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October 20, 2011 1:35 PM The pro-life candidate who’s pro-choice

By Steve Benen

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain sat down with CNN’s Piers Morgan last night, and immediately after Cain insisted that sexual orientation is a matter of choice, the discussion turned to abortion rights.

Cain, at least at first, took an uncompromising line: “I believe that life begins at conception. And abortion under no circumstances.” It didn’t appear to be a position with any wiggle room.

But then the host asked what Cain would think if he had a daughter or granddaughter who was raped and impregnated. And that’s when the candidate’s response took a strange turn.

CAIN: [I]t comes down to it’s 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 have to tell them what decision to make for such a sensitive issue.

MORGAN: By expressing the view that you expressed, you are effectively — you might be president. You can’t hide behind now the mask, if you don’t mind me saying, of being the pizza guy. You might be the president of 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 social decisions that they need to make.

As it turns out, in American politics, there’s a category for candidates who may be personally opposed to abortion, but who wouldn’t use the power of the state to impose their opinion on the nation. They’re called “pro-choice’ candidates.

Now, as it also turns out, Cain doesn’t see it that way. As news of his on-air comments made the rounds this morning, the right began demanding an explanation. Cain tweeted, “I’m 100% pro-life. End of story.”

Except, it’s really not the end of the story, because Cain may not know what “pro-life” means. If the Republican presidential candidate doesn’t believe the government should interfere with personal decisions on “sensitive issues,” Cain may think he’s “pro-life,” but opponents of abortion rights are going to draw a very different conclusion.

If this guy hasn’t already used up his 15 minutes of fame, he’s coming very close.

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.

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  • SYSPROG on October 20, 2011 1:48 PM:

    Oh honestly...the next thing out of his mouth will be 'I'm a SMALL government Conservative except for having the government take care of all those things I don't LIKE'...c'mon. He is NOT going to be nominated and for the media to follow him breathlessly is an affront to people that THINK.

  • Josef K on October 20, 2011 1:53 PM:

    I really hope Cain sticks around until the Convention, if only for the comedy of whatever he will do when he's completely and utterly rejected.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on October 20, 2011 1:54 PM:

    Oh boy oh boy oh boy !!! I'm going to have my own show on Faux Nooze soon , or maybe I can hang with Michael Steele on MSNBC. The books , the fame, the money suits my over sized ego just fine.

  • martin on October 20, 2011 1:55 PM:

    Alas, Morgan was too dense to ask the appropriate follow up:

    So, you are saying abortion should be a legal choice, but personally you would urge woman to choose otherwise?

  • walt on October 20, 2011 2:11 PM:

    I can't help but think there's a backstory to the Cain phenomenon. Here's someone who obviously doesn't take public policy seriously. Yet he somehow got to sit on a Fed board of governors for having been a fast-food CEO for 10 years. I'll be blunt: is this another case of Republican affirmative action? Find someone with black skin to front for reactionary politics and give another fig leaf to a lily-white party to hide behind?

  • hells littlest angel on October 20, 2011 2:13 PM:

    Cain doesn't seem to understand much of anything, except how to get attention. Have he and Sarah Palin ever been seen in the same room together?

    It looks like he's now blown his chance even at being the eventual winner's running mate. He has demonstrated himself dim-witted enough to get a job on Fox and Friends. Doocey, Kilmeade and the other one can sit on the couch while Cain sits on a little ottoman and makes jokes about killing people.

  • Grumpy on October 20, 2011 2:19 PM:

    "I can have an opinion on an issue without it being a directive on the nation."

    For an often-confused person, Cain occasionally coughs up rare pearls of genuine wisdom.

  • Chris-The Fold on October 20, 2011 2:22 PM:

    So in other words, Cain is the quintessential GOP candidate. Much like the tea baggers who are largely recipients of government programs protesting government programs. Cain is against something unless it benefits him then he's all for it.

    Now, remember. This is a very logical stance to take in Republican circles. There is nothing wrong with taking farm subsidies and protesting welfare programs. Or nothing wrong with being on disability while protesting "Big Government." Likewise, it's perfectly sane for Cain to be against abortion but supportive when it's his own flesh and blood that is doing the choosing.

    This sort of political discourse in America is best known as FUBAR.

  • cwolf on October 20, 2011 2:23 PM:

    Oh,
    After Cain self-mutilated his campaign with his Choice statements, the main Nightmare Scene returned to The Dreary Mormon Laundromat where Romney has been seen feverishly scrubbing his Magic Underwear.
    Somehow his old positions won't wash away.

  • T2 on October 20, 2011 2:31 PM:

    thats the fundamental problem with all these TeaParty types.....they don't want government interfering in peoples own lives. Except in the cases where they want it done their way, then it's OK to interfere away on abortion, or HPV, or voting rights, etc.
    The level of hypocrisy in the GOP is just unbelievable.

