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Herman Cain says many things I want to hear. But I’ve compared the words of the GOP’s national platforms since the Bush era began in 1988 with the actual performance of the Party’s national officeholders during the same period. I am therefore immunized against any temptation to believe that words spoken by GOP candidates in pursuit of conservative support when they run for office are a reliable indicator of how they will perform once in office.

Over the years I’ve participated in many political and legal battles alongside grass-roots conservatives committed, as I am, to restoring, defending and conserving the constitutional republic established by America’s founders – you know, the one based on the self-evident truth that the will of the Creator God is the first principle that defines right and justice in human affairs. Time and again in the course of our activities my fellow workers have shared their grief and disappointment over this or that supposedly conservative politician who won not only their vote but their hard-working support, but betrayed their hopes once in office.

Their all too accurate lament always brings to my mind the words Shakespeare ascribed to Scotland’s ill-fated King Duncan in his response to the reported execution of the traitor who nearly cost him his throne: “There is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face. He was a gentleman on whom I built an absolute trust.” (Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” Act I, Scene 4) In the era of ambition-driven sound-bite politics, is there any way to distinguish the deceptive campaigners from the candidates who will, once in office, stay true to the principles and policies they espouse?

Part of the way can be found in another scene in “Macbeth” (Act I, Scene 2), when King Duncan praises the valiant sergeant who brings him the glad tidings of victory over the foreign invaders who supported the traitor’s war against his throne. “So well thy words become thee as thy wounds …,” he observes. Particularly when it comes to electing someone to the highest position of trust the American people have constitutionally empowered themselves to bestow, it makes sense to look for the “wounds,” i.e., the evidence that a candidates’ words are matched by deeds performed in the service of the principles and policies they now espouse.

On the whole the present crisis of America’s life is rooted in the betrayal of our national principles being perpetrated in the name of so-called “abortion rights.” Our willingness as a nation to deny the unalienable right to life of our helpless, nascent posterity is proof positive that we have, in the most critical respect, abandoned the will of the Creator God who, according to our Declaration of Independence, endowed us with the rights on which the liberty and self-government of the people depend.

Herman Cain professes to believe the same thing. However, as I think back upon the crucial battles conservatives have waged against the forces seeking to deny the unalienable right to life and disparage the authority of God on which it depends (e.g., the effort to prevent the judicial murder of Terry Schiavo; the fight against the state-supported murder of embryonic human life in Missouri; the fight to defend South Dakota’s law restoring respect for the right to life of nascent posterity; the movement to defend then Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s display of respect for the Ten Commandments in Alabama; the effort in Illinois to decry Barack Obama’s willingness to sacrifice, on the altar of so called “abortion rights,” children born alive despite the abortion procedure intended to murder them), I don’t recall the presence and efforts of Herman Cain.

Those battles were unpopular at the time they were fought. Many who engaged in them were shunned and ridiculed by pundits and prognosticators on every hand. To this day, they live with the scars and aching wounds inflicted upon them. I could not fairly doubt the words of someone like Herman Cain if he were among them. But at least he emphatically proclaims his pro-life sentiments now, as the highest prize of power dances within his reach. On this account, I was tempted to give him such credibility as it deserves. Then I saw the following exchange on John Stossel’s Fox Business program:

I also made this transcript of the relevant portion:

    Stossel: A quickie, a quick question on one more hot subject – abortion …”

    Cain: Yes

    Stossel: You’re against it …

    Cain: I’m pro-life from conception, yes

    Stossel: Any cases where it should be legal?

    Cain: I don’t think government should make that decision. I don’t believe that government should make that decision.

    Stossel: People should be free to abort a baby …

    Cain: I support life from conception. No, people shouldn’t be just free to abort because if we don’t protect the sanctity of life from conception we will also start to play God relative to life at the end of life.

    Stossel: I’m confused on what your position is. If a …

    Cain: My position is I’m pro-life, period.

    Stossel: … woman is raped she should not be allowed to end the pregnancy?

    Cain: That’s her choice. That is not government’s choice. I support life from conception.

    Stossel: So abortion should be legal.

    Cain: No abortion should not be legal. I believe in the sanctity of life.

    Stossel: I’m not understanding. If it’s her choice, that means its legal.

    Cain: I don’t believe a woman should have an abortion. Does that help to clear it up.

    Stossel: Even if she is raped?

    Cain: Even if she is raped or she is the victim of incest, because there are other options. We must protect the sanctity of life and I have always believed that. (Applause.) Real clear.

From this exchange, I have no doubt that Herman Cain emphatically declares his personal belief that women should not abort their nascent offspring. I have no doubt that he understands that the denial of unalienable right involved in abortion must lead to other assaults, e.g., on the right to life of the elderly. But I more than sympathize with John Stossel’s confusion when Cain’s emphatic pro-life declarations are accompanied by the equally emphatic statement that, when it comes to the legality of abortion, “I don’t’ think government should make that decision. I don’t believe that government should make that decision.” Equally confused is his assertion that, in the case of rape, “That’s her choice. That is not the government’s choice. I support life from conception.”

Cain has reportedly declared his support for legislation that would acknowledge the personhood of nascent posterity. But if, from conception, the nascent child is a person, how can it be just to allow one biological parent to murder that person, innocent of any crime, even when the other biological parent is a rapist? If we acknowledge personhood and then declare that in certain circumstances innocent persons can legally be murdered (i.e., slain unjustly in violation of the God endowed unalienable right to life), we simply set the stage for intense and extensive abuses of power in any area (such as the administration of government-controlled health care) where violating the rights of innocent people offers expedient advantages.

In this regard, Herman Cain is not making sense. Despite his absence from so many pro-life battles, I am loath to conclude that his emphatic proclamation of pro-life views is just a Mitt Romney-style ploy staged to confuse sincere grass-roots advocates of America’s founding principles. Yet even assuming that this is not the case, his words reveal a profound misunderstanding of the logical consequence of those principles. According to the principles of the American Declaration of Independence, government exists to secure God-endowed unalienable rights. This is the defining obligation of just and legitimate government power. Therefore, just government is obliged to protect by appropriate laws every person’s God-endowed unalienable right to life. Any regime of law that in any case allows parents to murder their innocent children fails this obligation, thereby losing its claim to justice and legitimacy. (This is why, for instance, the “honor killings” sanctioned by Islam’s Shariah law confirm its inconsistency with the requirements of just government.)

Sometimes politicians betray their professed conservative views because they were never sincerely committed to them in the first place. Sometimes they do so because, despite their sincere proclamations of personal belief, they lack the understanding to defend their views when challenged on grounds of law and civic principle. When it comes to making and enforcing laws, personal beliefs and predilections cannot, in practice, be sustained except by people who know how to deal with such challenges. The self-contradiction that confused John Stossel will surely be exploited in the debates and councils (in the public eye and behind the scenes) in the course of which laws are made and policies implemented. Someone who starts by firmly espousing a self-contradictory view will end by surrendering to opponents who embarrass him with that self-contradiction. Sadly, the people who supported him will then lament the failure of principle that, with a little discerning thought, they would have seen coming long before it occurred.

Will we ever again have leaders whose supposed stand for principle survives the belated wisdom of hindsight? Not until we learn to get beyond candidates’ words in order to listen for the sound understanding needed to back them up. When it comes to his professed pro-life views, I do not perceive that sound understanding in Herman Cain. I do see more grief and disappointment on the way for those who once again let vain hope drive them to ignore the warning signs. And when it comes to Herman Cain’s espoused positions, there are more than one. Stay tuned.

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