Donald Trump is willing to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood. Just don't ask him why he's doing it.
The billionaire real estate mogul seemed to accidentally back the Democratic position in the fight over Planned Parenthood funding in a CNN interview on Tuesday after previously calling on Congress to do everything possible -- even halting government services -- to cut off federal dollars to the group.
Trump's conversation with CNN's Chris Cuomo started out normal enough, with the candidate arguing that the group was an "abortion factory" and that government "shouldn't be funding it," lines that would not be out of place among most GOP presidential candidates.
It was only when Cuomo pressed for details that things got weird. As Cuomo noted, Planned Parenthood argues that only 3% of its activities are related to abortion and that efforts to defund it were thus cutting off health services to women. Trump's response? Well, maybe fund those parts.
"I would look at the individual things that they do, and maybe some of the things are good, and maybe, I know a lot of the things are bad," he said.
This surprised Cuomo, who asked Trump whether he would look at preserving some funding for the group even though "many in your party are doing the opposite" and calling for it to be defunded entirely on principle.
"I would look at the good aspects of it," Trump said. "I'm sure they do some things properly and good and good for women and I would look at that, and I'd look at other aspects also, but we have to take care of women. We have to absolutely take care of women. The abortion aspect of Planned Parenthood absolutely should not be funded."
To Trump this seemed like a sensible enough compromise. Money for women's health services, no money for abortion. It’s also exactly what Planned Parenthood, Hillary Clinton, and Democratic leaders are arguing Congress should do. That’s because Planned Parenthood is already legally barred from receiving any funding for its abortion services.
Conservatives argue this this distinction isn’t significant because money is fungible and any federal cash that goes to Planned Parenthood still aids an organization that engages in abortion. Trump has called for a shutdown over Planned Parenthood for at least a week in general terms, but based on his CNN answer, he’s unaware what the entire fight is actually over.
This contradictory position did not go unnoticed on the right. Conservative outlets like The Weekly Standard and Hot Air both reported on Trump’s CNN remarks. Notably so did conservative blogger John Nolte at Breitbart – a conservative news site whose coverage of Trump has been so glowing that Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins reported some of its own staff believes Trump paid their outlet to promote him. Breitbart has denied any “financial relationship” with Trump.
“Any money given to Planned Parenthood funds abortion,” Nolte wrote. “Period.”
Policy acumen or consistency have never exactly been Trump’s calling cards, but at some point one wonders if these episodes might add up.