I’m not exactly sure where Mark Halperin thought he would take Rick Perry in this exchange, but he clearly didn’t expect Perry to lead him into this trap. On Morning Joe yesterday, Halperin challenged Perry to more or less endorse Planned Parenthood’s government funding by forcing Perry to acknowledge that they provide at least some valuable services, which seems like a very weird form of damage control coming from a journalist. Shouldn’t reporters ask Planned Parenthood to defend themselves in this manner? Or ask Democrats who want to keep using taxpayer dollars to float Planned Parenthood’s abortion mills?
Perry starts off with a sop to cancer screenings — which are hardly exclusive to Planned Parenthood — and then deftly turns the tables on Halperin:
MARK HALPERIN: Governor, I’d like to ask you a couple of questions about Planned Parenthood. There’s a controversy swirling around that you’ve weighed in on. First, I’d like you to say, does Planned Parenthood do anything, provide any services that you think are valuable, and if so what are they, and second, why are you so troubled by this video?”
RICK PERRY: Well, Planned Parenthood does give some services which I would suggest are good for women’s health, but —
HALPERIN: Which ones, Governor? Can you be specific on that?
PERRY: Oh, I think some of the cancer screenings, some of those types of screening are obviously good for women’s health. But when you look at the overall picture of what they do, they are, they’re in a business that people of Texas have a conern about.
And Mark, let me ask you, You looked at that video and you’re good with it?
HALPERIN: I think the video raises a lot of questions and you and others have raised them.
PERRY: It does indeed. And I think you just answered the question for us. Thank you.
The “Nice!” heard at the end of the exchange came from an amused Mika Brzezinski. Joe Scarborough was less amused. He pressed Halperin to explain why taxpayer dollars are going toward the kind of organ harvesting discussed in the video by a Planned Parenthood executive, “since you brought this up”:
SCARBOROUGH: …the video, obviously troubling because you had a member of Planned Parenthood, I guess, talking about, what? Possible financial compensation for tissue donation from aborted fetuses and talking specifically about how they tear the fetuses apart so they can save this tissue for harvesting? It’s — you hate to say it this early in the morning, but taxpayers are paying for this type of service. Mark, talk about this really quickly, since you brought this up.
HALPERIN: Well, look, leave the politics aside for a second, there are obviously still a lot of ethical issues, medical ethical issues still around from discussions we’ve had back when President Bush was still in office on stem cell research and other things. But the comments made in this video are troubling to a lot of people, not just Republicans, and I don’t think for Governor Perry and for others it’s a partisan issue, really. It’s a question of not just taxpayer money but ethics of a national organization that has a responsibility to do what’s right. And I think this is a case where lots of people need to be involved in this debate, and Governor Perry and others have raised it, as have a lot of members of Congress, so that people can understand what’s happening and debate whether it’s the right thing for our society.
Hmmm. If Halperin thinks that’s the debate, then why start off by demanding that Perry list all of the “valuable services” that Planned Parenthood provides? Why not just stick to the debate about medical ethics that “not just Republicans” are raising? If Perry hadn’t stung Halperin with that response, Halperin would still be demanding that Perry read the entire menu of supposed Planned Parenthood benefits and demanding a discussion on each and every one.