SECOND Thoughts on Cain: Maddeningly Gray – UPDATE

Okay, so the other day I posted my First Thoughts on Herman Cain.

Culled from Cain’s recent remarks about abortion, gay marriage and Jesus-as-Conservative, here are some second thoughts:

Cain’s “I’m pro-life but pro-choice” is getting a lot of attention:

…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.

Cain is dancing very close, here, to the Mario Cuomo/Ted Kennedy Big Book O’ Corkscrew Logic, and its famous dictum — upon which so many have tried to have it both ways on abortion — “I am personally opposed to abortion but cannot impose my views on others.”

Which is strictly nonsense and disingenuity. Politicians impose apply their moral views to legislation all the time. As I’ve argued previously:

[that argument sounded] so reasonable and tolerant that it simplified the abortion debate for people who did not care to consider how nonsensical it was. Being “personally opposed” to the death penalty, would Kennedy have tried not to “impose those views” on states, had he the chance? Had he been “personally opposed” to slavery 150 years ago, would he not certainly have tried to “impose” his views on others?

Everyone wants to think, however, that these issues are black and white, and they are, until it’s time to legislate on them, in which case things always run-to gray and land in then soggy fen of unintended consequences and fundamental questions.

A pol can argue that one is personally opposed to something but “determined to vote in a manner that represents the majority voices of the people who elected me” but then runs the risk of losing his moral compass altogether in pursuit of polls and trends, ala Bill Clinton.

On the other hand, when public opinion shifts, it reveal a pol’s true self, as we saw with Obamacare; when polls shifted against the legislation, Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi revealed their utter contempt for the concerns of the populace by ignoring the electorate and ramming it through, anyway. So, that tack, while flawed, does at least lend itself to accountability.

A pol can argue that morality and law are separate; that one’s morality has little to do with the determinations of a secular government, but that is terribly dishonest; most law is grounded in someone’s morality, which is why legislators in a world dictated by relativism have co-opted the use of the word and neutralized it (“discrimination against same-sex marriage is immoral!”), rendering the whole concept of morality as irrelevant.

But if law is grounded in someone’s morality, then you may as well register your own moral view. If you go down, at least you go down standing for something other than mush-mouthed pandering.

The Cuomo/Kennedy argument is particularly insidious because it told politicians and voters they didn’t have to bother registering their point of view — they could embrace the weakness of Pontius Pilate: “I do not think this man should be crucified, but I will not impose my views on anyone else,” is the same as saying, “let injustice stand, because I am too weak to face the fickle mob” (and risk my office; my social standing; my cocktail party invitations.)

The longterm result of the Cuomo/Kennedy/Pilate option, which we are now seeing take effect, is that it results in the slow-but-steady marginalization of the faith community — like a police line that is widened year-by-year (and so imperceptibly) moving the religious rowdies away from the public arena — and it encourages the idea that faith concerns must remain in the church or the home, and go unheard, elsewhere.

To suggest that opinions formed in faith have no place in political discussions, however, immediately threatens a citizen’s right to free speech — to speak up regardless of whether his/her opinion has been formed in church, or in an atheist group, or from reading Norman Mailer, or the lid of a Starbucks venti-whatever.

Having said all that, however, I can’t say I disagree with Cain, here:

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

I think this is true. In fact, I think it is the duty of an elected official to not inflict his personal opinions on a nation. I want to know what my president thinks; but I also want to know that he doesn’t believe his presidency entitles him to transform the nation into his view of utopia.

Cain follows that, though, with this: “The government shouldn’t be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to a social decision that they need to make.”

It’s maddening, isn’t it? We’re living in an age where people want a politician to go all-in on every issue, and yet there is all of this gray blur of ambiguity. Government shouldn’t be trying to tell people what to do about a social decision; most conservatives would applaud that, especially if Michele Obama is telling them what their kids may or may not eat. After all, parents have a God-given right to determine how to raise their children. Right?

And yet…the same people making that argument will say that both abortion and gay marriage should be illegal — that the government should make those social decisions for others.

But human beings do have a God-given right to to make decisions that will ultimately affect their relationship with Him.


And if that’s the case, then what the nation needs, is an invitation to turn its heart, which is a huge commission that can only be accomplished one soul at a time. That needs patience, and understanding.

“Okay,” some say, “but abortion is murder! So the government should outlaw it!”

Well, I agree that it is murder. And murder is illegal. And when someone murders another, they go to jail.

What pro-lifers have to answer, then, if they’re being consistent, is whether or not they believe that both doctors and abortive mothers should go to jail for their criminal activity. Should the doctor go to jail, but not the mother? Should she just get community service? Let’s talk seriously about how one legislates this. If the issue goes back to the states, do states begin feuding with each other at the borders, as women “immigrate” to have abortions?

