abortions are to save the life of the mother is not backed up by evidence.
Dr. Leroy Carhart, nationally known for performing late-term abortions, was taped admitting that he often performs elective late-term abortions at 26 weeks "or more." Dr. Martin Haskell, the pioneer of partial-birth abortion, was once taped acknowledging that 80 percent of partial-birth abortions are "purely elective."
The evidence comports with Haskell's claim. The anti-abortion Charlotte Lozier Institute, using data from medical literature and late-term abortion providers, found that the majority of late-term abortions are not performed for "maternal health complications or lethal fetal anomalies discovered late in pregnancy." The pro-choice Guttmacher Institute found that in "many ways, women who had later abortions were similar to those who obtained first-trimester procedures." Which is to say the decision's based on convenience, not health.
Though Clinton acknowledges that Roe v. Wade allows for some limits on abortion, she has never supported a single one. Today, the health exemption is being used to end the life of a viable fetus for nearly any reason at all.
These kinds of deceits have long been a part of the culture wars. But I was a bit taken aback by Clinton's, dare I say, Trumpian dishonesty on economics. For instance, she said, word for word, "I also will not add a penny to the debt."
Clinton could tax the wealthy at a 90 percent top-marginal rate, raise rates on corporations and enact every other trickle-down tax on consumers she desires, and there's still no way she would not add to the national debt. If she failed to enact her agenda and did absolutely nothing as president (we should be so lucky), Clinton would still add to the debt. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which accepts her economic plan on its face, estimates that her policies would cost $200 billion and cause public debt to rise from over $14 trillion to more than $23 trillion over the next decade.
Like me, you might find this estimate implausibly low. But even in the fantastical world of contemporary progressive economics, $200 billion is a lot more than a "penny." Like many of the contentions we heard in Las Vegas, it was a lie peddled for political purposes.
David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist and the author of "The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy." Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi. To find out more about David Harsanyi and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.