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October 21, 2011

Herman Cain Clarifies (???) His View On Abortion: I Meant Abortion Should Be Illegal But If Someone Wants To Have an Illegal Abortion, That's Her Choice


His previous statement was that he was against all abortions (no exceptions, including for rape and/or health of the mother), but then, asked about a hypothetical rape-pregnancy of a granddaughter, when on to say:

"It's not the government's role, or anyone 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."

Now, before getting to his new parsing of the question, it has to be noted that he did, in the Piers Morgan interview, attempt to say that Morgan was confusing two issues.

I don't think he was confusing two issues -- this is the issue -- but he did attempt to claim that.

Now Cain is saying that while his position is and always has been "pro life, from conception, no exceptions," he was "just trying to say" that the woman in this position might still seek an abortion, and it's not his role to tell her what to do.

This is the most bizarre statement on the issue I've ever heard. Cain is saying, if I have this right, that he's perfectly willing to criminalize abortion -- to make it illegal, to impose a criminal penalty on at least those who perform them (and possibly those who seek them) -- but that he also doesn't want to boss people around and tell them they shouldn't seek an illegal abortion.

That is, on the legal side of things, he wants it outlawed. On the moral suasion side of things, he suddenly takes the libertarian position that it isn't his "role" to tell that young woman what to do about her "choice."

I say this is bizarre because I know what the mainstream conservative Republican position is -- Yes, to criminalizing abortion, and also yes to telling women they shouldn't seek them.

I know the mainstream "conservative" Clintonesque Democratic position on this -- No, to criminalizing abortion, but "yes" to making abortion "safe, legal, and rare." That is, the fudge-the-difference Clinton position is basically that we shouldn't use "hard power" to reduce abortions -- no criminalization -- but we can use "soft power" to do so.

I know the liberal/hyperfeminist position -- no to criminalization, no to moral suasion against abortion. In fact, the liberal/hyperfeminist position is clearly to endorse/promote abortions.

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.

Criminalizing abortions -- especially with this "no exceptions" stance -- does impose significant burdens, penalties, and risks on people. I know where pro-lifers stand on these negative consequences -- they support them. I've argued with no-exceptions pro-lifers about the case of rape, and while I disagree with their position, I can't say they haven't given the matter some thought. They are, at the end of the day, willing to say that a woman impregnated b a rapist should be forced by the state to carry her rapist's baby to term.

Now, that's a damned tough, absolutist position to take. But they do take it, and they plant their flag on that hill.

With Cain, it seems to be he's groping his way to find some wiggle-room in this position -- which is fine. He's a politician. It's what politicians do, seek wiggle-room.

But what's not fine is that he doesn't seem to have thought about it previously to Piers Morgan asking him about it, leaving him to babble about using the force of criminal law to outlaw abortion, but then claiming some kind of weird "libertarian" position that while he'll criminalize the procedure, he won't "tell" the woman in question whether or not she should seek that criminal procedure.

That part he'll leave up to her personal "choice" on that matter.

What a weird and clunky way to try to have it both ways on a very binary position.

I have to ask DrewM.'s question again (which I also began to wonder about) -- what was he discussing as a talk radio host?

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?

How did Israel, the Right of Return, Afghanistan, etc., never come up on this talk show?

For The Poor, It's Not 9-9-9, It's 9-0-9: Cain begins talking up a wrinkle to his plan -- whether it's new, or only newly publicized, I don't know. But he says the poor would not pay the income tax portion of the plan. So for them, it would be nine zero nine.

That doesn't seem ludicrous. The idea that we'd just jack up income taxes on those accustomed to paying none was always kind of a stretch (and massively unpopular -- wait 'til you tell a full half of the population you're raising their taxes).

But this sure seems to be the sort of thing that could have been mentioned earlier.

In Fairness... I'm a Perry booster. But what really bothered me about Perry wasn't just his "heartless" comment itself, but the implication that he really had not expected this to be an issue, and really had not bothered thinking about it too much. Leaving him to grope on stage for explanations and defenses, and coming up with the worst one possible.

So Perry does this too.

I don't get this. I don't get it all.

I can see not knowing this or that wonkish detail, or having given thought to some minor issue.

But on big things like war, abortion, and immigration -- were these guys really not expecting the issues to come up?

I just don't understand how you get on to a debate stage or do nationally televised interviews thinking "Oh, if those issues come up, I'm sure I'll come up with something on the spur of the moment."

If they come up? You're thinking maybe they won't?

What's with winging it?

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posted by Ace at 03:08 PM

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