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Believe how he governed, not what he says

President Donald Trump and Amy Coney Barrett stand on the Blue Room Balcony after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas administered the Constitutional Oath to her on the South Lawn of the White House White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. Barrett was confirmed to be a Supreme Court justice by the Senate earlier in the evening. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Trump’s relentless attacks on Ron DeSantis have now extended to the barbaric law Coathanger Ron signed after getting re-elected:

Former president Donald Trump, the front-runner in the GOP presidential primary, said a state abortion law signed by his top challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), which bans the procedure after six weeks, is “terrible.”

In April, DeSantis signed the controversial law, which will go into effect if the Florida Supreme Court upholds the state’s 15-week ban on abortion that he signed into law last spring. At a hearing this month, the Florida justices appeared open to upholding the limiting ban.

Trump, in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” criticized DeSantis for being “willing to sign a five-week and six-week ban.”

“I think what he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake,” saidTrump, who appointed three Supreme Court justices who helped overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling guaranteeing abortion access nationally.

DeSantis’s six-week ban — which includes exceptions for rape, incest, medical emergencies and “fatal fetal abnormalities” — would outlaw the procedure in Florida before many people know they’re pregnant.

The new host of “Meet the Press,” Kristen Welker, asked Trump whether he’d sign federal legislation that would ban abortion at 15 weeks, a limit that antiabortion groups and some lawmakers have rallied behind.

Trump said no, and said he’d seek to negotiate with Democrats on the issue.

I generally agree with this analysis of the implications of this: Trump (correctly) believes that DeSantis is drawing dead, while a bad candidate in many ways Trump has more instinctual political savvy than he gets credit for, anti-abortion advocates will go along with him anyway. However, I think 4 deserves more emphasis, and indeed is understated:

4. Trump could always flip back in office. The fact that Trump doesn’t care about right-wing policy goals does not mean he opposes them on principle. Trump reversed much of his moderate campaign rhetoric in office, pursuing regressive tax cuts and rollbacks in health-care coverage. Likewise, in 2016, he stated that women who seek abortions should be punished, before realizing conservatives prefer candidates not to say that publicly — but then appointed staunch abortion opponents to the Supreme Court seats who made the decisive ruling.

All this is to say Trump will do whatever benefits Trump. Once in office, he (probably?) won’t run again and could be free to reward conservative activists without fear of political repercussions.

We’re not dealing with hypotheticals here. Trump was president, and when in office all of his rhetorical breaks with conservative orthodoxy (protecting Medicaid and Medicare, expanding access to healthcare, lowering drug prices, removing the carried interest tax exemption, INFRASTRUCTURE WEEK) all went away as soon as he assumed office. He governed as a more-orthodox Reaganite than Reagan, and this included nominating 60% of the Dobbs majority. The upshot of this is clear: Trump would sign any abortion ban a Republican Congress put on his desk. (The nonsensical claim about negotiating an abortion ban with Democrats is the obvious tell here.)

Trump is laying a trap here — taking is rhetoric about abortion at face value is helping him politically while ignoring his track record. It’s very important not to take the bait, but alas it will be infuriating to watch one reporter after another “forget” that Trump abandoned every one of his rhetorical breaks with Republican orthodoxy the second he assumed office.

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