Donald Trump backtracks after restating core Republican logic

I knew that when I stepped out for a few days, I’d be missing out on some hot garbage from Donald Trump.

What I didn’t expect was for the garbage to be so hot that even Donald Trump wouldn’t stick with it.

Especially when it’s hot garbage that’s out in at least one of his opponents’ yards.

From CNN:

Donald Trump scrambled to clarify his position on abortion Wednesday after he said women who undergo the procedure should face “some form of punishment” should the practice be outlawed.

Several hours later — after widespread condemnation from Trump’s presidential rivals and even leading anti-abortion groups — he walked back his remarks, releasing a statement in which he said that women who obtain abortions are victims and that doctors who perform the service are the ones who should be punished.

Donald Trump, via iprimages / Flickr

Donald Trump, via iprimages / Flickr

As usual, Trump’s initial position that women who have abortions should be punished simply takes the subtext of the Republican platform and makes it the text. If abortion is in fact murder, it follows that those who participate in abortions — the doctors who perform them, the women who have them — are some combination of murderers and accessories. It further follows that the state should treat them accordingly.

This isn’t a new idea. In fact, it was tacitly endorsed by a presidential candidate not named Donald Trump months ago. When Ted Cruz unveiled his “Pro-Lifers for Cruz” coalition, he promoted a book written by anti-abortion activist Troy Newman which explicitly argues that the United States carries a “bloodguilt” for failing to execute women who have abortions and the doctors who provide them. As I wrote then:

…while I doubt Ted Cruz would advocate vigilante justice — he’s no Paul LePage — it’s definitely worth asking him whether he supports criminalizing abortion to the same extent that Troy Newman does. We already know that Ted Cruz absolutely adores the death penalty; does he think that women who have abortions and/or the doctors who provide them should be executed by the state?

This doesn’t seem like the kind of question we should have to ask politicians with a non-zero chance of becoming president, but there seems to be a non-zero chance that Cruz would answer yes.

For his part, Cruz took the opportunity yesterday to rail against Trump, saying that of course it’s a terrible idea to punish women for having abortions. Abortion is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing, but we shouldn’t punish those involved because…reasons. Put another way:

View post on imgur.com

This isn’t the only issue where this is the case.

As it turns out, what little inquiry there has been into public opinion concerning criminal charges against women who have abortions has shown that Donald Trump’s initial position was way out on the fringe — even compared to hardline anti-abortion politicians like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. But that has less to do with the logic of the right’s anti-abortion argument (which, by the way, is wrong on its own terms) and more to do with the fact that taking the argument to its logical conclusion is strikingly unpopular. Perhaps because few people actually believe that women who seek abortions are cold-blooded killers.

In any case, Trump reversed his position immediately and emphatically, insisting that he never said that thing he totally said:


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Jasper

    we have alot of reasons to keep baby murder legal. we are wonderful people us democrats.

  • Jasper

    I agree, why can’t we kill unborn babies in peace anymore!

  • Angela Walker

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  • quax

    Now we have this to pile of scary stuff:

    Trump is more logically consistent than the modern day GOP.

  • BTW, more regarding reproductive rights: Think I’m kidding about this deliberate strategy to infantilize women? Peggy Noonan — a conservative woman, yes — spewed this paternalistic misogyny just yesterday:

    This is almost always true: A woman who aborts a child is operating within an emotional and spiritual context of fear, disappointment, confusion and sadness. If she receives an illegal abortion she should not be “punished” by the law. This is in line with long human tradition and is based on the simple wisdom that she has already been gravely and tragically penalized: She has lost her child, someone who was very likely going to love her, someone she very likely would have loved. The doctor who performs such an abortion on the other hand is not in turmoil, he is in business. He breaks the law and ends the life of the child with full consciousness, and for profit. He should be “punished.” He should be in jail. That we even have to discuss this is absurd.

    I mean, for fuck’s sake, a woman who seeks out an abortion is not mentally disabled or irrational. She’s not aborting ‘a child’ either — which is another rhetorical twist. First it’s ‘unborn fetus’, then ‘unborn baby’, then there was a brief fad when it was referred to as ‘pre-born’ — now they aren’t even infants or babies anymore, but children. Choosing to have an abortion or failing to bring a pregnancy to term is nothing like the grief a parent feels when their living, breathing, talking child dies.

    Let’s break this down. I’ll refrain from excessive block quoting–
    “This is almost always true–“, Noonan says. With zero evidence to back up that initial entirely false assertion.

