Countdown to Herman Cain "Clarifying" His Abortion Position

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 20 2011 12:23 PM

Countdown to Herman Cain "Clarifying" His Abortion Position

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Former CEO of Godfather's Pizza and Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain speaks at the Western Republican Leadership Conference at The Venetian October 19, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. In recent polls Cain has shot up to be a front running contender, along with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Herman Cain gets trapped by Piers Morgan -- Piers Morgan! -- into a muddled discussion of abortion rights. Cain starts with his "life begins at the moment of conception" line, then gets a hypothetical question about his daughter getting impregnated by a rapist, then says... this.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

It 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 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 try to tell them what decision to make for such a sensitive decision.

Literally, of course, President Cain would not intervene personally in families' lives and tell them how to deal with unexpected pregnancies. He would appoint judges who effectively do that. He's said his model Supreme Court justice is Clarence Thomas. But here we see a candidate who has spent a lot of time talking the language of libertarian businessmen, and less time programming himself in the patois of social conservatives. Why use the word "choice" at all? You're just asking Rick Santorum to jump out from behind a dumpster and start taking swings at you, which he's already doing. ("Herman's pro-choice position is similar to those held by John Kerry, Barack Obama and many others on the liberal left." Thanks, Rick!)

But Rick Santorum doesn't really matter; social conservatives aren't going to waste their time tearing down a guy they like to elevate a niche candidate who can only split the anti-Romney vote. Erick Erickson matters. He reports that this video's been "spread far and wide among pro-life groups, many of which were gearing up to rally to him."

Look, I know Herman is pro-life. And I don’t doubt his conviction. But that’s because I know him personally. I also know at least one pro-life group by mid-morning this morning was in serious conversation about his statements last night and they want some clarity consistent with a statement he gave earlier in the week.

There we go. It's up to Cain whether he pulls a long, tortured, that's-not-what-I-said defense, as he did with his Muslim hiring comments, or whether he just flip-flops like he did on Gitmo prisoners. It probably helps that he was "trapped" by CNN, which has been taking a beating from conservatives since the debate. It also helps that the death of Gaddafi makes this the bottom news of the day. He can flip his way free.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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