By Bob Eschliman
In all fairness, I have to admit I once was riding the “Cain Train.” I had bought into his message, his position as an outsider railing against Washington, and Herman Cain’s success as a businessman who has been able to create jobs and turn failing business models around.
But, I never stopped the vetting process, which is why I’m firmly back among the ranks of the undecided. I dug deeper as I got to know more about the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, and I didn’t like what I saw.
For one thing, the man’s underwear must be constantly aflame, because he seemingly can’t open his mouth without lying.
Cain appeared on “Piers Morgan Tonight” on CNN Wednesday night, a move most political advisors probably would not recommend. And, it wound up costing him considerably.
Throughout the campaign trail, Cain has fancied himself a champion of the pro-life movement. Granted, Morgan roughed him up pretty good in the early going, but when he got a relatively soft question on abortion, Cain folded.
MORGAN: Abortion. What’s your view of abortion?
CAIN: I believe that life begins at conception. And abortion under no circumstances. And here’s why –
MORGAN: No circumstances?
CAIN: No circumstances.
MORGAN: Because many of your fellow candidates — some of them qualify that.
CAIN: They qualify but —
MORGAN: Rape and incest.
CAIN: Rape and incest.
At this point, Herman Cain has potentially hit a home run with social conservatives who have been looking for an electable champion for their issues, even though he had just fouled one off a few moments earlier on gay rights. But, he derailed himself — in almost the same way he got off-track on the homosexuality issue — in the following exchange.
Let’s say he hooked it around the foul pole — long enough to be home run, but still just a strike — but only as effective as a swing and a miss.
MORGAN: Are you honestly saying — again, it’s a tricky question, I know.
CAIN: Ask the tricky question.
MORGAN: But you’ve had children, grandchildren. If one of your female children, grandchildren was raped, you would honestly want her to bring up that baby as her own?
CAIN: You’re mixing two things here, Piers.
CAIN: You’re mixing —
MORGAN: That’s what it comes down to.
CAIN: No, it comes down to 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. 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 have to tell them what decision to make for such a sensitive issue.
MORGAN: By expressing the view that you expressed, you are effectively — you might be president. You can’t hide behind now the mask, if you don’t mind me saying, of being the pizza guy. You might be the President of United States of America. So your views on these things become exponentially, massively more important. They become a directive to the nation.
CAIN: 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 social decisions that they need to make.
Mind you, those are the words of a Baptist minister, who only a few minutes earlier had told the very same television host, “The ‘real you’ starts with me being a man of faith, a man that believes in family… My faith has been a big part of me all my life.”
The next day, his campaign issued a “clarification” on his comments. This is what it said:
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-percent 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.
Piers Morgan may have attempted to be snarky when he said Cain’s position on abortion would be a mandate to the American people, but he was absolutely right. That is the President’s constitutional role in the abortion debate — aside from appointing the right people and refusing to fund the wrong initiatives — to lay out a strong case for life, and to convince the American people it is the wrong course of action.
If that was a one-time faux pas, you might be able to get away with giving him a pass on it. But, Herman Cain has had a lot of instances where he “misspoke.” In fact, there have been several instances where he’s appeared to flip-flop, or have multiple positions on a single issue.
And, there have been several times where he’s outright lied to someone’s face. Having TV cameras in the room doesn’t appear to be a deterrent. And, lying in the middle of a GOP debate hasn’t been a problem, either.
One night earlier, at the Las Vegas GOP debate held Tuesday night, Herman Cain got caught in one of those awkward moments where he said something to one journalist, and then told another journalist (ironically enough, from the same media outlet) the direct opposite.
During the debate, moderator and CNN host Anderson Cooper asked, “Herman Cain, let me ask this to you. A few hours ago you were asked by Wolf Blitzer, if al Qaeda had an American soldier in captivity, and they demanded the release of everyone at Guantanamo Bay, would you release them? And you said, quote: ‘I can see myself authorizing that kind of a transfer.’ Can you explain?”