    “A woman who aborts a child–“ Women never abort children, because a child by definition has already been born. The vast majority of the time, a woman is aborting either a blastocyst or a fetus in a very, very early stage of development, most often before 16 weeks has elapsed, often much much less.

    “–is operating within an emotional and spiritual context of fear, disappointment, confusion, and sadness.” I’m sure the roughly 1/3 of all American women who’ve received an abortion at some time in their lives love being told it was nothing but a time of out-of-control emotions and personal horror. Fact is, most of the women I know personally chose abortions not out of fear or sadness, but because they felt it was necessary. It isn’t always true, especially in the case of a planned or desired pregnancy gone wrong that must be ended; the far more common ’emotional and spiritual context’ is a feeling of relief.

    While individual women’s feelings obviously vary on abortion, including regret, the most rigorous studies show that the overwhelming feeling women experience a week after an abortion is relief. (…) That data was drawn from a comprehensive study conducted by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco, which surveyed nearly 1,000 women who sought abortions across the country over five years. Three years later, “women in this study overwhelmingly felt that the decision was the right one for them: At all time points over three years, 95 percent of participants reported abortion was the right decision,” the authors reported, “with the typical participant having a 99 percent chance of reporting the abortion decision was right for her.”

    “If she receives an illegal abortion, she should not be “punished” by the law.” Why not? If these misogynistic creeps are going to make it illegal, why not prosecute the person most directly responsible for seeking out a currently legal medical procedure that has since been made illegal? If a drunk driver kills someone, the bartender who served them might face charges, but the driver isn’t going to get off free. Right: It’s because Noonan and many of her ilk again always assume that a woman seeking out an abortion is not actually responsible for taking all those steps to make it happen. Here comes a long and rather revelatory passage–

    “This is in line with long human tradition and is based on the simple wisdom that she has already been gravely and tragically penalized: She has lost her child, someone who was very likely going to love her, someone she very likely would have loved.” The woman who received the abortion did not do so passively. She sought it out and could have stopped it at any time up until it took place. Assuming of course the fetus was viable in the first place.

    Anyway, that’s as far as I cared to go on the 2nd time around, because the rest is more misogynistic / paternalistic twaddle. Like I said, the forced pregnancy advocates keep wanting to insist that adult women are not actually sentient beings deserving of equal rights and fully responsible for their choices and actions, but basically foolish, easily manipulated and victimized girl-children.

  • Phil in FLL

    I don’t think Kasich has a very sophisticated advertising team.

  • Eww. Seriously, what’s the phallic nose?

  • Which generally just results in them sticking to Fox Noise, where they can be happily coddled, and never seriously questioned. They like to think the whole Megyn Kelly thing garners them some kind of legitimacy when it comes to dealing with Trump, but it doesn’t for anyone actually paying attention.

  • Aye, it’s safe…until people who aren’t your supporters start asking for specifics and details about what you’re really going to do.

    Then the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ problem manifests.

  • Sound tough, never ever apologize, always turn any accusation of insincerity back on the accuser. It’s a pretty standard, and safe playbook when your supporters are terrified reactionaries, praying for a strong authoritarian presence to hold their hand and give them a safe space from which to hate.

  • Nor the mouth-breather who would end up being the candidate. They have no good choices, short of pulling a completely uncharacteristic move of pushing for someone totally off the radar right now.

  • Trump says whatever he thinks people want to hear, and doesn’t stop to think through any of the longer-term implications of what he’s saying. As a textbook malignant narcissist and pathological liar, he’s internalized the notion that sounding “tough and strict” is usually a safe go-to strategy whenever asked a question on some topic he hasn’t thought through at all.

    Only now the campaigns are starting to get down to specifics and the sheer depth of Trump’s aggressive ignorance is becoming clearer. He knows next to nothing about every important topic he’d be expected to deal with as President — and worse, his uncontrollable egomania won’t let him admit he’s not the world’s biggest genius savant on literally everything.

    He does know how to manipulate the media and has hit upon this repeated strategy of saying outrageous things to attract attention, then walking them back a little, then doubling down…then moving on almost immediately to the next unrelated outrageous remark.

    Apparently he does know enough about the real estate business to keep that going. (However, there’s that old truism: If you have a hundred bucks, it takes talent and smarts to hang onto it and to make it grow. If you have a hundred million, it’s almost impossible to keep it from growing unless you’re a complete idiot. (Of course, there’s Trump’s multiple business bankruptcies and failures, about which several have noted he’d actually be far wealthier if he’d taken his inheritance and simply invested in index funds.) If it’s not some form of real estate development and/or self-promotion, everything else Trump touches fails.