Legalized abortion was a law declared from the jurist’s bench. I frankly don’t believe it will ever be outlawed except by the same court that enabled it.

Which suggests to me that a more important question than whether a president is “pro-life enough” is “what sort of justice would he nominate? After all, Bush 43 was the most pro-life president, ever, and his party even controlled both houses for a little while, but even the partial birth abortion ban they managed to sign into law got shunted into the court system before a single child could be saved.

A president who claims to be pro-life, but subject to law and precedent is not a bad choice for pro-lifers, if he can be trusted to name the right sort of jurist. The next president — don’t forget this, because it’s urgent — will likely name 2 or even three SCOTUS justices and shape the court for coming decades.

I said earlier that Cain was dancing very near into disingenuity with his seemingly contradictory pronouncements. But it could simply be that he sees the reality of all the gray areas that squish up from the ground, when we try to settle all the black and white stuff.

My door is still open on Cain. But stuff like this might slam it shut:

He never condemned what others believed – just sin, evil and corruption.

He helped the poor without one government program. He healed the sick without a government health care system. He feed the hungry without food stamps. And everywhere He went, it turned into a rally, attracting large crowds, and giving them hope, encouragement and inspiration.

For three years He was unemployed, and never collected an unemployment check. Nevertheless, he completed all the work He needed to get done. He didn’t travel by private jet. He walked and sailed, and sometimes traveled on a donkey.

Oh, blergh, Mr. Cain! Using my Lord and Savior to score cheap political points (and to praise his unwillingness to “condemn what others believed in” while tacitly doing exactly that yourself) that could slam the door real fast!

Cain Clarifies
(H/T to Chelsea):

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.

The link includes the sequence of the conversation. I suppose it’s possible that he misunderstood the question. But he’s a pretty smart man, so…dunno….here is what Steve Ertelt says:

Cain appears to be genuinely pro-life but is clearly not thoroughly well=-versed or comfortable on discussing the issue of abortion. His past history spending money on pro-life advertisements and railing against the racist nature of Planned Parenthood and its abortion agenda suggests he clearly opposes abortions and wants to protect unborn children under the law. But Cain will have to become more articulate on explaining those pro-life principles and doing so in a way that does not involve using typically “pro-choice” phrases such as government not making decisions for women if he wants to be taken seriously as a possible Republican presidential nominee by the majority of Republicans and Americans who are pro-life.

Interesting. Ertelt is as pro-life as it gets; he appears to be willing to keep the door open a bit, too.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • friscoeddie

    The GOP early ‘romance’ with Cain shows that a superficial ‘lookie lou approach’ seems to be the way they are selecting of the GOP nominee… i.e. anybody but Obama is the top/only criteria. GOP has gone thru Trump, Perry, Bachmann, Christi, Huntsman, et al [Jeb Bush had to give a no way, no how, I will not run, a couple of days ago]
    While reading the conservative Catholic blogs I have not seen any support/mention for Romney.. The conservative Catholic wariness toward Mormons is about even with the evangelical disdain..Catholic doctrine and practice considers Mormon baptism worthless and ‘cult’ is used in marriage preparation texts. I await the inevitable conversion of the ‘anybody but Obama ‘ crowd to turn toward Romney .. because Romney is the certain nominee when the business Republicans tosses the religious/social issues into the NJ waste dumps.
    I see the conservative Catholic ‘anybody but Obama’ crowd getting ready for a big swallow.

  • NBW

    I like Mr. Cain as well but he shouldn’t use Our Lord to drive home political points. He should think long and hard about using anything Biblical as well; his last name being Cain…..

  • Greta

    That is why we have primaries where politicians are put through the paces so that we can really determine what they are in substance unless the press gives them a free pass as they did with Obama. Only those who really pay attention knew what a loser we had with Obama on almost every point. I am holding off supporting a candidate with funds, efforts, and votes until I understand where they stand on issue like doing everything possible to end the holocaust of abortion. This issue and those that strengthen the family as being a marriage between one man and one woman as detailed by Pope Benedict are non negotiable issues. It appears that Cain is at a minimum waffling on both of those issues. However, even the fact that he realizes that abortion is wrong is a step up from Obama who seems to have not met an abortion he does not support, even if the baby lives and needs to be exterminated.

    I know that Michelle Bachman is solid on both of these issues as well as for repeal of ObamaCare and reducing the size of the federal government. Not sure if I believe Romney recent conversions to pro life after seeing his SOLID pro abortion stance within the past 10 years and his Romneycare is troublesome. Santorum has been a strong supporter of life and family and is also a strong choice. Newt is as well. Ron Paul is pro life, but a little to libertarian in some areas for my taste. These thus are the main candidates we need to see move forward and to hear more about them.