Before we get to Cain’s response, let’s take a look at what was asked and what was said during the earlier interview on CNN with Blitzer:
BLITZER: One foreign policy question. I know you’re going to be asked many more in the days to come.
CAIN: Yes. Sure.
BLITZER: I know you’re a major supporter of Israel.
BLITZER: Did the Israeli government of Prime Minister Netanyahu do the right thing in exchanging 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for one captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who had been held by Hamas for five years?
CAIN: I would have to know all of the considerations he made to say yes or no, because I’m sure that there were a lot of considerations that he had to make in order to make that decision. On the surface, you would say one for hundreds doesn’t make any sense. But here’s how I make decisions. And this is why I respect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu so much. He looks at all of the facts before he makes a judgment call. We don’t know all of the facts.
BLITZER: Could you imagine if you were president — we’re almost out of time — and there was one American soldier who had been held for years, and the demand was al Qaeda or some other terrorist group, you have got to free everyone at Guantanamo Bay, several hundred prisoners at Guantanamo? Could you see yourself, as president, authorizing that kind of transfer?
CAIN: I could see myself authorizing that kind of transfer, but what I would do is, I would make sure that I got all of the information, I got all of the input, considered all of the options. And then the president has to be the president and make a judgment call. I could make that call if I had to.
So, clearly, the evidence proves Herman Cain used the phrase, “I could see myself authorizing that kind of transfer.” So, what do you suppose he had to say about Cooper’s question during the debate?
“The rest of the statement was quite simply, you would have to consider the entire situation. But let me say this first, I would have a policy that we do not negotiate with terrorists. We have to lay that principle down first,” he said. “Now being that you have to look at each individual situation and consider all the facts. The point that I made about this particular situation is that I’m sure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to consider a lot of things before he made that.”
“So on the surface, I don’t think we can say he did the right thing or not,” he added. “A responsible decision-maker would have considered everything.”
I’m sensing his handlers and advisors got hold of him after the Blitzer interview and gave him some new talking points. And, I think Cooper sensed that, too, so he pressed the question further, as any journalist would:
Now, at this point, often referred to as the “run, squirm, or lie moment” amongst hardcore journalists, Cain could have done one of three things: 1) run away from the issue (Rick Perry calls this “answering the question however I want”), 2) squirm behind his podium, providing a mostly unintelligible response, or 3) flat-out lie.
Herman Cain didn’t bat an eye or flinch — not even a little bit.
“I don’t recall him saying that it was al Qaeda-related,” he responded.
When Cooper confirmed Blitzer had, indeed, framed the question with al Qaeda in mind and offers to read back the exact quote, Cain almost says, “Well, I don’t really care.” At least, that’s what it appears he was ready to say before he caught himself.
“Well, I don’t really — my policy will be we cannot negotiate with terrorists,” he said. “That’s where we have to start as a fundamental principle.”
After the debate, Cooper again confronted Cain on the question about the quote, and this time played a video clip of the Blitzer interview. The official response this time: “I misspoke.”
There’s that word again: misspoke. For a man who was the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and a governor on the Federal Reserve Board, who is often hailed for his ability to articulate, he sure seems to have a real issue with saying the wrong words at the most inopportune moments.
Mr. Cain, in the past you have been rather critical of any of us who would want to audit the Fed. You have said — you’ve used pretty strong terms — that we were ignorant and that we didn’t know what we are doing, and therefore, there was no need for an audit anyway, because if you had one, you’re not going to find out anything, because everybody knows everything about the Fed.
But now that we have found and we have gotten an audit, we have found out an awful lot on how special businesses get bailed out — Wall Street, the banks, and special companies, foreign governments — and you said that you advise those of us who were concerned, and you belittled, you say call up the Federal Reserve and just ask them, get the PR person.
Do you still stick by this — that this is frivolous — or do you think it’s very important? Sixty-four percent of the American people want a full audit of the Fed on a regular basis.
