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A Times Editorial

The more Cain speaks, the more he stumbles

During the Republican presidential debates, candidate Herman Cain seemed at ease before the cameras dishing out his simplistic 9-9-9 tax plan to friendly audiences. But the longer Cain stands under the front-runner spotlight, the less prepared he looks.

Cain couldn't seem to settle on a policy toward abortion rights, a key issue for the GOP base, and when he finally did, it was the extreme position of no abortions under any circumstances. He also seems ill-prepared to respond to allegations that he sexually harassed women when he was an executive with a restaurant industry trade group. This kind of scrutiny comes with running for high office. But Cain is a political amateur, and the more he talks, the more it shows.

Cain's success in the polls has come despite the candidate's penchant for making provocative statements that he then retracts, such as one calling for an electrified fence along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration.

But his flip-flops on abortion policy have gotten the most attention because of the importance of the issue to evangelical voters who make up a large part of the Republican primary and caucus voting bloc. In a recent CNN interview, Cain said the government should not interfere with a woman's decision to have an abortion in the case of rape or incest. But he has since clarified his position, saying he opposes abortion in all cases, even when a woman is impregnated through rape or incest or when the mother's life is in danger if she continues the pregnancy.

This no-exceptions position means Cain is willing to sacrifice the life of a woman for that of her growing fetus. Presumably he would seek to change federal law to reflect that noxious view and nominate justices to the U.S. Supreme Court with similar sympathies. That would make Cain a dangerous candidate for American women and civil liberties.

Cain has also called for the federal defunding of Planned Parenthood, claiming its founder Margaret Sanger put birth-control clinics in minority neighborhoods as a form of "planned genocide" to kill unborn black babies — a claim that PolitiFact Georgia rated Pants on Fire. This hostility to Planned Parenthood and its vital work making birth control accessible is another insight into the damage a Cain presidency would do to women's reproductive health rights.

Cain is now facing allegations that he sexually harassed at least two female employees when he headed the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. Cain claims the accusations are "totally baseless and false" and that he had no knowledge of any settlements paid to the women to keep quiet. But if there is a kernel of truth here, it will not be so easy for Cain to dismiss.

Cain's campaign has had to grapple with the political newcomer's many missteps, but when the candidate finally makes himself clear, his answers can be extreme and are too hostile to women. Cain's star has risen quickly, but it's not beyond burning out.

The more Cain speaks, the more he stumbles 10/31/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 31, 2011 6:39pm]
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