Zig Zags? Herman Cain's Top 7 Policy Reversals

The GOP candidate has changed his tune on many positions.

ByABC News
October 21, 2011, 6:47 PM

Oct. 24, 2011 -- intro: GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain's rise to prominence has been swift, but as his popularity puts him behind TV cameras and radio broadcast microphones across the country, some of his off-the-cuff remarks have landed him in hot water.

From his stance on abortion to border fencing to bank bailouts, Cain's comments have ranged from right-on-the-conservative-mark to out-in-left-field. The former Godfather's Pizza CEO has already walked back multiple apparent policy flip-flops, often claiming that he did not hear the question correctly or was initially misquoted.

Here is a look at Cain's seven most notable contradicting comments.

quicklist: 1title: Abortiontext: Cain, a staunch conservative, has been adamant in his opposition to abortions under any circumstances, including in the case of rape or incest.

"I believe that life begins at conception and abortion, under no circumstances," Cain told CNN's Piers Morgan last week.

But in the same interview Cain also said that it was "not the government's role" to decide whether a woman should have an abortion.

"What I'm saying is it ultimately gets down to a choice that the family or that mother has to make," Cain said. "Not me as president, not some politician, not a bureaucrat. It gets down to that family. And whatever they decide. I shouldn't have to tell them what decision to make for such a sensitive issue."

Cain's GOP rival Rick Santorum seized upon the former CEO's comments Thursday, accusing him of bucking his conservative principles in favor of a woman's right to choose.

"It's basically the position that just about every pro-choice politician has in America," Santorum told The Associated Press. "I don't know too many pro-choice politicians who are for abortion, who want more abortions ... but they say the decision is a choice the government shouldn't be involved in."

As the story gained national coverage, @TheHermanCain tweeted "I'm 100% pro-life. End of story" and his campaign released a statement seeking to clarify his position.

"My answer was focused on the role of the president," Cain said in the statement. "The president has no constitutional authority to order any such action by anyone. That was the point I was trying to convey. As to my political policy view on abortion, I am 100 percent pro-life. End of story."

quicklist: 2title: Electric Border Fencetext:

While most other GOP candidates have said they support a fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, Cain took his fence support one step further last weekend, saying he would not only build the fence, but make it "electrified."

At a campaign stop in Tennessee Cain said the fence should be "Twenty feet high, with barbed wire, electrified. With a sign on the other side that says it can kill you."

But on Monday Cain walked back those comments, saying at first that they were just a "joke," but then reiterating that he supports a fence that "might be electrified."

"I don't apologize for using a combination of a fence and it might be electrified," Cain said at the Monday press conference. "I'm not walking away from that. I just don't want to offend anybody."

The following night at the Las Vegas GOP debate, moderator Anderson Cooper asked Cain to clarify his contradictory position.

"Yes, I believe we should secure the border for real, and it would be a combination of a fence, technology, as well as possibly boots on the ground for some of the more dangerous areas," Cain said, choosing not to address whether his electric fence comments were a "joke" or not.

"I do not apologize at all for wanting to protect the American citizens," he added.

quicklist: 3title: Muslims Cabinet Memberstext:

Formerly an associate minister at the Antioch Baptist Church North in Atlanta, Cain has made clear that he avidly supports Americans' right to practice their religion.

He has been less clear about whether he feels comfortable having people of all religions serve his administration, if he were to be elected president.

When a Talking Points Memo reporter asked him in March if he would be "comfortable appointing a Muslim, either in your cabinet or as a federal judge?" Cain responded, "No, I will not."

"There is this creeping attempt, there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government," Cain said. "I get upset when the Muslims in this country, some of them, try to force their Sharia law onto the rest of us."

A month later, Cain told a CBS reporter just the opposite.

"I did not say that I would not have one in there if they put the Constitution of the United States first," Cain said in an interview with CBS's Brian Montopoli. "The question was if I would be comfortable. If they support the Constitution first and not Sharia Law."

