The Supreme Court on Monday struck down Texas’ stringent regulations on abortion clinics. The landmark ruling was the high court’s most sweeping statement on the issue in more than two decades, and reaffirmed a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion. Unsurprisingly, then, Hillary Clinton didn’t hesitate to weigh in on such major news.
And from Donald Trump? Crickets.
His silence on SCOTUS—seven hours and counting at the time I’m publishing this—came while he and his campaign instead found time to offer his thoughts on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s liberal record and columnist George Will’s conservative bona fides. (I’ve reached out to the Trump campaign for comment on the ruling, but have not heard back.) In a very basic sense, his decision to stay out of this one, even for a news cycle or two, is remarkable—he tends to tweet first and think later, if at all. But his silence is even more surprising if you consider the political stakes involved in this particular decision. As journalist Sarah Posner points out, this ruling should be manna from heaven for a man desperate to shore up his standing with the religious right.
While conservative evangelicals have plenty of reasons to be skeptical of the man who once claimed to be “very pro-choice,” it shouldn’t be too difficult for Trump to convince them that he’s better than their alternative when it comes to the issues most important to them. Or at least it wouldn’t be if he, like so many other Republicans, had been ready with a Supreme Court-scolding tweet after a decision like today’s. (Trump wasn’t nearly as gun-shy last week following the high court’s immigration ruling that broke Republicans’ way.)
Why, then, the delay? The obvious answer is that Trump is either unwilling or unable to quickly sum up his thoughts on a topic that he has expressed so many conflicting views on in the past and that has caused him so many problems in the present. Early in the GOP primary, he angered some conservatives when he staked out a relatively moderate position on Planned Parenthood. Later, he swung so far back the other way that he even scared some anti-abortion hardliners by suggesting that women should be “punished” for having the procedure. Those remarks were met with such swift bipartisan backlash, in fact, that Trump scrambled to pretend he never made them. Subsequent explanations only muddled things further. And if that recent history wasn’t enough to give Trump pause on a day like today, there’s also the reality that any talk of abortion will inevitably end in him being asked whether any of his sexual partners ever had one—a question he has refused to answer.
Trump will surely weigh in on today’s ruling eventually, if not in a statement than in an interview, and when he does his silence will be mostly forgotten. But for right now, it’s pretty remarkable that the presumptive GOP nominee for president hasn’t said a word about the most important Supreme Court abortion decision in years.