“Trump Fumbles Abortion Question” trumpeted “The Daily Beast” under the label “Confused”. It caused my heart to leap: could The Donald have stuck his foot in his mouth with an obnoxious-presidential-campaign-flirtation-destroying gaffe so soon? Callooh! Callay!
I rushed to the link, which was on the NBC News site, only to have my hopes dashed. Trump hadn’t made a gaffe at all. Some biased, ignorant NBC reporter, who has decided that it is her life’s assignment to show the American public just who is and who isn’t qualified to run for President of the United States, tried a deceitful and unfair trick question on Trump, who promptly identified it as such. Then, completely mistaken about her assumption that his answer was disqualifying at all, she smugly sat back while her colleagues in the media attempt to present the exchange as a “gotcha.” In other words, Trump is going to get the Sarah Palin treatment, and this was the first, jaw-droppingly stupid attempt at it. Phooey! It’s bad enough that I keep having to stand up for Palin; now I have to stand up for—ughhh!–-Donald Trump!
Here is part of NBC’s Vaughn Ververs’ account of the exchange between NBC’s Savannah Guthrie and Trump:
“NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, Donald Trump appeared stumped when asked about the legal principle that served as the cornerstone for the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Here’s the key part of the interview:
Guthrie: “Is there a right to privacy in the Constitution?”
Trump: “I guess there is, I guess there is. And why, just out of curiosity, why do you ask that question?”
When pressed to explain how his position on the right to privacy “squares” with his anti-abortion position, Trump responded: “Well, that’s a pretty strange way of getting to pro-life. I mean, it’s a very unique way of asking about pro-life. What does that have to do with privacy? How are you equating pro-life with privacy? ”
“Guthrie asked, “well, you know about the Roe v. Wade decision.” Trump responded, “yes, right, sure. Look, I am pro-life. I’ve said it. I’m very strong there.”…Given that the Supreme Court used the “right to privacy” reasoning as the foundation for the Roe ruling, anti-abortion activists and candidates have long insisted no such right exists.”
Huh? How was Trump “stumped”? He wasn’t stumped at all, except by the mystery of why a supposedly objective network news reporter would ask about whether the Constitution contains a right to privacy if she really wanted to ask him about his position on abortion.
You’re too trusting of the media, Donald. Here is what she thought she was doing:
The Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade used the catch-all 9th Amendment of the Bill Of Rights, which states that just because the Constitution doesn’t explicitly mention a right, it doesn’t necessarily mean the right doesn’t exist (“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”) to declare the banning of abortion unconstitutional. The court did this by using as precedent previous decisions, notably Griswold v. Connecticut, that found that a right of privacy was one of those existing rights not enumerated. Griswold declared that what a couple did in the bedroom, including practicing birth control, was protected from government interference by that right of privacy. Much later, the same argument would strike down laws prohibiting gay sex, oral sex, and other practices between consenting adults.
Many distinguished legal analysts, including those who are pro-abortion rights, believe that the leap from Griswold to Roe was too great. Others dispute whether there really is a right to privacy properly covered by the 9th Amendment. So in the tiny, biased, advocating-when-it-is-supposed-to-be- reporting mind of Guthrie, and apparently Ververs, if she could get Trump to say that he believed there was a right to privacy in the Constitution, he would have alienated the pro-life, anti-abortion GOP base, proven himself a hypocrite, and sent his political aspirations straight down the crapper.
The problem is she was completely, 100% wrong in every possible way:
1. The right to privacy isn’t “in the Constitution,” as Guthrie seems to think. The reason the 9th Amendment exists is specifically because it isn’t there. The 9th Amendment says that just because it isn’t there, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
2. The correct answer to Guthrie’s question would be this: “If you are asking if the right is actually in the Constitution, the answer is no. If you are asking if the right exists, the answer is yes, because the Supreme Court has said so many times, and therefore it is the law of the land.” ( Do you think Savannah Guthrie has actually read the 9th Amendment, or Roe v Wade, for that matter? Not a chance.)
3. Thus answering, as Trump did, that he “guesses there is” such a right, the equivocation being fully justified because of the wretchedly incompetent phrasing of the question, is completely acceptable regardless of his position on abortion.
4. Why? Because pro-life/ anti-abortion advocates believe that abortion involves the killing of a human being, and that this cannot be justified by a right to privacy, any more than it is constitutionally acceptable for you and your spouse to slaughter the homeless in the privacy of your own home. Such abortion opponents don’t believe that there is no right to privacy, but that the right to privacy was improperly used by the Court to make abortion a right.
5. Guthrie exposes, not Trump, but herself as an inexcusably ignorant pro-abortion advocate who is too biased to be able to comprehend the opposing position in its own terms rather than hers. Sure: if your only perspective is the interests of the parents, like abortion rights advocates who discount the humanity of the fetus, then opposing Roe v. Wade could only be done by denying that there is a right to privacy. If, however, one’s anti-abortion position is based on the belief that a right to privacy cannot extend to killing an innocent human being—and this is, contrary to Ververs’ false statement, what most anti-abortion Americans believe—then there is nothing, absolutely nothing, inconsistent, hypocritical, or “confused” about a simultaneous belief in the right of privacy and opposition to Roe v. Wade. Trump’s question to Guthrie, “What does that have to do with privacy? How are you equating pro-life with privacy? ” was completely valid, from the point of view of an anti-abortion advocate.
6. Trump wasn’t “stumped.” Guthrie and Ververs don’t know what they are taking about. Trump does (at least as far as this topic went), and they’re claiming he’s the idiot. Welcome to American journalism, 2011.
Nobody asks Barack Obama trick questions, nor should they. If a candidate has an inconsistency in his statements, a good reporter should try to get him to resolve it, but not through questions that hide their true intent, and certainly not questions generated by the reporter’s ignorance.
The media disgraces itself with this kind of attempted hit-job; worse, it creates sympathy and support for their victims. Trump was right to call Guthrie on her “strange” and “very unique” way of asking about abortion without being direct; if he had said instead, “Listen, I’m not an idiot, and I don’t appreciate reporters like you trying to zing me by asking questions in a deceitful way. If you want to know how I feel about abortion, have the fairness to ask me straight up. Now I’ll ask you: where is privacy specifically mentioned in the Constitution? Do you know?”
If he had done that, 80% of my distrust and loathing of Trump would have evaporated like sweat on my brow on a dry Arizona day—still leaving, by the way, enough to float the Queen Mary. Listen, you silly, unethical, inept journalists, I want Trump to fall on his face, and I am confident that he will. But it’s not your job to stick your foot out to trip him, particularly when you are just as likely to kick yourself in the face, making him look graceful by comparison.
You don’t have to be smart to be fair. So be fair. It’s best for everyone.