Seeking to explain his change of heart, Cain told CNN's Piers Morgan that he was only thinking of Muslim extremists when he made his initial comments.

"This is an example of where I spoke too quick, because I'm thinking about extremists, not all Muslims," Cain said. "I do recognize there are peaceful Muslims and there are extremists. At the moment that I was asked that question, I wasn't thinking about peaceful Muslims."

quicklist: 4title: Three-Page Billstext: If Cain is known for one thing it is straightforwardness. He often claims that his 9-9-9 Plan has been such a hit because scraps complexity in favor of simplicity

In an effort to apply his simple-is-better approach to all aspects of policy making, Cain said in June that as president he would only sign bills that were a maximum of three pages long.

"Don't try to pass a 2,700-page bill, you and I didn't have time to read it. We're too busy trying to live — send our kids to school," Cain told a crowd of supporters in Iowa. "That's why I am going to only allow small bills — three pages. You'll have time to read that one over the dinner table."

The same week Cain backed away from his 3-page rule, saying he didn't mean it to be "an absolute promise." "That was an exaggeration to drive home a point," Cain said on CBS. "I want short bills. I want clean bills. Yes, they are going to be longer than 3 pages, but they are not going to be 2,700 pages that nobody read."

quicklist: 5title: TARPtext: Cain fully admits that his position toward the highly unpopular Troubled Assets Relief Program has changed since he first supported it in 2008.

"I supported the concept of TARP," Cain said at Tuesday's Las Vegas debate, "but then, when this administration used discretion and did a whole lot of things that the American people didn't like, I was then against it. So yes, and I'm owning up to that."

Nevertheless, his fellow Republican candidate Ron Paul has tried to pin Cain as a bailout supporter, running an ad that quotes Cain saying "the concept of TARP, I was willing to go along with it."

In a 2008 op-ed Cain chided readers that did not support the bank bailout.

"Earth to taxpayers!" Cain wrote. "Owning stocks in banks is not nationalization of the banking industry. It's trying to solve a problem."

"Wake up people!" the op-ed continued. "Owning a part of the major banks in America is not a bad thing. We could make a profit while solving a problem."

quicklist: 6title: Guantanamo Bay Prisoner Swap text:

In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer the afternoon before the Las Vegas debate, Cain said he would consider a prisoner swap similar to the Israel-Hamas exchange that took place this week. In the Middle East trade-off, one Israeli soldier was released in exchange for 1,027 Palestinians.

Blitzer asked Cain if he would hypothetically support releasing the "several hundred" prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for one American soldier, if "Al Qaeda or some other terrorist group" demanded it.

"I could see myself authorizing that kind of transfer," Cain said.

When asked the same question a few hours later during the debate, Cain said "I would never agree to letting hostages in Guantanamo Bay go."

"That wasn't the intent at all," Cain said. "I don't recall him saying that it was al Qaeda-related. I would have a policy that we do not negotiate with terrorists."

quicklist: 7title: Federal Reserve Audittext:

Long before Cain decided to run for president, he criticized supporters of a Federal Reserve audit, saying on the Neal Boortz radio show that the reason they are calling for an audit is because "they don't know enough about it."

"I don't know why people think we're gonna learn this great amount of information by auditing the Federal Reserve," said Cain, who served as director of the Kansas City Fed in 1995 and 1996. "There's no hidden secrets going on in the Federal Reserve to my knowledge."

Cain has fervently pushed back against accusations that he does not support a full audit of the Federal Reserve, a pet issue of his Republican opponent Ron Paul.

In his book "This is Herman Cain," the White House hopeful wrote that he "never said that.""There are some people who claim I am against auditing the Federal Reserve," Cain wrote. "In the words of my grandfather, 'I does not care.'"

When Paul asked Cain at the New Hampshire debate earlier this month if he had changed his mind, Cain reiterated his support of an audit.

"I have also said, to be precise, I do not object to the Federal Reserve being audited," he responded. "I simply said if someone wants to initiate that action, go right ahead. It doesn't bother me."