On Tuesday night, in his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump called for legislation to outlaw abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. “Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life,” said Trump. On Thursday, at the National Prayer Breakfast, the president renewed his plea. “Every life is sacred,” he declared. “We must build a culture that cherishes the dignity and sanctity of innocent human life.”
Abortion is a serious matter. People may disagree on when life begins, but everyone agrees, at least in principle, on the sanctity of human life. Everyone, that is, except Trump. He treats human life as expendable, not just in the womb or in infancy, but in childhood and adulthood. He condones killing people in every context: capital punishment, counterterrorism, assassination, and crushing political dissent. He’s the least pro-life president in American history.
Other presidents have started or fought bloodier wars. What sets Trump apart is his malicious intent. For him, violence against civilians isn’t just a tragic consequence. It’s often the objective. As a presidential candidate, he encouraged crowds to “punch,” “rough up,” and “knock the crap out of” protesters. At a campaign rally four months ago, he congratulated a congressman for body-slamming a reporter. Speaking in North Carolina in 2016, Trump warned his supporters that if Hillary Clinton were to win the election, there would be nothing they could do to stop her from appointing judges—“although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is.”
Trump says the United States should deliberately target family members of suspected terrorists. Sometimes he says he’d stop short of killing them; sometimes he says he’ll “leave that to your imagination.” In a drone strike, the distinction is moot. It doesn’t matter to Trump whether these people have done anything wrong. What matters is that by hurting them, we might deter terrorists. “With the terrorists, you have to take out their families,” Trump argued three years ago. The idea, he explained, was that terrorists “may not care much about their lives, but they do care, believe it or not, about their families’ lives.”
In comments about other governments, Trump explicitly condones murder. During the 2016 campaign, interviewers pointed out that Russian President Vladimir Putin had arranged the assassinations of dissidents and journalists. Trump said he didn’t care. “Our country does plenty of killing also,” he retorted. “At least he’s a leader, you know, unlike we have in this country.” Two weeks after Trump’s inauguration, during a Fox News interview, when Bill O’Reilly reminded Trump that “Putin’s a killer,” the president batted the question away. “We got a lot of killers,” he argued. “What, you think our country’s so innocent?”
Last summer, Trump praised North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un as a man who “loves his people.” Again, a Fox News interviewer challenged Trump, citing Kim’s atrocious record on human rights. “He is a killer. He’s clearly executing people,” Bret Baier told the president. Trump responded by defending Kim: “Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, with tough people. … If you can do that at 27 years old, I mean that’s 1 in 10,000 that could do that.” Baier persisted: “But he’s still done some really bad things.” Trump shrugged, “Yeah, but so have a lot of other people.”
Trump doesn’t just excuse Kim’s butchery. He glorifies him. In September, Trump bragged at a campaign rally that Kim “wrote me beautiful letters” and “we fell in love.” In October, CBS News correspondent Lesley Stahl pressed Trump about that boast. She reminded Trump that Kim “had his half-brother assassinated” and “presides over a cruel kingdom of repression, gulags, starvation … slave labor, public executions. This is a guy you love?” Trump stood by his man. “I get along with him really well,” he told Stahl. “I have a good chemistry with him.”
Over the years, Trump has defended other mass killers: Saddam Hussein of Iraq (“Saddam Hussein throws a little gas. Everyone goes crazy. ‘Oh, he’s using gas!’ ”), Muammar Qaddafi of Libya (“We would be so much better off if Qaddafi were in charge”), and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines (who said he’d be “happy to slaughter” that country’s “3 million drug addicts”). Lately, Trump has extolled Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who’s implicated in the October murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. On Thursday, the New York Times reported additional evidence against the crown prince: A year before the murder, he told an aide that if he couldn’t drag Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia, he’d go after him “with a bullet.”
Trump has worked hard to excuse or minimize the Khashoggi assassination. In November, as evidence of the crown prince’s guilt piled up, Trump personally dictated a White House statement that downplayed U.S. intelligence in the case, smeared Khashoggi as “a member of the Muslim Brotherhood” (he wasn’t), and defended Saudi Arabia as an esteemed client of American defense contractors. Two days later, Trump was asked who should be held accountable for the murder. He shrugged, “Maybe the world should be held accountable.”
At home, Trump promotes broader use of the death penalty. Among pro-lifers, there’s sincere disagreement on that question: Some believe capital punishment is always wrong, while others believe it’s a proper punishment for taking a life. But Trump wants to go further. He advocates executing people even for nonlethal offenses. Last year, he told an audience that America should follow the lead of countries that “have the death penalty for drug dealers.” A week ago, he thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping for promising, at Trump’s request, to execute pushers. “They’ve agreed to do the death penalty for selling fentanyl,” said Trump. “We really appreciate it.”
Some pro-lifers, despite their revulsion at the president’s advocacy of violence, support him because he appoints judges who are sympathetic to legislation against abortion. But everyone knows Trump is a fake pro-lifer. He has extramarital affairs, doesn’t use condoms, and expects his partners not to give birth. Twenty years ago, when he was asked about “partial-birth abortion,” he defended it. “I am pro-choice in every respect,” he said.
Trump is an opportunist. He was pro-choice when he thought it would help him as a Democrat. Now that he’s a Republican, he calls himself pro-life. To him, it’s all marketing. He doesn’t stand for a culture of life. He stands for depraved indifference.
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