Trump flip-flops on abortion (again)

Donald Trump is encountering major snark over his rapidly changing positions on abortion and punishment.  Maggie Haberman of the New York Times calls them “whiplash-inducing,” while Ace of Ace of Spades HQ summarizes as clearly as anyone could: “The woman will, or rather will not be punished, and the laws will not, or rather will, be changed.”

The first flip-flop took place when Trump responded to Chris Matthews’s questioning at a town hall that he would punish women who had abortions if the law were changed.  This clumsy pandering managed to outrage both sides of the question, leading to a rapid reversal, stating that only abortionists should be punished.

But yesterday, Trump gave an interview to CBS’s Face the Nation, to be aired Sunday:

Donald Trump said Friday that he believes the laws regulating abortion should stay as they are, but he doesn't disagree with the proposition that abortion is murder. (snip)

Trump sought to clarify his position during an interview on Friday with "Face the Nation" moderator John Dickerson. The interview will air, in part, on Sunday's broadcast.

"A question was asked to me. And it was asked in a very hypothetical. And it was said, 'Illegal, illegal,'" Trump explained. "I've been told by some people that was an older line answer and that was an answer that was given on a, you know, basis of an older line from years ago on a very conservative basis."

Asked how he'd like to change the law to further restrict access to abortions, Trump replied, "The laws are set now on abortion and that's the way they're going to remain until they're changed."

"I would've preferred states' rights," he added. "I think it would've been better if it were up to the states. But right now, the laws are set....At this moment, the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way."

"Do you think abortion is murder?" Dickerson asked.

"I have my opinions on it, but I'd rather not comment on it," Trump replied.

"You said you were very pro-life," Dickerson followed up. "Pro-life means that...abortion is murder."

"I mean, I do have my opinions on it. I just don't think it's an appropriate forum," said Trump.

"But you don't disagree with that proposition, that it's murder?" Dickerson asked.

"No, I don't disagree with it," Trump eventually replied.

As with Chris Matthews, John Dickerson was able to push Trump to say something he was reluctant to give voice to explicitly.  And the result was a confusing position that abortion is murder but shouldn’t be illegal, once again managing to alienate both sides of the issue.

That position did not last long, but the reversal came not from Trump, but from a statement issued by a third person, his communications director:

Trump campaign communications manager Hope Hicks released a statement to CBS News late Friday clarifying the candidate's comments.

"Mr. Trump gave an accurate account of the law as it is today and made clear it must stay that way now --until he is President," Hicks said. "Then he will change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn. There is nothing new or different here."

When does “flip-flopping” become “floundering”?