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:
…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!
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.