So, I have to say, Chris Matthews, who I once enjoyed for his passion, who I later reviled as a dishonest partisan hiding his biases, and then later considered just an out of the closest partisan when his network gave the go-ahead to be so, impressed me with his last interview with Trump. Maybe he’s grown (or I have) and I will give him another chance.
Though I doubt very much he would apply such zeal to a Democrat interviewee, he was joyfully relentless in his last interview/town hall meeting with Trump, whose lack of logic and thoughtfulness makes him incapable of continuous reasoned argument. So Trump, instead, relies on his aggressiveness, speaking over his questioner, moving to other issues in a single sentence in an effort to divert attention from what he doesn’t want to answer.
But, Matthews got him twice. Once, in the face of Trump's insistence that nuclear weapons aren’t off the table he had to back-up quickly upon being asked “You might use [a nuke] in Europe?” and completely contrarily added that he would be the last one to use nuclear weapons (though he is the only one who doesn’t take it off the table) and - of course not- or words to that effect.
But, his response on abortion was even more controversial. Asked by Matthews if abortion was murder, will he punish the women who have them, Trump did his usual stonewalling, and tried, successively for a while, to get Matthews to talk about the Catholic position on it, I guess to show either that Matthews is hypocritical or that this was a murky topic. But, then, pressed to the point that he couldn’t convincingly stonewall anymore he said yes, women would have to be punished for it.
And the world went a little crazy. Trump backed off big time on twitter, saying that women were victims and only the providers would be punished.
Now, this means a lot of things. It shows once again that Trump knows so little about any issue that he may be the least informed major candidate ever to run for president. It shows that he is not a conservative, that he probably doesn’t even know what established conservative views on abortion are (and not that alone) and that he just talks off the top of his head.
The scary part for me is that someday, if he is elected, Trump will not have to worry about getting elected and will not care about public opinion at all. He’ll make an ill-informed guess on important matters and we will be stuck with them.
But . . . but . . . but Trump was logically right and politically wrong. That, and not a long opinion on abortion itself is my goal here. Let me digress a little.
I wrote on abortion in the past and I find it really painful to do so, not least because I am not prone to certainty about abortion and I might change my mind as I have in the past. In summary, I can respect putting a high value on life, on the right for women to control their own bodies and also, not being a nihilist, that the state has some interest in the life of a fetus. Probably most everyone with an opinion on it agrees on these things. The reason people who agree on these things in general do not agree on what the law should be is because they balance these interests differently, particularly because as to the issue of when those cells become a baby and/or when a fetus is entitled to protection. I have often said and still believe that the main factor in when someone believes abortion is wrong is almost always when that person sees a fetus as being a baby, though I suppose the few who favor later term abortion might not care.
In my own juggling of these factors, I have come to hate with a passion late term abortion – would be fine with it if they called it and treated it as murder – but, I am also fine with abortion being permissible for the first 5 weeks or so (and not to the first trimester as it is in Roe v. Wade), when it is, relatively speaking to its existence, not a person having a brain and a heart. I realize there are a lot of practical problems with this (does the woman even know she’s pregnant?) but I also believe that people’s stands on this issue, including my own, should be in the large, in accord with their moral beliefs respecting life and liberty, not the practicalities or inconveniences of it.
Now back to Trump. So, let’s take him on his initial words with respect to punishing women who have illegal abortions, before he retracted it. Is that logical or illogical? If something is illegal, then there are usually consequences for it. I feel fairly confident that most if not all of our criminal laws respecting the taking of life have penalties for the responsible person.
I also feel fairly confident that if any person makes a choice to do something without being intentionally compelled to do so, may not be described as a victim, as Trump later said when back pedaling. If a man or woman takes up prostitution because they believe it is a good way to earn money, I do not consider them a victim, regardless of how nasty they think selling their body for sex may be. If they are forced to do so, of course they are victims.
So, if a woman is drugged and the next thing she knows someone is performing an abortion, then yes, that is a victim. If she decides that she doesn’t want a baby right now after she is pregnant for any of the usual reasons, even economic, and she has one, then yes no she is not a victim. If it is illegal, and it is a criminal law, then of course she should be charged. And if it is murder, then definitively so. What other murderer (if that is what the law is) gets to say, no I’m not.
There are gray areas and I will get to them. But, right now, given the question – if abortion is murder, should the woman be punished, yes, of course, the only logical answer is the only answer. Trump answered correctly. He changed on it because initially he possibly wasn’t aware that many pro-life advocates recognize that holding women responsible makes many, perhaps most Americans, very unsympathetic to their position and often do not take it. In fact, it is likely shooting him in the foot with many pro-lifers and huge amounts of independents and Trump-Democrats. And, of course Trump has no idea whatsoever what the usual positions on abortion are, because it has nothing to do with his personal success or self-aggrandizement. He just shot from the hip, recognized he was hurting his brand, and reversed himself so completely, he has now called women who have abortions victims (of who – the doctors they asked to perform the abortion?), which is about as illogical as you can get.
But that is logic and what do voters care? As one of the most famous judges in history wrote in his book The Common Law – “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.” The same is true of campaigns. In the end, few care a whit for logic if it doesn’t support their favored position.
Since I’ve dipped into this difficult topic, I’ll add a few more words on the exceptions, because logically, they do not make much sense to me. The three exceptions that many pro-lifers even accept are cases of pregnancy through rape, incest and the mother’s health. The first is simply illogical, the second mostly illogical and the third not illogical, whether right or wrong.
Rape - If you are pro-life, because you believe it is wrong to kill a living being, then why should it matter that it is the product of a rape? Why is that different than being a product of a loveless relationship? A paid for relationship? Or wildly inconvenient? It’s not. The mindset of the parents has no bearing on whether a child should survive – for the logically consistent pro-lifer. If you are very pro-choice (that is, abortion on demand or something approaching that), of course, it is not relevant either.
Incest – You could apply the same analysis here as with rape – the parents’ morality doesn’t matter if you are pro-life. But, it is not that simple because there is a physiological issue – congenital conditions are more likely for close relatives, the closer – the more likely, often called a result of inbreeding. So, understandably, people do not want children to suffer as a result of their choices. But, what if it happens – is this different than a fetus which is not the product of closely related parents which happens to have a congenital condition. Again, if you are pro-life and you would not abort a child with Down syndrome, what rationale do you have to abort one who might have a congenital condition or even one you are not aware of? It is not a big jump from that to euthanasia of those deemed “defective.” It is hard not to say that for a pro-lifer, this exception is also illogical.
The last issue is the life or health of a mother. Again, I’m not arguing right and wrong, just talking about logic. There is a logical difference here. You have another person at stake, and arguably one with more rights. Whether you couch this as self-defense or simply a balancing of rights, you can make a consistent logical argument to be pro-life and accept this exception.
I recognize that other people may have different definitions of pro-life than I have used here. I’m just saying, if you believe that abortion is murder because that fetus is human, I believe you are illogical if you except rape and incest. Maybe you are right, but it’s illogical.
And, Donald Trump was right, initially, and should have stuck to his guns and not been “politically correct.” Not that he’s not a potential disaster, but he was right the first time.
Uncomfortable topic today - sorry.