It’s a testament to the faith that national political reporters still have in the importance of Iowa in the race for the Republican presidential nomination that a short, passive-aggressive tweet from Gov. Kim Reynolds can generate stories in outlets like the New York Times.
“It’s never a ‘terrible thing’ to protect innocent life,” Reynolds tweeted on her personal political account late Monday afternoon. “I’m proud of the fetal heartbeat bill the Iowa legislature passed and I signed in 2018 and again earlier this year.”
It’s never a “terrible thing” to protect innocent life. I’m proud of the fetal heartbeat bill the Iowa legislature passed and I signed in 2018 and again earlier this year.
— Kim Reynolds (@KimReynoldsIA) September 19, 2023
The two words sandwiched between quotation marks make it clear the tweet is Reynolds’ delayed reaction to a comment Donald Trump made in a TV interview broadcast on Sunday. And the tweet makes it clear that Reynolds lacks the political courage to cite Trump by name, even when she is defending one of her signature political achievements of the year, the new six-abortion ban.
The bill Reynolds signed into law in July in front of a cheering crowd at the big annual meeting of the Family Leader, an organization of politically active rightwing evangelical Christians, bans almost all abortions after any cardiac activity can be detected in an embryo by an ultrasound probe. A judge issued an injunction stopping enforcement of the new law shortly after the ink dried on Reynolds’ signature, so abortion remains legal up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy in Iowa. Reynolds has appealed the judge’s decision to the Iowa Supreme Court.
Trump wasn’t referring to the Iowa law when he made his “terrible mistake” comment during an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press. He was taking a shot at Ron DeSantis, who signed a six-week abortion ban into law in Florida in April.
“I think what he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake,” Trump, who never misses an opportunity to condemn DeSantis in the harshest terms possible, said about the Florida ban.
In rambling answers to other questions about abortion during the interview, Trump said he could “live with” state-level abortion bans and even a national ban. Trump boasted, as he often does, about his deal-making skills when talking about a national ban, saying, “I would sit down with both sides and I’d negotiate something, and we’ll end up with peace on that issue for the first time in 52 years.”
As Adam Serwer of the Atlantic wrote on Tuesday, there’s no good reason to think Trump, whose judicial appointments made severe abortion bans possible, would be any less anti-abortion in a second term as president. Trump has spent the past year complaining about the packaging of abortion bans, not the substance of them.
“During the 2022 midterms, Trump urged Republicans to ‘talk differently’ about abortion,” Serwer wrote. “Not govern differently, but talk differently.”
Reynolds’ omission of Trump’s name in her Monday tweet isn’t surprising. The governor is maintaining a veneer of impartiality in the Republican caucus, and has consistently backed away from criticizing Trump since he became the leader of the Republican party. Even on the day after Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, when many Trump loyalists were criticizing the then-president for his actions and rhetoric, Reynolds didn’t.
“What we need to do is stop pointing fingers, and we need to move forward,” Reynolds said less than 24 hours after the insurrection ended.
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