Political Animal


October 20, 2011 9:35 AM ‘You don’t believe that, do you?’

By Steve Benen

A few weeks ago, Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain sat down with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour who asked about his fear of Sharia law being “infused” into the U.S. judicial system. The host, seemingly bewildered by the nonsense, asked, “You don’t really mean this, though, do you, Mr. Cain?” He said, “Oh, yes, I do.”

I thought of this when CNN’s Piers Morgan chatted with Cain last night and the conservative candidate insisted that sexual orientation “is a choice.” The host seemed rather amazed — and ended up using the identical question Amanpour raised earlier.

MORGAN: You believe people — seriously, you think people get to a certain age and go, I think I want to be homosexual?

CAIN: Let me turn it around to you. What does science show? You show me evidence other than opinion and you might cause me to reconsider that…. Where is evidence? […]

MORGAN: Wait a minute, let me ask you. You genuinely believe millions of Americans wake up in their late teens normally and go, you know what, I quite fancy being a homosexual? You don’t believe that, do you?

CAIN: You haven’t given me any evidence to convince me otherwise nor has anyone else.

Eventually, Morgan said this is tantamount to a gay person telling Cain his chose to be black. “Piers,” the Republican said, “this doesn’t wash off. I hate to burst your bubble.”

To which Morgan replied, “I don’t think being a homosexual washes off.”

What struck me as interesting wasn’t just Cain’s profound ignorance, but also Morgan’s incredulity. This seems quite common among many in the media — sure, Republican candidates repeat a lot of nonsense, but underneath the rhetoric, even conservatives have to be more sensible than they appear.

But therein lies the point: they’re really not. Cain actually believes this garbage.

As for Cain’s alleged interest in evidence, Zack Ford recently explained, “If Cain has not seen ‘the science,’ he clearly has never bothered to look. Based on decades of research, all major medical professional organizations agree that sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be changed, from gay to straight or otherwise. The American Psychological Association, the world’s largest association of psychological professionals, describes sexual orientation as ‘a complex interaction of environmental, cognitive and biological factors.’ There is considerable evidence to suggest that biology, ‘including genetic or inborn hormonal factors,’ plays a significant role in a person’s sexuality.”

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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  • Eeyore on October 20, 2011 9:42 AM:

    Oh, yes.... people wake up all the time and say "Oh, I'll become homosexual today and become a member of a minority group that too many people still despise, fear, and persecute."

    My response is to ask people like Cain "When did you choose to be heterosexual?"

  • c u n d gulag on October 20, 2011 9:47 AM:

    You've got to love the MSM's reaction to this lunacy.

    As if, 'Well, candidate X, we won't REALLY question in depth on that because we both know you don't mean it and are just saying this stupid shit to get more of the ignorati vote, now don't we? (wink, wink)'

    Yes, MSM morons, maybe you're finally realizing that the Emperor has no clothes!

    Now, can you also recognize that that's his pecker you've been kissing all along and not a sceptre, so you can tell everyone?

    No, of course you can't.

    Because it'll be absolute proof of just how stupid you've been for over 3 decades.

    The problem is, that our MSM has as little shame as the Conservatives.

  • samsa on October 20, 2011 9:49 AM:

    I would give the guy some slack. Actually I would not point to his glaring gaffes and deficiencies at all.

    It would be fun to watch the epidemic of head explosions among the Republicans should he somehow manage to get the nomination and be Obama's opponent.

    Given the distress that the Obama candidacy brought to the GOP loyalists, I would imagine that they will go clinically insane and batsh-it crazy at the specter of one and a half black men running for the leadership of the free world.

    That would indeed be fun.

  • stevio on October 20, 2011 9:51 AM:

    When Herman became cognizant of his "being" and he realized that black didn't wash off begs the question: Did he try?

    "Stupid is as stupid does"

  • steve.duncan on October 20, 2011 9:52 AM:

    I listen to sports radio and the host always has a couple guys in the studio with Goggle, Elias, Lexus-Nexus at the ready to find answers to questions about arcane sports trivia. Seemingly as fast as a host muses "I wonder how many home runs Babe Ruth hit before the All-Star break in 1932?" he has the answer. I imagine the assistant could hit the print button and hand the info to the host almost as quickly as it got fed to his headphones. So, why the hell can't CNN, MSNBC and others do the same and almost instantaneously call people like Cain on their lies? Piers Morgan could have had The American Psychological Association's report in his hand and ready to counter Cain's nonsense in a matter of one minute with today's technology. What gives?

