In last week’s Republican debate, Donald Trump spoke movingly and sincerely about the grim aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center. In a bristling display of emotion, he responded to his critics by recounting the “smell of death” which hung in the air for months after 9/11. Witnessing the carnage of that evil day firsthand was a traumatic event for countless people who now suffer from both physical and mental scars that will never fully heal. In the past year, thanks to the efforts of David Daleiden, we have also become witnesses to the true carnage of abortion. We can no longer deny the smell of death which is hanging in the air.
Coincidentally, sometime in the decade after 2001, Donald Trump had a change of heart on the issue of abortion. In 2000, he wrote, “I support a woman’s right to choose, but I am uncomfortable with the procedures. When Tim Russert asked me on Meet the Press if I would ban partial-birth abortion, my pro-choice instincts led me to say no.” A decade later, when he was contemplating a run for the presidency, he had changed his position, telling the attendees of CPAC in 2011 that he was now solidly pro-life.
People can change their minds on abortion. Indeed, your humble writer is a convert himself. However, there are two types of converts: some become zealots for their newfound faith, because they must share the joy it has brought into their lives. Others are lukewarm opportunists who change ideas as easily as they change clothes. It is impossible to know whether Donald Trump, in his heart of hearts, is the former or the latter, but his visceral reaction to the suffering and death of 9/11 is suggestive.
On the question of abortion, Trump’s responses are businesslike and matter-of-fact. When faced with a scale of death tens of thousands times that of the World Trade Center, his answers betray calculation instead of candor. In the debate, he spoke without preparation and from the heart about 9/11, but when pressed for an explanation of his changing views on abortion in interviews, it seems that he has a stock answer. When defending his hometown, it is hard not to find his praise of his fellow New Yorkers endearing, but when his views on abortion are likewise informed by the experiences and opinions of other Manhattanites, it is less convincing.
In so much else of the very public and sordid life of Donald Trump, we see a man who is temperamental, incautious, and mercurial. The only constant in his personal and professional life is his very inconstancy. He has discarded wives, changed politics, and bankrupted failed business ventures with equal abandon. It is a leap of faith to believe that his conversion on the question of abortion is genuine or durable, and yet, it is not such a great leap, because we are supremely confident in the justice of our cause. If a person as blustering and tempestuous as Donald Trump can come around to the side of truth, then perhaps this is a sign of hope that the smell of death will not remain with us for much longer after all.