The end of a saga that began with “Herman Cain’s Pro-Choice Moment” moment came on Saturday, when Cain declared himself in favor of a Constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion entirely.
“Yes. Yes I feel that strongly about it. If we can get the necessary support and it comes to my desk I’ll sign it. That’s all I can do. I will sign it,” Cain said in an interview with David Brody of CBN News, after Brody asked whether Cain would support “some sort of pro-life amendment to the constitution that in essence would trump Roe v. Wade.” The candidate also declared himself in favor of a constitutional marriage amendment.
Cain has always been personally pro-life, but support for a Constitutional amendment to ban abortion outright is impossible to reconcile with what he told Piers Morgan of CNN only three days previously:
“I believe that life begins at conception and abortion, under no circumstances,” Cain told Morgan. Pressed on if he would apply this same directive to his grandchildren, Cain candidly responded.
“It comes down to, it’s not the government’s role or anybody’s role to make that decision. Secondly, if you look at the statistical incidents, you’re not talking about that number. What I’m saying is it ultimately gets down to a choice that the 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. I shouldn’t have to tell them what decision to make for such a sensitive issue.”
So while Cain indicated a personal objection to abortion, he alluded to an individual’s right to choose. “I can have an issue on a opinion without it being a directive on the nation. The nation shouldn’t be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to a social decision that they need to make.”
(Emphases mine.) Sorry, Cain fans. You can’t get there from here. No amount of generous small-government libertarian parsing can connect what Cain said on Wednesday to what he said on Saturday. It’s tough to logically reconcile Saturday’s remarks with the more “federalist” position he took on Thursday, unless you’re charitable enough to allow that he just kind of forgot to mention his support for outlawing abortion completely with a Constitutional amendment:
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.
It gives me no pleasure to make this observation. I like Herman Cain. I can’t just close my ears and pretend this didn’t happen. Based on his previous pro-life statements, it sounds to me like he was trying to soft-pedal out of the abortion question on CNN, because he feared a statement as strong as the one he made on Saturday would cost him votes. He’s dramatically “clarified” that position several times in response to public pressure.
Rick Perry took a very thinly veiled shot at Cain during the same Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition forum where Cain would declare his support for the pro-life amendment, saying “It is a liberal canard to say I am personally pro-life, but government should stay out of that decision. If that is your view, you are not pro-life. You are pro-having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too.”
As it turns out, there is no cake. Cain’s ultimate pro-life stance is doubtless welcomed by many, but they need to ask themselves why he didn’t have it ready to roll three days ago, when Cain could have headed off this entire controversy (and taken a few lumps from different quarters) by simply telling Piers Morgan the same thing he told David Brody. This is not what people expect from a straight-talking heart-on-his-sleeve non-politician.
It’s noteworthy that Cain’s brief but exciting policy evolution has completely reversed the dynamics among Republican voters. On Wednesday night, fiscal conservatives who think the abortion issue is a massive distraction from far more pressing matters were telling pro-lifers to stifle themselves and accept Cain’s pro-choice language without complaint. Just a few days later, “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” Republican voters are now obliged to take their own advice, and make their peace with the strongest possible pro-life position.
Also, Cain’s still missing an important point in his response to Brody’s question about a pro-life amendment. When he says “That’s all I can do. I will sign it,” he’s wrong. That’s not all he can do. It will matter a great deal whether or not he uses the bully pulpit of the presidency to advance that cause. He’d better be ready for some pointed follow-up questions in future debates.
It’s hard to say whether this issue has hurt Cain. The pro-life community appears willing to cut him some slack, given Cain’s previous work on behalf of their cause. It happened pretty fast, his poll numbers are still strong, and he got a rock-star reception from the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, as reported by Yahoo News:
Sitting atop early polls in Iowa, Cain was the clear celebrity at the forum tonight. As Michele Bachmann spoke, the former pizza executive was swarmed in the back of the room as he made his exit from the event. A woman squealed loudly when Cain hugged her, while another man yelled for Cain to disclose his favorite movie.
With Bachmann still on stage, Cain motioned for those surrounding him to quiet down, and then he loudly whispered, ‘The Godfather.”