Once again, Herman Cain finds himself in a run, squirm, or lie position and chooses the latter. And, once again, he barely bats an eye as he lies through his teeth:
First of all, you have misquoted me. I did not call you or any of your people ignorant. I don’t know where that came from. Alright?
To which Paul responds, “I’ll get it for you.” But, Cain continues:
Now, so, you’ve gotta be careful of the stuff you get off the Internet, because that’s just not something I’ve said. Secondly, when I served on the board of the Federal Reserve in the 1990s, we didn’t do any of the things that this Federal Reserve is doing. I don’t agree with the actions of this Federal Reserve. I don’t agree with the actions that have been undertaken by Ben Bernanke.
We didn’t have a 14-trillion-dollar national debt to prop up with some of the actions that they are taking. And I have also said, to be precise, I do not object to the Federal Reserve being audited. I simply said, “If someone wants to initiate that action, go right ahead. It doesn’t bother me.” So, I’ve been misrepresented in that regard. I don’t have a problem with the Federal Reserve being audited, it’s simply not my top priority. My top priority is 9-9-9! Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!
Those who know me know I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Ron Paul. But, when someone is right, they deserve to be defended. No, Herman Cain didn’t call the Audit the Fed movement “ignorant,” he used a different word: stupid.
Cain then followed up his defense of whether or not he used the word “ignorant” by more or less calling Ron Paul and those who agree with him ignorant: “Now, so, you’ve gotta be careful of the stuff you get off the Internet, because that’s just not something I’ve said.”
So, what did he say, exactly? Well, as a guest host on “The Neil Boortz Show,” he had this to say about the Audit the Fed movement:
…but people who say, “Well, we ought to audit the Federal Reserve because we don’t know enough about it,” well, here’s the advice I’ve given to people who are worried about an audit of the Federal Reserve: “Call ’em up and ask ’em, if you can stop by and have one of their PR people, or of their Public Relations people, explain to you how the Federal Reserve operates!”
I think a lot of people are calling for this audit of the Federal Reserve because they don’t know enough about it. There’s no hidden secrets going on in the Federal Reserve, to my knowledge, and I tell people, we’ve got twelve Federal Reserve banks, find out which district you’re in, call ’em up and go from there.
We don’t need to waste money with another commission, or an audit that’s not necessary, because, folks, we got a lot of other problems we need to worry about.
The Internet was ablaze the day after the debate with “fact checks” on Cain’s statements, both on Boortz’s show and in the debate. But, again, that wasn’t the first time he lied on the campaign trail.
Granted, ThinkProgress is the least likely source of information I would quote, but they can back up what they’re saying with raw video footage of Herman Cain saying exactly what he’s about to say he didn’t say. Wow, you really do weave a tangled web…
And then, he went on to explain why:
There is this creeping attempt, there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government. This is what happened in Europe. And little by little, to try and be politically correct, they made this little change, they made this little change. And now they’ve got a social problem that they don’t know what to do with hardly.
The question that was asked that “raised some questions” and, as my grandfather said, “I does not care, I feel the way I feel.” I was asked, “what is the role of Islam in America?” I thought it was an odd question. I said the role of Islam in America is for those that believe in Islam to practice it and leave us alone. Just like Christianity. We have a First Amendment. And I get upset when the Muslims in this country, some of them, try to force their Sharia law onto the rest of us.
He went on to defend his point with Oklahoma’s attempt at establishing only American law should be considered in its courtrooms. And, if that’s where this story ended, we would be patting the man on the back as principled, Christian defender of Constitutional liberty.
But just two weeks later, when approached by BBC reporter Matthew Wells, we get a completely different result:
WELLS: You said you wouldn’t have a Muslim in your Cabinet two weeks ago. Is that still your position?
CAIN: That wasn’t a statement I made. Let’s get it right. I was asked if I would be comfortable, and my response was I would not be comfortable with a terrorist in my Cabinet. Not all Muslims are terrorists, but a lot of the terrorists are Muslims, so I just have to be real careful about who I put in my Cabinet.
