I criticize Trump a lot but I want you guys to know: He’s probably my favorite pro-choicer.
Ace is right that the weirdest part of this answer is when he goes on to say that he agrees that abortion is murder. It’s murder — but the laws shouldn’t change immediately to ban it? Is there one American voter, left or right, who’s happy with that position? Even as an obvious pander to undo what he said a few days ago about penalizing women who have abortions after the practice is banned, it makes no sense. Why would you want to continue letting abortion doctors off the hook by keeping the laws as-is for the time being instead of pounding the table for a ban ASAP?
Josh Barro compared Trump’s two answers on abortion this week to a flailing contestant on “The $25,000 Pyramid” trying to give the clue to “Things a pro-lifer might say.” That’s basically true. He doesn’t know what mainstream pro-lifers believe so he’s firing rhetorical mortars trying to “dial in” on the right answer. “Abortion should be banned and women should be punished.” Too far right! “Okay, let’s leave the laws alone for now.” Too far left! Another two or three interviews and he’ll be on the target.
Asked how he’d like to change the law to further restrict access to abortions, Trump replied, “The laws are set now on abortion and that’s the way they’re going to remain until they’re changed.”
“I would’ve preferred states’ rights,” he added. “I think it would’ve been better if it were up to the states. But right now, the laws are set….At this moment, the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way.”…
“But you don’t disagree with that proposition, that it’s murder?” Dickerson asked.
“No, I don’t disagree with it,” Trump eventually replied.
For the second time this week, his campaign had to put out a statement after an interview to clean up an abortion answer he’d given:
“Mr. Trump gave an accurate account of the law as it is today and made clear it must stay that way now –until he is President,” Hicks said. “Then he will change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn. There is nothing new or different here.”
That’s a good try, but given Trump’s catastrophic polling with women, I’d put abortion near the top of the list of issues he’s destined to “evolve” on this fall if he becomes the nominee. He probably can’t fully revert to pro-choice without alienating righties he’ll need in November but I think his answer in the excerpt above about leaving the laws alone for now is a clue to where he’ll end up. He’s personally pro-life, he’ll say, and he’d like to send abortion back to the states, but it’s a fraught issue and we need to proceed slowly and cautiously in making such major changes. Wherever he lands on the issue, it’s a cinch that it’ll be somewhere further towards the center than Republican orthodoxy is.
In fact, note this line when he’s asked about his answer to Chris Matthews earlier this week regarding punishing women who have abortions: “I’ve been told by some people that was an older line answer and that was an answer that was given on a, you know, basis of an older line from years ago on a very conservative basis.” He’s telling you flat out here that he’s abandoning that position because it represents an outmoded way of thinking on the right. It’s one thing to change your mind because you’ve been convinced you’re wrong on the merits, but why would any pol flip on a position just because it’s not in vogue? What does that portend for Trump’s shifts on policy once he’s facing a more liberal electorate this fall? And why would anyone who’s thought deeply about abortion need it explained to him “by some people” that his opinion isn’t mainstream?