UPDATE: Please read this post before continuing further.
Given the understandable concern people have over the state of the economy, it seems no one got around to asking current Republican frontrunner Herman Cain a difficult question on his views about abortion - until last night. Cain went on Piers Morgan's show last night, and was first asked a ridiculous gotcha question about what he would do if his own granddaughter were raped. I won't really dignify that question by covering it, because pro-choice politicians never get asked this question about extreme cases from the other end of the spectrum. Then, however, the conversation moved on to abortion more generally, and it turns out that Herman Cain is pro-choice:
No, it comes down to is, 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 that big a number (abortion because of rape - LHW). 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.
. . .
No, they don’t. I can have an opinion on an issue without it being a directive on the nation. 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.
There's a simple term for people who feel that abortion is personally wrong, but that the government shouldn't do anything to prohibit it: we call those people "pro-choice." This position is fundamentally indistinguishable from the positions taken by Mario Cuomo, John Kerry, or pretty much any other nominally Catholic Democrat you want to name.
Nobody who doesn't work for NARAL believes abortion is a good thing; the only question that is of significance to a politician is whether you also think it should be illegal. And if you believe, as Cain allegedly does, that life begins at conception, it defies logic and common sense to say in the next breath that the government has no business making it illegal to prevent someone from taking that life. If life begins at conception, but the government has no business regulating abortion, then you must also of necessity believe that the government has no business regulating any form of homicide. Of course, no one truly believes that, which is why the formulation espoused by Cuomo, Kerry, and Cain is really just a focus-group tested way of making people feel better about the fact that you're pro-choice.
I'll be very interested to see if Cain attempts to walk back or qualify this position in the coming days. I had been seriously considering giving Cain a chance (I haven't been all that interested in the 9 9 9 brouhaha since I give it 0% chance of passing Congress), but this is a dealbreaker for me. And if this really was a mistake on this part, then somehow he has gone his whole adult life without ever seriously considering the question of abortion or being aware of the standard Catholic Democrat dodge on the issue. This does not necessarily paint Cain in a good light, but it is certainly better than the alternative: that Cain believed and meant what he said, and is a pro-choice candidate.
UPDATE: Behold John Kerry in 2004. See if you can find a hair's breadth of difference between Kerry and Cain.
"I oppose abortion, personally. I don't like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception."
I cannot tell you how deeply I respect the belief about life and when it begins. I'm a Catholic - raised a Catholic. I was an altar boy. Religion has been a huge part of my life, helped lead me through a war, leads me today.
"But I can't take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn't share that article of faith, whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, Protestant, whatever. I can't do that. But I can counsel people, I can talk reasonably about life and about responsibility.