Bryan Fischer
The flickering flame of Herman Cain
By Bryan Fischer
June 21, 2011

Follow me on Twitter: @BryanJFischer, on Facebook at "Focal Point"

I like Herman Cain. I like him a lot. He did a radio program for a time on the same talk network for which I work, which made us colleagues for a time, and he has appeared several times as a guest on my own program. That's why it has been personally disappointing to see him misfire in recent weeks. His self-inflicted wounds are endangering the continued viability of his campaign.

He'll need to right the ship ASAP, especially with the imminent entrance of Gov. Rick Perry into the race. Gov. Perry will suck all the oxygen out of the room once he declares, and Herman may wind up choking on Perry's dust. His chance to get out in front of the field far enough to stay clear of that dust storm may be gone.

Herman, sadly to me, has stumbled on three crucial issues in just the last week.

First and foremost, he refused to sign the Susan B. Anthony List's pro-life pledge, leaving him and Mitt Romney alone among the major candidates who cut themselves off from the herd on this one.

Herman's explanation — that the pledge requires him to "advance" fetal pain legislation which he can't do as president — sounds weak and is weak. Herman has some deep convictions about the separation of powers, and that principle is apparently what he was trying to protect here. He said he can't "advance" legislation because only Congress can do that.

But there obviously is much that a president can do, through the influence of his moral conviction and the bully pulpit of his office, to give impetus to good pro-life legislation. In other words, the president can in fact "advance" legislation. Herman's narrow and nuanced interpretation of that word seems and is too complicated by half.

And politically, it's a mistake. The other five candidates, who didn't and don't need to explain anything, look strong on the pro-life issue, while Herman's fence-straddling makes him look weak when he's not.

Secondly, he reiterated at a press conference on Saturday night that he's sticking by his claim that gun control is an issue for the states to decide. He was being asked about this recent exchange with an obviously surprised Wolf Blitzer:

Blitzer: Should states or local government be allowed to control guns, the gun situation, or should...

Cain: Yes

Blitzer:: Yes?

Cain: Yes.

Blitzer: So the answer is yes?

Cain: The answer is yes, that should be a state's decision.

This answer, which he defended Saturday night, puts him at odds not only with the NRA, which is bad enough for a conservative presidential candidate, it puts him at odds with the Constitution itself, which guarantees to the "people" (not the militia!) in everyone of the respective states the "right to keep and bear arms."

States are given no liberty under the Second Amendment to deprive individuals of the right of self-defense, and yet that is the position that Herman took, and emphatically so, with Blitzer.

Hermans' supporters were left confused and alarmed by his answer.

Saturday night, Herman said, "I don't believe states should restrict access to guns, but what if a state wants to pass background checks? What if a state wants to pass carry-and-conceal?" But the problem is that he in fact pointedly agreed with Blitzer that states should "be allowed to control guns." That alone may be the iceberg which punches a fatal hole in his campaign cruise ship.

Thirdly, he's left supporters dizzy as he tries to walk back his flat statement to Think Progress that he would have no Muslims in his cabinet, because of the affinity of Muslims for sharia law. He was right when he said that — no president should surround himself with people whose god, prophet and holy book tell them to kill infidel Americans and impose an utterly alien system of law on us — and it was a mistake in multiple ways to attempt to finesse that statement.

If he had stood firm, strong and unapologetic on his original stance — no Muslims in a Herman Cain cabinet — his stock would still be rising today. Conservatives recognize the threat that Islam poses to our values, and they want a president who understands that too.

Herman has since said he was thinking only of the Muslims who are trying to kill us, but that makes his statement meaningless. No one would suspect for a moment that Herman Cain wold appoint a known jihadist to a cabinet post.

Herman has electrified conservatives and Tea Party folk because he's been straightforward, unambiguous, powerful and direct. It may not appear this way to him, but his bobbing and weaving on the pro-life issue, the Second Amendment, and the Muslim issue make him look weak, vacillating, uncertain and frankly too much like the politicians we are trying to get rid of.

These mistakes may not be absolutely fatal, but Herman is bleeding from an artery and I'm not sure what he can do to staunch the flood. If he now were to reverse field once again, and take the positions on those three issues he should have taken or defended all along, he'd raise even more questions, this time about his judgment, the clarity of his convictions, and his vulnerability to being whipsawed on issues conservatives see as no-brainers.

The flame on Herman Cain's candle, which once blazed with glory, is now flickering. Can he fan it back to life? Time will tell, but he doesn't have a moment to lose.

(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)

© Bryan Fischer


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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