  • Anonymous on October 20, 2011 9:56 AM:

    This exchange may reveal Cain as stunningly ignorant, but we already knew that, and in any case he's just repeating the standard Republican line.

    The more interesting outcome of the Morgan interview, in terms of the politics, is that Cain turns out to be pro-choice:

    Wonder if anyone on the right will pick up on this?

  • Buffalo Harold on October 20, 2011 9:58 AM:

    It is obvious that it is Cain's choice to be ignorant. That makes him highly qualified to be the Republican candidate for president, placing him clearly in the intellectual mold required to become that party's nominee.

  • Josef K on October 20, 2011 10:05 AM:

    Kidding aside, I wonder what the weather is like on Cain's planet.

    Seriously. He's got me nearly convinced he's so completely delusional that he's seeing pink unicorns in the streets.

    Again, thank god he's on his way out.

  • Grumpy on October 20, 2011 10:08 AM:

    Please allow Definitely-Not-Gay Man to explain:


  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 20, 2011 10:09 AM:

    If it weren't for the fact that Republicans are vying for positions of power where their decisions affected the country, they would be a magnificent, entertaining, hilarious hoot to behold. But still, we *do* get to gaze in wonderment and self-satisfaction at people who are clearly less able than nearly anybody we know personally. What a joke the Republican party is.

  • Josef K on October 20, 2011 10:10 AM:

    I wonder, though, when the Convention rolls around and Mr. Cain receives no votes, is he going to start screaming "racism"? Bodily attack conventioneers? Commit suicide on the Convention floor?

    Honestly I put nothing past the man anymore. That's what makes him so comedic and so damned dangerous.

  • Rich on October 20, 2011 10:10 AM:

    Part of the media mancrushes on these authoritarian CEO types is they idea that, underneath it all, they're actually sensible. They latched onto the "reasonable" version of John McCain without ever looking at his wider bio (entitled opportunist, epic flip-flopper, most consistently a dumb as rocks conservative). In some cases, these guys prove to be even more rigid and ignorant than they actually appear (e.g., Bush II). The template for this may have been Reagan who proved to be pragmatic when pushed (esp. his 2nd term when Nancy and Deaver were in charge) and never wasted political capital on things he didn't care about (lower taxes for the rich-yes, abortion--no). he used judiciary appointments to push the social issues agenda. Significantly, women don't seem to get this benefit of the doubt and it's a black guy who gets the incredulous response that should be applied to the white guys. I'd like to see Mittens get that response.

  • Basilisc on October 20, 2011 10:15 AM:

    The more interesting outcome of the Morgan interview, in terms of the politics, is that Cain turns out to be pro-choice:

    You're right - I read the interview - Cain gives an excellent rendition of what should be the correct conservative position: whatever my personal views are, a woman's reproductive choices are none of the government's business.

    Pretty incredible that this hasn't got much coverage outside of a couple of outlets like NYMag. The Right Wing Noise Machine seems to be very good at ignoring things that, for one reason or another, they've decided they would be better off ignoring ...

  • DAY on October 20, 2011 10:16 AM:

    So, is "stupid" a choice, or are Republicans born that way?

  • Jurgan on October 20, 2011 10:16 AM:

    Cain also fails the basic concept of evidence-based reasoning. When he says "show me the science," forget the fact that he hasn't looked. It's obvious that, no matter how much evidence he's given, as long as he has at least one "scientist," like, say, James Dobson, claiming to be able to "cure" homosexuality, he can fall back on the old "experts disagree" canard. Since psychology is a very soft science, essentially he's asking to prove a negative. Prove to me that people do not choose their orientation. Well... you can't. Without being able to prove it definitively, though, you look at the preponderance of evidence, and it favors it not being a choice. We may not know the mechanism by which it's determined, but it's not something that can be turned on and off. In the end, I ask myself a simple question: Why would anyone choose to be part of one of the most discriminated-against groups in the world? The idea that someone would make that choice is shockingly counter-intuitive. Being counter-intuitive does not, of course, mean it's wrong. It does mean the burden of proof is much higher, so I'm going to assume the most intuitive answer is correct unless you can prove otherwise. Cain believes the least intuitive answer is correct until proven otherwise. Logic fail.