    He’s spent the last nine months promoting himself. Now he’s being asked specifics about what he’d do as America’s next President, what his actual concrete policies would be — and he’s completely clueless.

    As far as it goes with reproductive rights, Trump really is just saying openly what the real GOP strategy has been all along: To shame women and force them if necessary to carry every pregnancy to term, and ideally also be prohibited from using contraceptives to prevent pregnancies. I’m also far from the first to note that these forced-pregnancy advocates are already punishing women for seeking LEGAL abortions. Yeah, it’s not yet including criminal charges — but the latest laws edge ever closer, especially the ones criminalizing miscarriages and fetal abnormalities and defects. I’m seeing it socially, in how pregnant women are being subjected to alcohol Prohibition, even though the science suggesting total abstinence is required does not exist. Then there are the waiting periods, the medically incorrect lectures, the scare tactice, the forced ultrasounds, the lack of insurance coverage, and the forced pregnancy protester fanatics — all of these are punitive measures intended to force women not to exercise their reproductive rights through extortion, harassment and threats.

    And on top of all this, as I said, the misogynists also want to ‘punish’ women who use contraceptives for any reason by making them more expensive and fully out-of-pocket, even though there is no similar push to do the same for men’s erectile dysfunction medicines.

    But back to Herr Drumpf: In the past, the self-described ‘outsiders’ for elected office were really just politicians mendaciously claiming not to be professional politicians. They were nevertheless entirely fluent in the language and protocols of politics. They would stake out a forced-pregnancy position by claiming it was simply for the good of ‘mothers and their babies’. They know how to deflect questions about nuclear weapons without providing substantive answers. They know to say “Israel and the Palestinians” not “Israel and Palestine,” and why they have to do that even if they believe in a 2-state solution. They’re aware there’s a fine line between ‘tough on terrorists’ talk and advocacy of war crimes. And yes, nearly all of the serious ones are sufficiently educated to know the Supreme Court doesn’t have a prosecutorial investigation branch and would not be so stupid as to lay out a litmus test for a prospective Justice nominee that includes going after (ex post facto-style) his likely Democratic opponent for the Presidency.

    Trump doesn’t know how to do any of this, can’t even comprehend why it’s necessary. (And seriously, I don’t know why nobody’s observed the absolute impropriety of a would-be candidate for President promising to try to use the Judicial branch to go after his political enemies.)

    Ben Carson flamed out when the depth of his ignorance and unfitness for high elected office became crystal clear. It is possible we may finally be seeing the limit of how far nothing but an undeniable skill at self-promotion will carry a certifiably mentally ill and profoundly ignorant man like Donald Trump.

    I can hope anyway.

  • Phil in FLL

    Three-way split! Three-way split!
    Cruznose from an ad for Kasich:

  • Phil in FLL

    The new battle cry for the Republican primaries:

    Three-way split! Three-way split!

    I doubt very much that Trump will get a majority of the delegates before the convention. He will only have a plurality. For the sake of entertainment, there will be a required three-way mud wrestling match between Trump, Cruz and Kasich at the convention in Cleveland. Three clowns enter the mud pit, but only one walks out.

  • koolaidyarn

    And getting rid of him doesn’t necessarily get rid of the mouth-breathers he’s been empowering.

  • Nah, getting rid of him is the hard part. If they do that he’ll run as a third party to screw them over.

  • There was no where this much outrage even against Representative Franklin’s bill to set up a federal agency to investigate all miscarriages for possible human involvement.

    You are so very, very wrong about this. We have been paying very close attention and are livid with outrage that one of the latest trends in the forced-pregnancy movement is to treat as criminal suspects any woman who fails to maintain a pregnancy all the way to birth. And further then to consider whether she’s committed crimes if the resulting baby has health issues.

    It’s all part of the same anti-woman misogynistic agenda.

  • gratuitous

    Check on the rest of Trump’s remarks in the Matthews interview: When Matthews asked Trump if a man is involved in getting an abortion for a woman, whether he too should be criminally liable, Trump said no.

    It’s hardly “hysteria” to point out the complete insanity of a candidate’s remarks, whether it’s changing the law to outlaw abortion and then holding women but not men criminally liable, or encouraging nuclear proliferation to every country on the planet, Trump has to be asked why he thinks it’s such a good idea to throw women in jail or to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. If that seems hysterical to you, perhaps you should recalibrate your hysteria meter.

