Political Animal


October 22, 2011 10:10 AM Cain struggles to get his abortion story straight

By Steve Benen

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain caused himself all kinds of trouble this week when he told a national television audience that he’s against abortion, but it’s “not the government’s role or anybody else’s role” to intervene in reproductive decisions. Cain said this is “ultimately a choice that that family or that mother has to make.” The decision, he added, shouldn’t be made by “some politician” or “a bureaucrat.” And “whatever they decide, they decide.”

“The government,” Cain concluded, “shouldn’t be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to social decisions that they need to make.”

That, of course, made it seem as if Herman Cain is a pro-choice Republican, though he claims to be the opposite. Many conservative activists, who were just starting to like Cain, were horrified.

So, yesterday, the presidential hopeful chatted with Fox News’ Martha MacCallum to try to undo the damage.

MACCALLUM: Do you believe that abortion should be legal in this country for families who want to make that decision [to abort]?

CAIN: No. I do not believe abortion should be legal in this country, if that’s the question.

MACCALLUM: So then you’re saying that if those circumstances come up and the family does make that decision, that they decide that that is the best thing for this young person or she decides that on her own, then if that’s what they decided, then it would be an illegal abortion that they would seek.

CAIN: It would be an illegal abortion! Look, abortion should not be legal — that is clear — but if that family made a decision to break the law, that’s their decision.

Let me explain that last part. When Cain told CNN a few days ago that people should make their own “choices” and “decisions” when it comes to abortion, his new argument is that he only because people can choose or decide to break the law after he’s done outlawing abortions.

Seriously. That’s his new spin.

For Republican primary voters who take this issue seriously, Cain’s flailing explanation almost certainly won’t make his problem go away.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Buffalo Harold on October 22, 2011 10:20 AM:

    Herman Cain may say abortion is illegal in the U.S. but Roe v. Wade made it legal. His grasp of policy is indeed something to behold.

  • walt on October 22, 2011 10:22 AM:

    Cain's garbled logic tells you what you really need to know about vanity candidates and their "common sense". It's a mix of authoritarianism ("because I said so!") and libertarianism ("how dare you tell me what to do!"). But policy is complicated and politics is often perilous. That's why Cain's platform is himself, his sui generis manner of boiling away complexity in order to find the pure essence of a hip dude who instinctively knows what's right and wrong.

    One sure sign of political decadence: the amount of oxygen we waste talking about these Republican airheads.

  • hells littlest angel on October 22, 2011 10:22 AM:

    No more black walnut ice cream for me, thanks.

  • Danp on October 22, 2011 10:37 AM:

    I'm guessing his position is the same for hallucinogens.

  • DAY on October 22, 2011 10:37 AM:

    Apparently Republican primaries are a relay race, and he has been handed the baton by Sarah Palin.

  • sick -n-effin-tired on October 22, 2011 10:39 AM:

    This guy is Sarah Palin without the breasts. The only thing he is shooting for is a Faux TEEVEE spot , increased speaking fees and a book deal. He looks very surprised that he has such high poll numbers and never anticipated he would actually have to answer actual questions/

  • John on October 22, 2011 10:42 AM:

    There is a bigger issue here, isn't there: Cain is saying the law really doesn't matter, people should do what they think best. The Republicans have swung so far to the right that they have come around to the anarchists.

  • martin on October 22, 2011 10:45 AM:

    It's just like if I am broke and decide to rob a bank. It's illegal, but no government bureaucrat should be telling me I can't.

    Cops and prosecutors, of course, aren't really part of the government.

  • hells littlest angel on October 22, 2011 10:46 AM:

    @John: good point. I wonder if he'll defend the 9% national sales tax by suggesting people are free to develop black markets.

  • berttheclock on October 22, 2011 10:49 AM:

    The more Cain opens his mouth, the more I wonder if the football stadium at Purdue in '71 was akin to the Colisseum in LA where the Trojans played. In LA, hawkers would walk up and down the stairways of the USC side yelling, "Popcorn, Crackerjacks, MBAs". So, at Purdue, were they just adding "Computer Science Masters" to the yell?

  • Clear Thoughts on October 22, 2011 11:21 AM:

    Cain's "kid logic" is getting really old fast. I know that's why his fans love him but it's an embarrassment for a national party to want that in a candidate.

    His latest explanation is also troublesome, not just because it's absurd but because of the job he's supposedly running for - "Under Article II of the Constitution, the President is responsible for the execution and enforcement of the laws created by Congress."

    Like the others have mentioned - he should care if people 'choose' to break laws.

  • linus bern on October 22, 2011 12:44 PM:

    So abortion should not be legal, but you should still keep illegal abortion because a family has a right to make their own decision to break the law without the government telling them what to do.

  • Charles on October 22, 2011 12:52 PM:

    Did you ever have a little too much fun at a party, and then wake up the next morning to find you're in bed with someone you don't even know?

    I imagine that's the way a lot of Cain's supporters feel now. I think his "popularity" is about to vanish.

  • thebewilderness on October 22, 2011 2:46 PM:

    When abortion was illegal the woman who performed her own was not usually considered a criminal.
    He is saying coathanger without coming right out and saying coathanger.
    The new personhood laws will make it possible to prosecute women who break the law by failing to produce human resources.

  • Rathskeller on October 22, 2011 5:31 PM:

    I think this goes beyond political differences and into the realm of failing as a human being. This is not a guy who can think straight.

    Just for the record, though, virulently anti-abortion folks get abortions all the time. Then they to go back protesting abortion.

  • PeterC on October 22, 2011 5:54 PM:

    The rich feel that the law doesn't bind them; they may choose to break it. There may be a fine of some sort, of course.

  • Shadow on October 22, 2011 9:43 PM:

    Perhaps someone finally explained to him what it means to be pro-life.