Herman Cain and abortion: Flip-flop-flip?
By Glenn Kessler,
Scott Olson/GETTY IMAGES “I am pro-life from conception... I don’t believe government should make that decision.”
— Herman Cain, interviewed by John Stossel on Fox Business, Oct. 11, 2011
“What it comes down to is not the government’s role or anybody else’s role to make that decision. Secondly, if you look at the statistical incidents, you’re not talking about that big a number. So what I’m saying is it ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make.”
— Cain, during an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Oct. 19, 2011
“That first clip that you played was taken out of context... I simply said, if you get pushed to that extent, the family isn't going to be thinking about what the laws are at that point. They're going to be thinking about their family member and that baby. That's what I mean by it was taken out of context.”
— Cain, on Fox and Friends, Oct. 24, 2011
Confused yet by Herman Cain’s position on abortion?
Politics 101 says that any major-party candidate needs to have a position on abortion — and then stick to it. Just mouth the exact same sentence over and over again and you won’t get in trouble.
Cain has violated that rule repeatedly in recent weeks. We dare you to watch the clips below and tell us whether he’s for abortion rights or against them. In both cases, he actually sounds vaguely pro-choice.
So were his words taken out of context, as he claimed Monday?
Here’s the transcript of what Cain said on CNN:
MORGAN: What’s your view of abortion?
CAIN: I believe that life begins at conception and abortion under no circumstances — and here’s why.
MORGAN: No circumstances?
CAIN: No circumstances.
MORGAN: Because many of your fellow candidates — well, certainly, some of them — qualify that.
CAIN: They qualify it, but
MORGAN: rape, and incest, and so on.
CAIN: rape and incest
MORGAN: Are you honestly saying — a tricky question, I know
CAIN: a tricky question
MORGAN: You’ve had children, grandchildren
MORGAN: If one of your female children, grandchildren was raped, you would honestly want her to bring up that baby as her own?
CAIN: See, you’re mixing two things here, Piers.
CAIN: You’re mixing two things here.
MORGAN: But that’s what it comes down to.
CAIN: What it comes down to is not the government’s role or anybody else’s role to make that decision. Secondly, if you look at the statistical incidents, you’re not talking about that big a number. So what I’m saying is it ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make. Not me as president. Not some politician. Not a bureaucrat. It gets down to that family, and whatever they decide, they decide. I shouldn’t try to tell them what decision to make for such a sensitive decision.
MORGAN: But by expressing the view that you’ve expressed, you are effectively telling them. You might be president. You can’t hide behind the mask of being the pizza guy. You might be president of the United States of America. So your views on these things become exponentially massively more important. They become a directive to the nation.
CAIN: No they don’t. I can have an opinion on an issue without it being a directive on the nation. The government shouldn’t be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to a social decision that they need to make.
MORGAN: That’s very interesting, that’s a very interesting departure from the normal politics.
After the interview, the Cain campaign issued a statement to repair the damage among conservatives:
“Yesterday in an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN, I was asked questions about abortion policy and the role of the President. I understood the thrust of the question to ask whether that I, as president, would simply ‘order’ people to not seek an abortion. My answer was focused on the role of the President. The President has no constitutional authority to order any such action by anyone. That was the point I was trying to convey. As to my political policy view on abortion, I am 100% pro-life. End of story.”
Now, compare that language with what Cain’s latest claim about what he said: “I simply said, if you get pushed to that extent, the family isn't going to be thinking about what the laws are at that point.”
In neither case does Cain’s claims of what he said or meant to says actually come close to reality of what he said. There was nothing in the conversation with Piers Morgan about “ordering” people to seek an abortion. Nor was there any suggestion that the family wasn’t thinking about the law. (His answer, in fact, leaves open the possibility that he thinks the family should break the law.)
The Pinocchio Test
All politicians make mistakes or remarks that they regret. As Cain put it Monday, “Find a perfect candidate or a perfect person who will not at points in time in a presidential campaign not make a misstatement and I'll show you somebody that was hung on a cross 2000 years ago.”
But Cain shows an increasing tendency to simply recast what he said and then claim he was quoted out of context or he misunderstood the question. Indeed, the contradictory message he gave to Morgan was virtually identical to one he gave on Fox Business the week before — just less noticed. He has yet to come up with a clear answer that explains his position on the issue.
Watch Cain on Fox Business, Oct. 11<iframe width=”420” height=”315” src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/JD-sBPBzpmE” frameborder=”0” allowfullscreen></iframe>
Watch Cain on CNN, Oct. 19<iframe width=”420” height=”243” src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/B8WmqiOiUdc” frameborder=”0” allowfullscreen></iframe>