Week In Review: Donald Trump’s Scarlet Letter
This week, the problem wasn’t that Donald Trump believes women who have abortions after Roe v. Wade is overturned should be punished. The problem was that he said it out loud.
It may go down in history as the beginning of the end of Donald Trump’s presidential aspirations. Donald Trump sat down to an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Wednesday. Matthews asked Trump — who says he’s “staunchly pro-life,” but also admitted that “millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood,” even as he promised to axe its federal funding — about banning abortion.
“How do you ban abortion?” Matthews asked, which is a simple way of asking how does one do away with 43 years of reproductive freedom for women and deal with the inevitable consequences.
“You go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places,” Trump eventually said, after some hemming and hawing. “But you have to ban it.”
So, Trump would brand women who have abortions with a “Scarlet Letter” for our times; and “A” for “Abortion” instead of “Adultery.” Of course criminalizing abortion means that the parties involved — both the person who performs the procedure and the woman who has it done — have committed a crime. Crime implies punishment, which is why Matthews presses Trump on the issue.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no as a principle?
TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.
MATTHEWS: For the woman?
TRUMP: Yes, there has to be some form.
MATTHEWS: Ten cents? Ten years? What?
TRUMP: Let me just tell you – I don’t know. That I don’t know. That I don’t know.
MATTHEWS: Why not?
TRUMP: I don’t know.
MATTHEWS: You take positions on everything else.
TRUMP: Because I don’t want to – I frankly, I do take positions on everything else. It’s a very complicated position.
Actually, it’s not that complicated. Trump, relatively new to politics and campaigning, simply carried the rhetoric of the anti-choice movement to its logical conclusion. Abortion, in that view, would be similar to a contract killing, and in such cases the person who ordered the hit is just as guilty of murder as the hitman who carried it out.
A seasoned politician would have deftly avoided giving a concrete answer to Matthews’ hypothetical. After all, abortion is currently legal. Why get into the weeds over circumstances that don’t exist? But Trump has been winging it, making it up as goes along. While newspaper editors have realized that terrifying truth during meetings with the candidate, this time the depth of Trump’s unpreparedness for office was exposed to the public.
The reaction showed why a seasoned politician would have avoided answering Matthews’ question. Trump, who would have a chest full of medals by now if lying were an olympic event, gave an honest answer, and everyone hated it. Trump later attempted to walk back his remarks, and even blamed MSNBC for “editing” his exchange with Matthews to make him look bad, but it was too late. He “went there,” and the damage is done.
Anti-choicers were quick to distance themselves from Trump’s remarks.
Years – decades! – of the pro-life movement saying it's not looking to punish anyone for abortion, cut out at the knees by Trump.
— T. Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) March 30, 2016
Trump’s comments are what someone who isn’t actually pro-life would think someone who is pro-life would want to hear https://t.co/LOWKoI5mgi
— Josh Perry (@MrJoshPerry) March 30, 2016
March for Life's statement on Trump's abortion punishment comment pic.twitter.com/GCyjZ1vwdC
— Kaitlyn Schallhorn (@K_Schallhorn) March 30, 2016
The problem for them, of course, wasn’t so much that Trump said what he said. It was that he said it out loud. After all, Roe v. Wade notwithstanding, efforts to restrict abortion in the states is driving clinic closures and blocking new clinics from opening, to the extent that internet searches for DIY abortion instructions have increased in the states with restrictive laws. Women are being arrested and jailed for terminating their pregnancies.
Once again, Trump managed to embody the worse stereotypes of the Republican party. The real problem Republicans have with Trump’s abortion remarks is that he exposed the intellectual dishonesty Republicans rely upon, by exposing the logical consequences of the right-wing agenda. They fell over themselves trying to deny it or distance themselves from it.
- Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson lashed out during an appearance on CNN, declaring — at the top of her lungs, no less — that Trump’s abortion gaffe was “a complete misspeak.”
- Former opponent turned Trump endorser Ben Carson claimed that Trump flubbed his abortion comments because MSNBC didn’t give him the topic beforehand, because Trump is known for being well-prepared for interviews. Right.
- Fox News contributor Eric Bolling said that GOP candidates should refuse to answer questions about gay marriage, abortion, and contraception.
- Fox News host Andrew Tantaros said that Trump “walked into exactly what Hillary Clinton wanted him to walk into, which is a trap.” Tantaros argued that the whole thing was somehow setup by Clinton and the Democratic Party, so that “they can get their upcoming gender war, which is exactly what they want.”
