Pro-lifers, You’ve Been Played

January-February 2018

Can we state the obvious? Donald Trump isn’t your typical Republican president. He breaks the mold in so many ways — and is seemingly so unpredictable — that the GOP establishment has been reluctant to embrace him. But as president, Trump has been quick to embrace one particular aspect of Republican orthodoxy: He has played pro-lifers for fools.

It’s one of the easiest shell games in all of politics, one Republican presidents have been playing since before anyone could conceive of such a thing as a President Trump. Reagan did it. Bush Sr. did it. Bush Jr. did it too. Did anyone really, honestly, and truly think the next man up wouldn’t?

Like his forebears, candidate Trump made grandiose promises to the Republican pro-life base — promises he had no intention of keeping. He would appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, he said, and overturn Roe v. Wade “automatically,” and he would defund Planned Parenthood. Naturally, pro-lifers ate it up.

But, really, who could trust him? Only those who wished to be fooled. This is the man, after all, who declared he would build a border wall — and make Mexico pay for it! “Mark my words,” he said, echoing Bush Sr.’s classic line, “Read my lips.” After the election, Trump walked back his proposed 20 percent tariff on Mexican imports that would fund the wall. He suggested later that Mexico might “pay for it indirectly through NAFTA,” the North American Free Trade Agreement. Nota bene: Trump has also said he’s been “opposed to NAFTA for a long time,” even threatening to “terminate” the trade deal between Mexico, Canada, and the U.S.


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New Oxford Notes: January-February 2018

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