Trump to the defense of Planned Parenthood

Published 11:09 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2015

OK, maybe this is the incident that will reverse Donald Trump’s meteoric rise.
On CNN the other day, Trump refused to mouth the right-wing mantra about defunding Planned Parenthood. He apparently believes (at least this week) that the defunding stance is too extreme. Worse yet, he even suggested that Planned Parenthood…get ready for this…actually does some good things.
Key excerpts from his improvised riff: “What I would do when the time came, I’d look at the individual things they do, and maybe some of the individual things they do are good. I know a lot of the things are bad. But certainly the abortion aspect of it should not be funded by government, absolutely. I would look at the good aspects of (the group’s services) and I would also look, because I’m sure they do some things properly and good and that are good for women, and I would look at that, and I would look at other aspects also. But we have to take care of women.”
For weeks now, Trump’s credulous right-wing fans have been grooving on his rants. He insulted Mexicans – and his popularity spiked. He insulted John McCain – and his popularity spiked. He called Megyn Kelly a “lightweight,” retweeted the idiots who called her a “bimbo,” insinuated that she was having her period – and his popularity spiked. I was starting to wonder whether anything he said – short of insulting Ronald Reagan – could conceivably work against him.
But this is what you’ve gotta love about the conservative base: It’s perfectly OK to insult the aforementioned people, but if you semi-defend a health organization that does cancer screenings, HIV tests and contraception services… well, The Base will not abide that.
The litmus-testers have already gone ballistic that Trump’s pursed lips would dare suggest some of the individual things Planned Parenthood does are good, and that they do some things properly and are good for women. Worse yet, they’re freaked about certain sentences he uttered on Sean Hannity’s show, where he said abortions are a fairly small part of what they do and we also have to look at the positives.
Oh dear. The Donald refused to talk the language of Right-Think.
The extremists don’t like it one bit. Kerri Kupec, speaking for the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom, said, “I’m not quite sure what he was thinking when he said that, to be honest with you. To say, let’s keep funding the quote unquote ‘good aspects’ – why are we making Americans and their hard-earned tax dollars complicit in this gross behavior that Planned Parenthood is engaging in, this callous disregard for human life?”
John Zmirak, an anti-abortion columnist for a Christian news aggregation site, erupted, “All his bankruptcies taught Donald Trump about such cheap accounting tricks. Planned Parenthood is a criminal enterprise with roots in racist eugenics. If Trump wants taxpayers to subsidize their baby organ profiteering, he should be man enough to admit it.”
So maybe this is the start of Trump’s slide. For the conservative base, Planned Parenthood is this year’s ACORN, and woe to anyone who doesn’t march in lockstep.
But this episode says something important about Trump’s modus operandi, and his fans in the GOP would be smart to heed it. The guy doesn’t hew to ideological orthodoxy. He thinks out loud, riffing and improvising in real time. He said so himself, in remarks to a reporter after his Tuesday night press conference. “I’m a dealer, you don’t go in with plans,” Trump said. “You go in with a certain flexibility. And you sort of wheel and deal.”
You go in with a certain flexibility… Uh-oh.
How long can Trump remain popular in a party that prizes inflexibility?
Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia.

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