- Pat Robertson appeared reluctant to rebuke Trump on his “700 Club” program. “In any event, if somebody says abortion is murder, then what do you do to somebody who commits murder?” Robertson asked.
- Oops. Right-wing activist “Coach” Dave Daugenmire posted a video saying that of course abortion should be outlawed, and of course women who have abortions should be punished.
None of this is helping Trump with the group he needs most to have a hope of actually winning the presidency: women. According to the latest CNN/ORC poll, 73 percent of women have a negative view of Trump. Women don’t just dislike him. They detest him, because they know the danger he represents.
Women and allies spoke out against Trump under the Twitter hashtag #WontBePunished.
— Planned Parenthood (@PPact) March 31, 2016
— Cecile Richards (@CecileRichards) March 31, 2016
— DSCC (@dscc) March 31, 2016
— NARAL (@NARAL) March 31, 2016
My Grandmother saw the effect of back alley abortions working the ER in 1960s.
— Scott Wooledge (@Clarknt67) March 30, 2016
We refuse to allow this country to become a place where abortion is a luxury. We #WontBePunished & we won't be shamed.
— NARAL (@NARAL) March 31, 2016
Here’s the best of the rest of the worst in wingnuttery this week:
- Donald Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was arrested and charged with batter for grabbing the arm of a reporter Michelle Fields during a campaign event in Florida. Police released video evidence showing Lewandowski yank Fields away from Trump, despite Trump’s claims that the incident never happened. Trump is standing by Lewandowski, though even conservative women are calling on him to fire the campaign manager. Trump’s campaign says Lewandowski won’t be fired even if he’s convicted later this year.
- Trump defended Lewandowski in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, saying that Fields “had a pen in her hand” which could have been a “a little bomb,” because “people are chopping heads off in the Middle East.”
- Fox News guest Jonna Spilbor dismissed Fields’ injuries as part of being a reporter.
- Lewandowski hired Scott Richardson, a former U.S. Attorney under Clinton who resigned in disgrace after an incident in which he bit a stripper.
- Fox News host Tucker Carlson suggested that simple battery is part of “daily life on a presidential campaign.”
- Carlson also told conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, “Anyone who alleges white privilege is, by definition, a racist,” because “that’s tarring an entire group based on the way they look.” No, Tucker. That’s pointing out that an entire group gets more favorable treatment in myriad way because of the way they look.
- Threats of a civil war at the GOP convention in Cleveland, Ohio, came close to becoming reality as a petition calling for allowance to openly carry firearms at the RNC gathered more than 43,000 signatures. Loads of armed and angry right-wingers on the floor of what could very well sendup being a contested convention? What could possibly go wrong. The Secret Service, however, put the kibosh on the whole notion, saving Republicans from themselves. The Texas Republican Party will allow people to openly carry guns at its convention, however.
- Alabama’s “family values” governor Robert Bentley, 73, could get impeached over an affair with his 44-year-old political advisor Rebekah Mason. Bentley, who’s been kicked out of his church, previously carried on about the “sanctity of marriage,” and fought hard to prevent same-sex couples from taking the same vows he apparently violated. Mason has already resigned as a result of the scandal, which led to the release of recordings of intimate phone calls between Bentley and Mason.
- Fox News hosts debated whether American children would be better off if algebra requirements were eliminated in U.S. schools, because who needs reason and logic, right?
- Republicans in Tennessee are pushing a bill that would allow mental health professionals to reject clients who do not share their religion beliefs, which is violation of the American Counseling Association code of ethics.
- Mississippi’s new “religious freedom” bill is so discriminatory that it not only allows businesses to refuse to “take part in” same-sex marriages, but could lead to discrimination against people who have sex outside of marriage, as well. The bill may also allow women to be fired for wearing pants.
- Another Mississippi law would allow churches to form armed security forces, and exempting members from criminal and legal prosecution.
- Meanwhile, the NRA has hacked the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood,” to get kids interested in guns.
- Mission America’s Linda Harvey has called for a boycott agains the NFL and the NBL for opposing anti-LGBT “religious liberty” legislation in Georgia and North Carolina.
- Pat Robertson couldn’t believe that the NFL even cared about Georgia’s anti-LGBT “religious liberty bill,” recently vetoed by governor Nathan Deal. “These NFL players aren’t going to get same-sex marriage,” Robertson said on the “700 Club.”
- Radio host Bryan Fischer told his listeners that gay rights activists are “driven by hate.” Yeah. That’s why more and more of us are getting married and having families that Fischer wants to believe we don’t have.