Dan Amira at New York has located some bizarre video of Herman Cain trying to explain his position on abortion on a television program a few months ago. To appreciate the muddled thinking, you just have to watch it:
As Amira says, it was as though Cain "simply gathered some common abortion-related words and phrases — 'her choice,' 'government's decision', 'sanctity of life' — then randomly assembled them into sentences." Cain was only marginally more coherent on Meet the Press last weekend answering a similar question - he says he's pro-life with no exceptions for rape and incest, but when David Gregory presses him on whether there should be an exception to save the life of the mother, he says "the family is going to have to make that decision." On the basis of what he's said, Cain is either the most pro-life candidate running in the Republican primary, or the most pro-choice candidate running in the Republican primary, but it's hard to tell which.
I think I can clear this up: Herman Cain does not seem to be aware that abortion rights are a matter of law. He seems to be answering the questions as if his interviewers asked him what advice he'd give someone who was wondering whether to get an abortion, not what he thinks ought to be legal or illegal. He really ought to get one of his aides to help him figure out what his position on the law is.
Lots of people have observed that Cain's candidacy is basically an audition for a Fox News gig. But has there ever been a front-running candidate who has shown himself as ignorant about the basic terms on which the debates around the issues revolve? What's amazing is that it isn't as though Cain just got pulled into politics last week. He ran for Senate in 2004. He's been a talk radio host for years, a role in which it was presumably his job to talk about political issues. And yet every time he gets a new question about foreign or domestic policy, he just seems unfamiliar with what's actually at issue, how government is involved in this particular area, and what we talk about when we talk about it. Remarkable.