  • DAY on October 20, 2011 2:34 PM:

    Several comedic films have been made, wherein the lead character wanders into a situation, and suddenly finds him wearing the crown or toga or seated in the Oval Office.

    Since that will not happen in 2012, they (ALL) will have to settle for book deals and TV gigs.

  • Rich2506 on October 20, 2011 2:39 PM:

    So just like Dan Quayle many years ago, Cain is "pro-life" (i.e., a woman-hating anti-abortionist) right up until the very moment when such a stand affects him or his family personally. Then, he flip-flops and takes a completely pro-choice stand.

  • Richard on October 20, 2011 2:54 PM:

    I don't think any of these GOP'ers actually care a bit about abortion. None of them. They think the electorate has been duped into thinking so and pander to that. Cain gives a classic example off that dance here.

    But come on? Do you think this clown will veto abortion bills that get to the oval office? No. He will continue to "make the choice" as a "governmental official" by outlawing all choices. He will tell you what to do by giving you only one option.

    Like I have said from the beginning, Cain is the most mendacious and misanthropic candidate the GOP has put out there. He does not answer questions, he attacks them and the questioner. He puts on a "tough guy" show for the camera than immediately after getting out of the studio pulls up twitter to walk it all back.

    The man is an Ultra Creep (and if you think about it a classic Uncle Tom) and as hard as he tries..he cannot hide it. He falls to nothing within 4 weeks. It goes back to Romney and dreams of Christie.

  • beejeez on October 20, 2011 3:13 PM:

    Not that I take the guy seriously, or even means to support a simultaneous pro-life-pro-choice stance. But since Cain applies an explicit anti-government frame to his opposition to more restrictive abortion laws, I wouldn't be surprised if the GOP base goes easy on him. I wonder if he might even make some pro-lifers re-evaluate how they view abortion law.

  • zandru on October 20, 2011 3:14 PM:

    Up to the Family To Decide

    "Decide" what? I mean, really - if the woman's "choice" is to continue the pregnancy or to continue the pregnancy, what "choice" is there?

    Cain is either fast-talking his interviewer (which would be How He Got Ahead in Business) or is truly dumb as a post. My guess is some of each. Having worked in industry, I truly don't know where people get the idea that upper mangement are some kind of geniuses. (Whoops, that's "management"...)

  • beejeez on October 20, 2011 3:15 PM:

    That should read "or even think Cain means to support..." in the first sentence.

  • Col Bat Guano on October 20, 2011 3:20 PM:

    Why do these interviewers never follow up with a question like: "If elected President, would you sign into law a ban on all abortions with no exceptions?"

  • Joe Friday on October 20, 2011 3:22 PM:

    Yikes.

    If Cain were a plane, all four of his engines are on fire and he's heading for the side of a mountain.

    It ain't gonna be pretty, but it will be spectacular to watch.

  • DelCapslock on October 20, 2011 3:27 PM:

    I read somewhere recently that there's no faster way to get to the top of the political machine than to be a black conservative. Which is precisely why the ones that do are the opportunistic nitwits like Cain

  • doubtful on October 20, 2011 3:30 PM:

    Q: How does someone clearly not ready for prime time get so much prime time?

    A: When the powers that be are conspiring to distract from and shelter the eventual nominee thereby giving him a pass from tacking to the right during the primary.

    Romney simply has to sit back and enjoy the perception he's a middle of the roader because we're too occupied with the sideshows.

  • Rudy Gonzales on October 20, 2011 9:27 PM:

    I grade the entire cookie-cutter set of contestants and "F" as they never addressed the real subject of jobs promised by the winners of the 2010 election. Paul semi-addressed this issue when he referred to the housing bubble. Otherwise the all get a huge "F"! Further they won't go to the other real heart of why TEA party seeking is dangerous to the women of America. House Republicans approved an egregious measure last week that would shrink access to abortion to the point of endangering womenís lives. Right now, hospitals receiving federal money must administer necessary emergency medical services to pregnant women, including abortion. Representative Joe Pitts, the Pennsylvania Republican who introduced the bill, contends it involves no new risk to women. That is flat out wrong. This could be life-threatening to women, especially those living in communities with only one hospital. Catholic hospitals alone account for about 15 percent of the nationís hospital beds. The need to accommodate religious doctrine does not give health providers serving the general public license to deny essential care. Not everyone in America is Catholic, and respecting our religion, I understand and support the Church's teachings! But, because we are a plural country, social in nature, placing road blocks in the way of others to force our religion onto others.

  • Ruben on October 22, 2011 7:29 AM:

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