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Herman Cain has had a lot to say about abortion this last month. Unfortunately, wading through his statements has left many confused about where he actually stands. Admittedly, it’s not the kind of issue that is conducive to expressing using sound bite politics, which is most certainly the system du jour. This issue would be sticky even if one had hours and hours in which to articulate an opinion.

So, let’s take it on over our second dinner party, shall we? 😉 Yes, it’s one of those topics that it is actually a good idea to avoid if you want anyone to actually enjoy themselves. But I think looking at how this Cain thing went down serves a larger purpose of investigating political messaging and what is so frustrating for people trying to participate in the political process. What brings us all together on this one? Our mutual distrust and annoyance at politicians who seem to speak out of both sides of their mouths and a political system that doesn’t seem to make it easy for them to be clear and honest.

Truthfully, I don’t know enough about Cain to make a judgement about how trustworthy he is. But that is part of what makes this a perfect case study. As the average concerned citizen, what is it like to wade through an incidence where a position is articulated in a confusing way?

If you haven’t been following this issue. Here are a couple of clips to look at:

With John Stossel on Fox on October 11th:

On Oct. 19th, with CNN’s Piers Morgan

At first, trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, I pondered whether Cain was going for a libertarian thing, trying to distinguish between a personal moral opposition to abortion but a political viewpoint that government should not intervene. Given, it would have been an interesting place to land after earlier positions in which he considered abortion to be genocide of black people (which one would infer to be a level of concern seeming to merit intervention by the leader of the nation in which such a thing were happening), but I was trying to engage in a way that left some room for a non-career politician to maneuver a difficult issue.

So anyway, I reviewed his statements in these videos in the framework of a more libertarian position. Perhaps he may be trying to articulate that, though he was personally opposed to abortion and might work in a personal way to end it, his political position was that government should not fund abortions because it could be construed as active participation in abortion by government but that government should also not actively oppose abortion by making it illegal, a “government should be hands-off about abortion” stance.

But then he responded to the Piers Morgan interview in another interview on FOX the next day, and basically said that all he was trying to point out is that in the heat-of-the-moment, some families might seek an abortion (even if it were illegal) and THAT is the family’s choice that government could not make.

Hmmmmm…. That just didn’t quite pass the smell test. I mean, yes government can’t make personal decisions for people but government making certain decisions illegal certainly reflects the position of government towards the desirability of that decision. And he did actually seem to state several times in both of the interviews that he doesn’t think it really is the role of government to get involved in that decision. Later, his campaign issued a statement that he just didn’t think he could give an order as President and have the family abide by it. But in the Stossel interview, he actually seems to respond directly to the legality issue:

Stossel:  Any cases where it should be legal?
Cain:  I don’t believe that government should make that decision.

Meanwhile, he also declares in the same interview that “Abortion should not be legal.”

Ummmm…so basically still not clear to me. I wasn’t the only one confused, though several people were making good attempts at justifying or discrediting what was said, many of them journalists asking direct questions. The problem was, no matter what questions were asked, or how many times people tried to review his previous statements, everyone kept landing all over the board on what Cain actually meant. We can’t honestly say a clear and accurate conclusion was reached, despite multiple efforts by Cain himself to respond to continuing questions.

SO, what we see happening next is his campaign trying to do some serious message control. At the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition in Des Moines on October 22nd, CNN reports him making some very strong and pretty thorough statements to clarify his position and quotes him as saying (during a scripted speech, I believe):

“I would not sign any legislation that, in a way, allowed the government to get involved in it. I would strengthen all of our current laws that prevent abortion. I believe that abortion should be illegal across this country. And I would work to de-fund Planned Parenthood. And I would make sure that I appoint judges that will enforce the constitution – no activist judges. And I would also make sure that we didn’t allow any bureaucrats to get in the way in order to protect the life of the unborn.”

I recognize and do not envy the position politicians are in as they try to answer very complex questions in extremely pressure-filled moments. But when a person puts himself or herself up for a nationally-elected office, it seems there really should be an overabundance of effort made to be sure that s/he’ll be able to answer questions on what is one of THE MOST predictably contentious and therefore newsworthy issues likely to come into question on the campaign trail. They’re not going to be able to avoid it, so they better know what they believe!  When a politician seems to be slipping all over as he or she responds to one of these questions, we can’t help but question how comfortable the person actually feels with the position he or she has chosen to run on and, therefore, how that person would be expected to act as President. I’d like to know that before I vote.

A wise man once told us that “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” There is a very powerful concept in this statement. Our words mean something about what we really believe deep down inside. In fact, what we really believe tends to bubble up and come right out! There’s something so fundamental about this that I think we have a gut reaction when someone’s words just don’t line up right. Whether it’s a simple Freudian slip or we ask our kids a question about where they’re going that night and something just seems funny about their response… We can’t help but question inconsistencies when they flow from a person’s mouth. It leaves us feeling unsettled and wondering what else is being hidden. No matter how someone might try to reassure us that they “didn’t mean that” or “it just came out wrong,” we are often left wondering if we can really trust that person. When their words lack integrity (sometimes defined as “the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished”) we can’t help but wonder if they lack integrity (also defined as “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty”). I think that’s why we all respect when someone just comes out and says they made a mistake or when we all feel a little more at ease when we’re finally given the whole, truthful story. It restores integrity. How many of us would so much rather get a direct and honest position statement from a politician rather than having them avoid responding or simply giving us what they think we want to hear?

Now the question is, can that kind of politician ever actually get elected in a system of politics like ours? Is that the kind of politician we want, and if so, what do we need to change to get one? What do you think?

So, to accompany this post, I’ll share a family recipe for a simple and straightforward meal. It’s a family favorite because it’s easy, affordable and just plain tasty. My dad pointed out that my grandma learned to cook during the Depression so served today, many would probably would spruce it up with some additional vegetables or meat. But when it comes down to it, I almost always just serve it in it’s basic form with a loaf of crusty bread and a simple salad. Everyone (kids, picky eaters, foodies) seems to love it. Another thing I like about this meal is that it can easily be made vegan or vegetarian. It should be noted that Italian grandmas never cook with actual recipes and so these measurements and even the ingredients are approximations and suggestions.

Grandma’s Pasta Fagioli Soup

1 T. of fat(oil) of some sort. Grandma usually used pork fat.
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
32 oz of broth
2 cans of cannellini (white kidney) beans
1-15 oz. can of diced tomatoes or 1 small can of tomato paste
A bit of oregano and/or basil
1/2 box of noodles (I usually buy medium shells)
2 C. raw spinach

Heat the fat. Saute the garlic and onions over medium heat until lightly browned. Add the broth, beans and tomatoes. If using dry seasoning, add now. If using fresh herbs, add with the spinach later. Bring to a boil and then add the noodles. When the noodles have about 3 minutes left to cook, stir in the raw spinach. It will feel like you’re adding a lot of spinach, but it really shrinks down. Serve when the the spinach is wilted and integrated into the soup. Add salt and pepper and parmesan to taste.