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:

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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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