Clueless or cunning? Either way, Trump is unfit for the White House

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Donald Trump told Chris Matthews that women who undergo abortions, if outlawed, should be punished. He then recanted his comment.
Donald Trump told Chris Matthews that women who undergo abortions, if outlawed, should be punished. He then recanted his comment.

Donald Trump’s loud mouth and lack of preparation for the presidency caught up with him this week. His absurd comment about women and abortion is illuminating not only because it reveals that he’s seriously clueless on the issues, but also because of what it says about his candidacy.

Mr. Trump got brickbats from all sides for saying that women who seek abortions if the procedure is outlawed should receive “some form of punishment.” He beat an urgent retreat when both supporters and opponents of abortion expressed outrage.

The blunder revealed the candidate’s ignorance on important issues. And the speed with which he recanted — a remarkable occurrence for someone who never apologizes and claims he never bows to “political correctness” — exposed his lack of political conviction. His amended version said doctors who perform illegal abortions should be punished, but the original question was clear, and so was his reply: Punish the women.

Mr. Trump was asked by MSNBC host Chris Matthews in a town hall forum how he might enforce his proposed restriction on abortion. He was totally unprepared to answer because he had apparently failed to consider the consequences of his views. As usual.

Abortion supporters linked his comments to what they regard as his generally misogynistic view of women. Polls consistently show many women voters don’t like him. On the other side, abortion foes realize that women who undergo the procedure are already traumatized and should be spared further harm. They want to save the baby, not punish the woman.

Mr. Trump’s apparent ignorance of this widely held view among conservatives shows he’s not one of them. He tried to immunize himself from criticism by comparing his views on abortion to those of Ronald Reagan, but this only served to show he hadn’t studied the former president’s political evolution. “Trump’s suggestion that he has ‘evolved’ just like Reagan suggests he does not really know the history of Reagan’s decision-making on the law,” said PolitiFact.

Republican rivals of all stripes, from ex-Gov. Jeb Bush to Sen. Ted Cruz, have pointed out for months that the slippery Mr. Trump is a phony, neither versed on the issues nor a true conservative. Now that he’s under scrutiny, his weaknesses have become more obvious.

Asked this week what kind of Supreme Court justices he would choose, he replied: “Well, I’d probably appoint people that would look very seriously at [Hillary Clinton’s] email disaster because it’s a criminal activity, and I would appoint people that would look very seriously at that to start off with.”

Regardless of how anyone feels about the Clinton email controversy, the reply exposes a shocking lack of knowledge about the Supreme Court’s function. It’s utter nonsense to say the court should investigate and evaluate political controversies, and deeply disturbing that Mr. Trump doesn’t realize that. Unless, of course, his cluelessness is all an act and actually a sign of superb cunning. After all, he clearly knows the right rhetoric to fire up a crowd. And it gives new heft to his insulting claim to love “the poorly educated.”

Either way, Donald Trump is a demagogue, a political opportunist taking advantage of the public’s legitimate anger over America’s political dysfunction. What voters need is someone who can fix the problem, not a blowhard who offers no practical solutions. If Mr. Trump doesn’t know how the government works, he can’t possibly fix it.

Faking it may work on the campaign trail, not in the White House. Allowing a man who’s faking it to have his finger on the nuclear button is a recipe for national disaster.