    [Then again, the candidate has to be electable. Santorum and Gingrich really are not. Romney...gotta say I don't trust him on anything -admin]

  • Greta

    Reading this over again seems to place him in the Democratic Party with Kennedy, Cuomo, Pelosi, and others who cannot seem to see that legalizing the slaughter of innocent babies is a moral issue for the nation every bit as much as slavery. As I have said repeatedly, on both of the major moral issues in our country, slavery and abortion, the Democratic Party has been on the wrong side. I have sent a message to Cain campaign for clear clarification and how this would prohibit me and millions of others from supporting him. I have also forwarded this information to the pro life groups in every state and the national movement as well.

    [I suspect Cain cannot be more clear b/c he IS pro-life, but also respectful of law and precedent. And if that is the case, then what matters, as I say, is what sort of supreme court justice a President Cain would name. The next president is likely to name 2 or even three justices and decide the balance of the court for decades. With that in mind, I am going to vote for the person I think will make the BEST decision for that crucial issue. -admin]

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Sorry, Friscoeddie:

    No matter what reservations I might have about Cain, or any other Replican candidate, I’m not going to become an Obama fan. A lot of conservatives, not just Catholic ones, have reservations about Romney (and not because he’s a Mormon.)

    Greta, like you, I’m unsure about how pro-life Romney actually is—or if he’d continue to be pro-life, once he got elected. Which is one of the problems, here; I’m still not sure what Republican candidate(s) are, or are not, on the level.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I’m honestly not sure about the question of who should, or who should not, go to jail, re the abortion question.

    I will say that, given some of the resent scandals concerning filthy abortion clinics, doctors who killed babies who were born alive and who’se incompetence resulted in the deaths of their patients—I would say that, at the very least, these responsible for the deaths, and toxic clinics, should be held accountable.

    [Well, I absolutely agree with that. I also think there should be a great deal more regulation and more frequent inspections, among other things. But the question of jailing ordinary folks? Dicier, right? -admin]

  • Greta

    Wow, just opened an email on the situation down in El Paso Texas where there is a battle between a priest and a bishop. With all the posts everywhere on Father Pavone, Interesting we have not seen more on this priest/bishop confrontation.

    It would seem like the Catholic blogs should be supporting a priest who is battling for the ability to teach authentic Church teaching that matches exactly what is in the Cathecism against a bishop who ships him off a destroys the parish to keep this truth from being told.

    [Does it, Greta? Is that a little nudge that you think I should be writing about? You know how Irish I get about that! :-) I'd not heard of this story until this moment, and wouldn't dream of writing what you just wrote based on knowing little-to-nothing of the story, gleaned from one source. More importantly...I'm not that interested. I know some believe the "real" Catholics are under siege from the evil bishops, but I don't, and so far, every time there has been smoke, there has also been a fire. Our bishops were terribly inattentive and deficient in their duties, for too long. If they're finally addressing issues -- all kinds of issues, including those touching on priests who seem to attract cults of personality, I'm glad they're engaged. - admin]

  • Oregon Catholic

    In my state, a couple who belong to a faith healing church that is notorious for allowing their children to die without medical help were just sentenced to jail for the death of their infant born at home 2 months early. The infant only lived for 9 hours and no attempt was made to seek medical help despite the prematurity, only prayer was used and the parents were held responsible for the negligent death. I agree with the conviction despite what I believe are sincere religious beliefs by the parents.

    In my state, it is perfectly legal for a woman to violently abort her baby, at her whim, at the same gestational age. The legal difference is that the aborted babies never took a breath and therefore were not a person.

    Such hypocrisy!! I don’t know anyone that can justify one being a criminal case but not the other except to say “it’s the law”. We have to establish that personhood begins at conception. Then and only then can we get people to stop the hypocrisy of statements such as “I would never have an abortion but I won’t stop another woman from doing so.” which allows abortion to remain legal. I won’t vote for anyone that makes that statement, even if they “change” their position.

  • friscoeddie

    None posting here are sure what the criminal penalties should be or even if there should be any. {please forget about the dirty clinics there are laws already]The Supreme Court has a majority of GOP appointed justices. Has 6 Catholics too. Roe/ Wade is entrenched so why not get a national campaign on changing hearts and actions of the young. To keep up with the full cross press to change an almost un changable law is not working. Get the Catholics like myself to enlist in trying to convince the culture that fetal life is precious. Even Nancy Pelosi, an Italian Catholic grandma and my congresswoman, thinks fetal life is precious and is ‘personally’ against abortion.
    Pics and laws are not working..