  • Don Chandler

    I can think of many reasons for outrage. One reason and ONLY ONE reason is this country is divided on the issue of abortion. It’s not a cut and dry issue. So when you talk about making laws prohibiting abortion and mix that with punishing one gender…yeah, it’s gas on the kindling. And then add some religious flame to the mix…and Trump does have support on the far right religions. Well, Trump scares the hell out of many folks. He doesn’t seem to have any scruples and he’s very thin skinned and his followers are pretty rabid. It’s not a good mix. Like Trump said, he could shoot someone and his followers would vote for him. Get it?

  • John Richter

    Why all the outrage over someone suggesting a woman be punished if she broke laws against abortion? Prostitution is illegal, and men are arrested for seeking out the services of a prostitute, even if the services are never rendered. There was no where this much outrage even against Representative Franklin’s bill to set up a federal agency to investigate all miscarriages for possible human involvement. The anti Trump hysteria is getting towards overload.

  • Getting rid of him is the easy part. The Party can always invent some rules or obscure delegate math to appoint whatever candidate they want. Doing so without turning their convention into a bloody riot will be the hard part. Trump supporters are already violent, and they’re just itching for a fight.

  • A_N

    What scares me, is that anyone could seriously want to send the woman to prison for getting an abortion… calling it murder. From THAT attitude it is just a small step to prosecuting every woman who has a miscarriage. Spontaneous abortions DO happen when something has gone wrong in the pregnancy. ALL those women suffering a miscarriage will be potential criminals once the GOP/religious nuts start us down that slippery slope.

    And don’t say it couldn’t happen. I’ve read articles citing that it has already happened occasionally in the USA. (As I recall a drug addict was held liable for the miscarriage death of her fetus.)

  • The behavior may be similar, but I don’t buy it. Young children don’t really know any better, and don’t grasp how their behavior impacts others. ADHD would imply a condition beyond his control. I refuse to accept that Trump doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing. He knows that the people he’s playing to see ignorant bluster as a virtue, and will jump to his defense. He knows they have the attention span of a gnat on meth, so are barely capable of understanding anything longer than a ten-second sound bite. And he is counting on their utter lack of interest in any kind of nuance, and their inability to follow up with basic questions like ‘How?’ Most will never hear anything about his retraction, and even those that do will vehemently defend whatever position that reinforces their ignorance as his “real” position; that he was only forced to change his position because of the “liberal media” or too much “political correctness”, or the war on Christmas – whatever excuse du jour their hate-rage requires. The only other option is that we assume Donald Trump is totally insane, and not in full control of his faculties. Which makes the strength of his support, and the billions spent by networks to fall over themselves covering every word he says, even more frightening.

  • I don’t know how they’re going to get rid of him.

  • The_Fixer

    This is a version of Mitt Romney’s “Etch-A-Sketch.” Instead of positions changing after the primary season, it’s hour-by-hour, day-by-day.

    And yet, this will likely make him even more popular with the non-thinking class.

    There’s a fuss that people make about our the “participation award” culture. That’s hardly significant in the face of the “non-critical-thinking” culture that we’ve nurtured through neglect, and in some cases, outright manipulation of school curriculum. We have so many people in this country (and to be fair, other parts of the world, too) who seem to be completely incapable of critical thought.

    Small wonder when you have Texas, the largest buyer of school textbooks, manipulating not only the content of these textbooks, but attempting to make the teaching of critical thinking illegal. Of course, one who is incapable of critical thought sees no need to teach it. It’s a vicious circle that will damn this country to ignorance and will give us its inevitable result – a permanently dysfunctional state.

    Of course, some will argue that we’ve already reached that point. It’s a viewpoint that’s difficult to dismiss, based on what we see in this Presidential campaign.

  • Don Chandler

    The PunisherNChief–no dissent under TrumptyDumpty…unless he has a precipitous fall. Then we have Cruz. It just doesn’t get better ;)

  • 2karmanot

    The Dtrumpfenfuhrer’s brain

  • gratuitous

    Trump is like a six-year-old with profound ADHD. Whatever falls out of his mouth reflects his deepest, most heartfelt conviction until the moment he stops talking. Then his deepest, most heartfelt conviction is subject to complete, 180° change, totally contradicting what he just said, with no trace of consciousness that he has changed at all. If you point it out, he’ll change the subject, accuse you of lying, or simply bluster his way out of the jam. And the people paid millions of dollars a year to interview him on the network and cable shows are helpless to stop Trump from doing that.

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