  • Bob on October 20, 2011 10:31 AM:

    @Day, you nailed it.

  • Brenna on October 20, 2011 10:31 AM:

    I have a dear friend who is gay and she has told she would have to be insane to have chosen to be so. She's gone through deep anger issues at a society that shuns her, and hid it from her family and friends for years. She's older now and realizes she is what she it is and who cares what people say or think.

    I only hope the GOP nominates this moron for their candidate. He certainly represents them well.

  • T2 on October 20, 2011 10:49 AM:

    much of the Tea Party is based on saying that no "proof" exists...about gayness, global warming, on and on.... and when given proof, they insist that the proof is simply someone's ideas, not real proof. This is the way the Hard Crazy of the GOP have to approach everything, it's their only means to validate their actions. Guys like Santorum and Cain, if asked to "prove" a gay person can simply choose to become "straight" would probably be able to cite some person some where that says they changed. That would be the proof, and that's all they need to keep going. There is a word for this type of thinking......what is it?

  • FRP on October 20, 2011 10:52 AM:

    So, is "stupid" a choice, or are Republicans born that way?

    Well that would be trew but the big fat stoopit gubberment won't let me buy my own aircraft carrier .
    Sob ...

  • Dylan on October 20, 2011 11:29 AM:

    The science is actually heavily in favor of an individuals biological make up influence sexual preference. In numerous animal models, homosexual activity is associated with specific de-masculinized structures in the male brain that are associated with female structure. CT-scans and behavioral studies in humans corroborate these studies.

  • tamiasmin on October 20, 2011 11:44 AM:

    CAIN: You haven't given me any evidence to convince me otherwise nor has anyone else.

    Mr. Cain has no responsibility for the contents of his own head. If there's a sack of garbage in there, it's up to other people to persuade him to remove it.

  • Jim on October 20, 2011 11:57 AM:

    Piers missed the boat --- when Cain said show me the science he needed to ask 'Then what are your plans to mitigate the harsh effects of anthropogenic climate change...'

  • rrk1 on October 20, 2011 12:00 PM:

    The use of the phrase, "sexual preference" obviously suggests a choice. Anyone who is primarily homosexual knows they made no such choice, and their sexual orientation was and is beyond their control. Yes, a person can control their behavior, i.e., choose not to act on same-sex attractions, but cannot flip a switch and become an enthusiastic heterosexual.

    The willful ignorance of bigots like Cain, who is permanently black - oh wait, what about Michael Jackson? - no matter how 'white' he chooses to behave, is only reinforced when no one hands him the evidence in public, or asks the obvious questions "When did you choose to be heterosexual?" or "Did you ever consider being homosexual?"

    Even given the waning cultural taboo of homosexuality, or the much belated realization (by undereducated Americans) that homosexuality has always existed in every culture and time, it would still make no sense for an intelligent adolescent to consciously choose to be homosexual. To consciously make oneself a member of a discriminated against, not to say persecuted these days, minority is not a rational act, especially when the dominant forces in an adolescent's life are peer pressure and conformity.

    Cain is a throwback, a know-nothing of the worst orders, and I agree that no amount of evidence, let alone proof, of homosexuality being as fixed as heterosexuality as an inherent personal trait will make any difference to him.

    So what do the Log Cabin Syrup types have to say about Cain?

  • Rick B on October 20, 2011 1:40 PM:

    Cain simply uses the line "Show me evidence" as sophistry to win the argument. He does not understand what evidence really is, nor would he accept it when given it.

    Like all conservatives Cain is pre-scientific. They get their information from narrative stories rather than from research with carefully verified and evaluated evidence. Such narrative stories are the basis for all major religions, by the way, particularly the religions of the Book.

  • Candia on October 20, 2011 3:52 PM:

    I have to say I don't understand that whole argument in the first place. What does it *matter* if it is a choice or not?

    Even *if* homosexuality were a choice (which everyone who bothers to research can learn it isn't) - what has that do with anything? Why would the government or anyone have the right to discriminate against someone based on such a choice?

    For example, People are free to choose their religion, an issue which isn't predetermined by biology. And yet it isn't a point which decides which human rights or citizens' rights they may have (that is, as long as the Dominionists don't win, or the far right strips Muslims of their rights).

  • SecularAnimist on October 20, 2011 5:55 PM:

    Like every other Republican politician or wannabe Republican politician, Cain is a deliberate liar. Period. End of story.