Logically, there are a limited number of possible positions for a person to hold regarding government policy on abortion. Here’s a Venn diagram that lays them all out.
Anyone who’s thought about the issue for more than a couple of seconds understands this. So how do we make any sense of Herman Cain’s stated position? He’s never given any indication that he’s in the blue area above, so we can rule that out. But when you watch this interview on CNN, it’s impossible to pinpoint where he stands beyond that.
He says “I think it’s a sin.” That puts him in either the red or purple area. Moments later, he says “I believe life begins at conception, and abortion under no circumstances.” That puts him squarely in the red area. But when pressed on making an exception if his daughter or granddaughter were to be raped and become pregnant, he replies:
It’s not the government’s role, or anybody else’s role, to make that decision. … 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.
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 social decisions that they need to make.
That puts him somewhere in the purple area. If we take him at his word, he would be morally opposed to abortion, but would reluctantly allow it on demand. That’s squarely a pro-choice stance. When you take that position, you are in favor of a woman’s right to abort her unborn child for any reason or no reason. That is not a pro-life stance.
Now listen to his statements in this Fox News interview with John Stossel.
Cain: I’m pro-life from conception, yes.
Stossel: Any cases where it should be legal?
Cain: I don’t think government should make that decision.
Stossel: People should be free to abort a baby?
Cain: I support life from conception. No, people shouldn’t just be free to abort because if we don’t protect the sanctity of life from conception, we will also start to play God relative to life at the end of life.
Stossel: So I’m confused on what your position is.
Cain: My position is I’m pro-life. Period.
Stossel: If a woman is raped, she should not be allowed to end the pregnancy?
Cain: That’s her choice. That is not government’s choice. I support life from conception.
Stossel: So abortion should be legal?
Cain: No, abortion should not be legal. I believe in the sanctity of life.
Stossel: I’m not getting it. I’m not understanding it. If it’s her choice, that means it’s legal.
Cain: No. I don’t believe a woman should have an abortion. Does that help to clear it up?
Stossel: Even if she is raped?
Cain: Even if she is raped or the victim of incest because there are other options. We must protect the sanctity of life and I have always believed that. Real clear.
No, that isn’t “real clear.” It’s impossible to make heads or tails of his statements. Today on Twitter, he says “I’m 100% pro-life. End of story.” That puts him firmly back in the red area (for now).
Either Herman Cain is trying to pander to both sides of the abortion debate, or he can’t manage to come up with a logically coherent stance. Neither possibility speaks well of his fitness to hold the highest office in the land, an office responsible both for nominating judges who decide national abortion policy and for enforcing that policy in an intelligible manner.
6:45 PM Update: Herman Cain released a statement attempting to clarify his position. Pay attention to the part I’ve highlighted in boldface.
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.
I will appoint judges who understand the original intent of the Constitution. Judges who are committed to the rule of law know that the Constitution contains no right to take the life of unborn children.
I will oppose government funding of abortion. I will veto any legislation that contains funds for Planned Parenthood. I will do everything that a President can do, consistent with his constitutional role, to advance the culture of life.
This statement reflects the views of people standing in the red area of the diagram at the top of this post. But read that boldfaced section again, then scroll up and watch the CNN interview again. Would any reasonable person interpret the thrust of Piers Morgan’s questions in the same way as Cain says he did?
There’s still the problem of the other interview, too. Cain doesn’t address it in his statement. Watch the Fox interview again, and re-read the transcript. Did he misinterpret the thrust of John Stossel’s questions too? Would you buy that explanation? If so, what does that tell you about the thoroughness and care Cain applies when thinking about issues he’ll have to address as President?
I’ll give you one guess as to what he’ll be grilled about in detail during the next debate. Time to bone up, Herman. This is straightforward stuff.
8:45 PM Update: Allahpundit, Hot Air’s resident pro-choice atheist conservative, isn’t buying it. Neither is David Freddoso at the Washington Examiner (and he’s no squish).
10/21 3:45 PM Update: Good grief. The guy can’t keep his story straight.
Take it away, Ace:
Herman Cain is the first person I’ve ever heard say he’d use the “hard power” of criminalization of abortion but then flinch from using the “soft power” of advising/recommending against it. He’d make it illegal, but he’d leave the “choice” of whether to seek an illegal abortion to the mother and family in question?
Honestly, I don’t know what he’s saying, and frankly, I don’t think he does, either. This is a pattern with him. It really seems that in whole swathes of important policy choices, he really hasn’t given the matter much thought at all, and is grasping to cohere his thinking on these issues on the fly, during interviews.
I mentioned in a comment that initially I was open to Herman Cain. While I didn’t like the “complete neophyte in campaigning” aspect of him, I thought that, having been a political talk radio host, he’d actually not turn out to be a complete neophyte.
After all, isn’t a political talk show host offering up opinions and discussing the news and being challenged by callers and learning from guests every week?
So I figured that his training as political talk-show host would end up counting as related experience for politics.
But again and again he seems to be incoherent on very basic things.
So what the hell was he talking about every day?
How did he never stumble over this tough question, and then, after consideration, come to some kind of answer in his own mind?
Beats the hell out of me, too.