  • Joel

    I lived in New York state during the Mario Cuomo regime. It sickened me that he, although nominally a Catholic, would do nothing to stop abortion because he didn’t want to impose his morality on others. Yet, he refused to implement the death penalty, because he was personally opposed to it.

  • Manny

    I’m sorry, Cain is being too cute by halves. The President can’t dictate a pro-life position. There is nothing that Cain could do to impose “a directive on the nation.” You even said it yourself that George W. Bush was the most pro-life president and he couldn’t change much. What a voter is entitled to know is where a president stands on the issue.

    Anchoress you said this:
    “We’re living in an age where people want a politician to go all-in on every issue, and yet there is all of this gray blur of ambiguity. Government shouldn’t be trying to tell people what to do about a social decision; most conservatives would applaud that…”

    First of all, I cannot see what ambiguity there is on abortion. Second, what do you mean most conservatives would applaud that [government not trying to tell people]? Somehow there is this notion that has developed in our general culture that conservatism equates to libertarianism. Yes, it’s true that conservatives have long believed that government is best limited, especially in economic matters. But conservatism has always professed that certain traditional values and mores required public enforcement, usually through informal disapproval or when necessary through legislation. It’s amazing how far libertarianism has come when hardly anyone believes we should impose values. Conservatism is not relativistic.

  • Joseph

    I was at first concerned about Cain because of his lack of political experience, but the more I learned about him, the less concerned I became. He has an impressve resume and I believe he is solidly pro-life (though he could have made that clearer in is above remarks) and will appoint judges who will stick to the constitution as written, rather than impose their meaning to it. My main concern about him now is his 9-9-9 plan. He needs to reassure us that it is not etched in stone as is, and that he and his economic team will work on it so no one will end up paying higher taxes because of it.

    A word about the “personally opposed, but…” crowd. Some who favor legal abortion are truly personally opposed to it, but many are not, and they have increased in number over the years since Roe v. Wade. Those who regard abortion as a fundamental “right” are not personally opposed, no matter how much they may say they are. You cannot believe in the “right” to do something so wrong, especially when it involves human life. Some libertarians might say they oppose abortion but they don’t think it’s the state’s business to get involved. I disagree, but I appreciate their sincerity. By contrast, Obama had been in office about 72 hours when he reversed all of Bush 43′s federal restrictions on abortion, thus showing that he truly is pro-abortion.

  • Mike Andrews

    Cain nearly had me. He’s lost me now.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Yes, the laws are on the books, friscoeddie.

    But when the filthy clinics were discovered, they were defended as being “Legal”, and necessary because poor women supposedly, absolutely had to have abortions. They were also allowed to operate for an unconscionably long time, though people knew about them, because of “woman’s right”, blah, blah, blah, “Privacy”, blah, blah, blah, and “It’s legal!”

    As long as abortion is legal, the abuses within its system will be covered up, or excused, because it’s “Every Woman’s Right” supposedly. As for hearts and minds, the church has been trying to change them ever since its birth.

    Oregon Catholic, yes, the hypocrisy is becoming stunning; some hospitals are fighting to save premature infants, while others are performing abortions to destroy infants who are actually older, gestationally, than the preemie! Parents like the ones in the case you mentioned can be prosecuted for letting their child die at home—however, if they had it killed at an abortion clinic, all would be fine and dandy.

    Let’s face it; the legal issues surrounding abortion are, already, a tangled mess.

  • Arnobius of Sicca

    This is sobering information which I am grateful to have. While I believe this election will essentially mean Catholics have to vote for the lesser evil rather than a candidate who stands up for our beliefs, it is helpful to have such information to help discern the lesser evil.

  • Doc

    Frisco, it’s good to hear that you embrace the fact that life in the womb is precious. Are you aware that 40 Days for Life is an existing national campaign designed to and succeeding in changing the hearts and minds of young and old? Now that you are aware (assuming you were not until now) will you participate in a 40 Days for Life prayer vigil in front of an abortion provider in your community?

    Pics and laws do work to reduce abortions, btw. This is documented. Do you support laws that chip away at the “right” to an abortion and that do reduce the number of abortions performed? If not, were your other statements about embracing life in the womb just blowing smoke at us?

    We will not forget about the filthy clinics that have led to infections and deaths of their victims (the mothers who have been persuaded that killing their children is the best option). The fact that existing laws have been ignored for far too long is a scandal that needs exposure, not further cover-ups.

