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A Cain-Do Candidate

The pizza magnate Republicans are flipping for.

Jun 20, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 38 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Cain is cautious, critics would say evasive, on a number of issues. On Afghanistan, Cain says he doesn’t know what he would do until he has classified intelligence information. “There’s more that I don’t know than I know,” Cain said. “I’m not going to pull a plan out of my ass.”

“I’d want to know what do our intelligence sources tell us about the state of the Afghan government. I don’t know whether I can trust Karzai or not. It’s a divided government. How divided is it? What parts can you depend upon?” Cain said. “Can we win in Afghanistan? If the answer is yes, after assessing all of this, then we’d figure out what it would take and whether we’d be willing to make that sacrifice. If we can’t I’d want an exit strategy.” Asked for a couple of potential foreign policy advisers, Cain mentions John Bolton and K.T. McFarland. 

Should ethanol subsidies be abolished? “It depends,” Cain said. “I want to talk about a complete solution, ’cause I can see it now, ‘Cain does not support ethanol subsidies.’ I’m not falling into that trap.”

Are there circumstances under which he thinks abortion should be legal? There’s a four-second pause. “Ahhh,” he sighs, going silent for 16 seconds. “You’re asking, are there circumstances in which it should be legal?” Yes. “Let me get back to you on that. I need to mull this over because that question can be a trap either way you go. I don’t want to be inconsistent with what I have said in the past.”

In 1998, Cain said in an interview, “I am pro-life with exceptions, and people want you to be all or nothing.” He added: “I am not a social issue crusader. I am a free-enterprise crusader.” It’s not clear what the exceptions were in 1998; in 2004, he supported only one: when the life of the mother is at stake.

Cain tied himself in knots when asked in March by a Center for American Progress Action Fund blogger if he would feel comfortable appointing a Muslim to his cabinet. “No, I will not,” Cain replied. He later tried to explain his comment, saying: “I did not say that I would not have them in my cabinet. If you look at my career, I have hired good people regardless of race, religion, sex, gender, orientation.” But then on June 8, he took two steps back, saying he’d require Muslims to “prove” they were faithful to the Constitution. “Would you do that to a Catholic or would you do that to a Mormon?” interviewer Glenn Beck asked. “Nope, I wouldn’t,” Cain replied.

Cain’s silver tongue is a double-edged sword. His rhetoric can be both uplifting and strident. He preaches the gospel of self-help, talking about “commonsense solutions,” the “spirit of America,” and how we need to move from an “entitlement society to an empowerment society.” He has also said that President Obama’s decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act is a “breach of presidential duty bordering on treason.”

“President Obama’s approval ratings are still hovering around 50 percent because that 50 percent has no clue. And you’ve heard me say ‘Stupid people are ruining America!’ ” Cain told the Howard County Republicans. “That means that the other 50 percent—us—have got to out-vote them, out-work them in order to take this nation back.”

Do his strident words make him seem less presidential? “Does it undercut my message with some people? Yes,” Cain said. “They’re not going to vote for me, so I’m not going to try to be politically correct. And I’m not going to try to pander and make statements like, ‘Well some people are just not properly informed.’ That’s trying to be politically correct and not sound so harsh. I happen to believe that the American people need some harsh talk.”

John McCormack is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.

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