The candidate later admits political correctness isn’t his strong point, and that he tends to ruffle feathers. But, he never acknowledges how his position has seemingly done a 180 in just 14 days’ time.
But the baffling point is that he goes right back to the original position as he continues to defend himself against the criticism. And, he even admits to why his position keeps wavering in the wind, so to speak:
…[T]he comment that I made that become controversial, and that my staff keeps hoping will die, is that I wouldn’t have Muslims in my administration. And it’s real simple: the Constitution does not have room for Sharia law. I want people who are going to believe and enforce the Constitution of the United States of America. And so I don’t have time, as President of the United States, to try and screen people based upon their religious beliefs — I really don’t care what your religious beliefs are, but I do know that most of the people of the Muslim faith, they believe in Sharia law. And to introduce that element as part of an administration when we have all of these other issues, I think I have a right to say that I won’t.
A good friend of mine, Cary Gordon, a pastor at Cornerstone World Outreach in Sioux City, thought that was exactly what he was getting one day several months ago. Pastor Cary and his wife, Molly, were invited to attend a Cain campaign event, and were later invited to chat with the candidate, one-on-one.
Somewhere along the line one of his staff mentioned that he would be in the city on the Lord’s day (the following morning) and would enjoy worshiping with us, if we were okay with that.
Naturally, I said we would be delighted to have him worship with us. I shared the time of the morning service with them and parted ways. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind greeting everyone just before the sermon. He graciously agreed to do so. Herman was warmly received by our congregation as he briefly spoke prior to the sermon.
Pastor Cary said, after the service was over, there were many members of the congregation who remained behind to meet Cain personally, and that in general they were very supportive of his candidacy. And after some good ol’ fashioned glad-handing, Cain, some his staffers, and the pastors at Cornerstone World Outreach went out to lunch at a popular Sioux City restaurant.
We engaged in a discussion, among other things, on the Christian worldview. While we were eating, one of Mr. Cain’s staff members — Charlie Gruschow — made it a point to remind Herman that I had played a measurable public role in the recent Iowa Judicial Retention process, and that my efforts were strongly rebuffed by Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
This dovetailed into an in-depth conversation on the sanctity of family, and our mutual conviction that it must be protected from judicial fiat and other leftist attempts at social re-engineering. In the course of that very specific conversation, Herman Cain made it abundantly clear that he agreed with our stand completely. He stated something to the effect of, “Rest assured, a Cain presidency will defend traditional marriage.”
He then shared that he felt the media had been, and would continue to harangue him and other conservative candidates concerning the gay agenda. He said that he told a reporter, “I would have no problem hiring a qualified gay person to my staff,” then he emphasized to everyone listening, “please notice that I used the word ‘qualified.’”
Little did Pastor Cary know at the time, but another staffer — Scott Toomey — was in fact the “qualified gay staffer” Cain must’ve been talking about. And, when he was confronted with the fact he had a gay staffer, he attempted to cover it up.
Asked about it directly by campaign volunteers and contributors, Cain once again lied, telling them Toomey was no longer a member of his staff, or that Toomey played an insignificant role on the staff. In fact, Toomey remained a key member of the staff for weeks after the dust-up began, in spite of the fact he was a staunch advocate for gay rights — including gay marriage — and he was accused of embezzlement.
But Pastor Cary still didn’t know about all of that when he realized there had been a betrayal of trust during that lunch discussion.
Imagine my feeling of betrayal to read a [Washington] Post article highlighting Cain’s sudden departure from his word, now saying he will not do what he assured the pastors of Cornerstone he would do: protect marriage.
I thought Herman Cain might be the kind of quality, fearless leader God would bless and use as a tool to salvage our nation that is currently sliding into hedonism and socialism. Clearly, Herman Cain is not the man I thought he was.
But, with Cain leading several of the polls as of this reading, will enough Americans see through the façade before it’s too late? Or, will the real Herman Cain finally be revealed?
Bob Eschliman is an Iowa journalist who has been covering politics and government for more than a decade. He is the founder of the Ben Franklin Journalism blog, which promotes citizen journalism.