    And, lastly, that Italian Grandma who is your representative is one of the most dedicated supporters of legal abortion we have in this country and has done more to ensure the continued deaths at the hands of abortionists than anyone else in Congress. So please don’t tell me that she thinks life in the womb is precious.

  • Lewis Kapell

    I agree with Steve Ertelt, Cain’s personal concern for the unborn seems genuine; I think the problem is that Cain hasn’t learned how to express himself carefully enough. His lack of political experience is really hurting him here, and it’s too bad, because otherwise he would be a very strong candidate. But I’m just scared that as the GOP nominee, he would put his foot in his mouth at some point and the Dems would destroy him.

    If only we could take Cain’s confident, relaxed, upbeat, unaffected persona and graft it onto R

  • Lewis Kapell

    [somehow my comment got submitted before I was ready].

    If only we could take Cain’s confident, relaxed, upbeat, unaffected persona and graft it onto Rick Santorum, we would have a fantastic candidate. It almost makes me want to cry…

  • friscoeddie

    Doc.. I have talked, marched, written, counseled pro-life.
    What law could Pelosi as speaker pass that would over turn Roe/Wade?
    This post is about Herman Cain and he said exactly what Pelosi says. “I’m personally against abortion but government should not interfere with the woman’s /family choice”
    Lewis K says “problem is that Cain hasn’t learned how to express himself carefully enough’ ….can’t express himself??? He has been getting $25K a pop as a motivational speaker for 9 years.. that’s why he is so glib.. probably glib enough to say this weekend that he really really is pro-life ….enough to fool a lot of the ‘anybody but Obama crowd.’
    However.. he is finished.. his 9-9-9 will cause the business Republicans to bury him and the all the social issues tout de suite.

  • David DeAtkine

    First — I love you Anchoress! I read your blog every day and you among others were part of the reason this hereditary Protestant/Evangelical is now Catholic….

    I have to say you are being a little tough on Cain here….Bachmann and Santorum do “talk the talk” on abortion better, but I think they have been schooled in it longer. He’s genuine and rough about the edges. This campaign process will refine his presentation to a point where I think all of us staunchly pro-lifers will be comfortable…I think he would be SO much better than the Republican-Elite’s pick, Romney..

  • Terrye

    To be honest, I am not sure that Cain knows what pro life actually is. He wants to have it both ways. He can not say he believes abortion is a woman’s choice and that is all and yet say that he is pro life.

  • Manny

    Like I said, I love Herman Cain, but he has to take back words every week. Actually at this point, this is the second time this week. He’s not experienced as a politician. People want non politicians, but non politicians cannot get elected to this high an office. He has not thought through what he believes on the major issues of the day and more importantly how to articulate it. On top of that, the constant requirement to express one’s thoughts on every subject under the sun makes one proned to mistakes if you haven’t done this before. I first realized this about two months ago when Cain was asked his opinion on the Palistinians right of return and he said he had never heard of it. Well, ok. Herman Cain, I’m sorry to say, is not ready to be president.

  • Peggy Coffey

    I have already come to the point that I don’t care who the Repubs run, if they asked me to nominate my dog, I’d vote for him. I will not vote for Obama and as long as they don’t put up Hitler or Pol Pot I’ll vote for the Repub. It is ghastly to think of but our country is in trouble and we need help now.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Yes, Peggy, I’m starting to share you’re thinking on this.

    Yes, I know—we will be sneered at as the “Anybody but Obama” crowd. Ah, well. Sneers are losing their power to influence. I know this has been the Left’s modus operandi, since the 60′s, but it’s starting to wear thin. After you’re called the same name so many times, it starts to lose its sting.

  • Oregon Catholic

    Those of you (Joseph, Frisco, etc.) who think that “I’m personally opposed, but…” is a legitimate opinion to hold for someone who considers themselves pro-life need to step back and really think about what is being said.

    Why are they personally opposed? It can’t be because they think the life in the womb is a person with full human rights, or a child of God with an eternal soul, or that abortion is murder. No one who believes that (a true pro-life understanding of abortion) can be so relative about what someone else does. It makes as much sense as a self professed ‘child advocate’ saying “I wouldn’t burn my child with a cigarette to discipline him, but I wouldn’t interfere with my neighbor’s right to do so”. It equates the child as being the property of the parent to do with as they wish, not a human being with individual rights.

    People who say “I wouldn”t, but…” are, IMO, just as wrong as those who advocate for the right of a woman to choose an abortion.

  • friscoeddie

    Rhinestone; “After you’re called the same name so many times, it starts to lose its sting.’
    if “anybody but Obama’ is calling names and is a ‘stinging sneer’ I suggest you are not ready for the 2012 election.