In defense of Herman Cain

While I believe that Herman Cain made a real hash of things with his remarks to Piers Morgan about abortion, after watching the interview multiple times I now believe that the context modifies his words in a way most people are failing to understand or choosing to ignore.

By example, when Newt Gingrich uttered his infamous line about “right-wing social engineering” conservatives of all stripes reacted as though he had advocated retraction of the Declaration of Independence.

In fact, like most ideas worth expressing, what Gingrich said can only be properly understood when viewed in the context in which it was spoken.

The vital context here are the exact words David Gregory used in his question and to which Gingrich was responding:

“Do you think Republicans ought to buck the public opposition and really move forward to completely change Medicare?”

I suspect Gregory was setting a trap here that Gingrich recognized and side stepped nicely. The trap was in the words “buck the public opposition”. Remember that one of the Republicans’ chief complaints about Obamacare was/is that it was passed in spite of major “public opposition”.  Newt, realizing he was being baited, responded by saying in effect  “No, we should build public support for our policies instead of just ramming them through”.

When considered calmly, logically, and rationally, Gingrich’s comment was actually quite conservative and in keeping with the cornerstone idea of our republic that “the people” outrank “the government” and that our leaders need to follow the will of the people.

Now Herman Cain has likewise gotten conservatives highly exercised (including myself) for his comments on abortion. My annoyance springs primarily not from what I think he meant to say but from the fact that he was so unclear and allowed a dolt like Morgan to muddle up what should have been simple.

Here the vital context is again provided by the wording of the question:

“If one of your female children grandchildren was raped you would honestly want her to bring up that baby as her own?”

Notice Morgan did say “want her to be forced to carry that baby to term” or “forced to give birth to the baby of a rapist”.  No, he clearly used the words “bring up the baby as her own”.

Cain’s immediate response is “You’re mixing two things here Piers.”  I ask you gentle reader, what “two things” did Cain think Morgan was mixing up?  What could Cain have meant?  The only possible explanation I can come up with is that in Cain’s mind Morgan was equating a position against all abortions with forcing a woman to raise a child she did not want.  I believe Cain was simply explaining that opposition to abortion does not mean the woman is forced to “bring up” the child, since there is another option, namely adoption. This is what I think Cain had to have meant when he said that Morgan was “mixing two things”.

When a Republican is dishonest they deserve to be called on it, and policy differences need to be discussed and fully aired, but failing to carefully consider context, or willfully ignoring same, is not helpful to the conservative cause.