A lot of Herman Cain's problems on the campaign trail have come from the fact that he doesn't seem to use the same dictionary as the rest of us. Tuesday, he told a conference call -- with 90 other people on the line -- that he was "reassessing" his presidential campaign in the wake of Ginger White's assertion that they had a 13-year-affair. When lots of people reported that Cain was thinking of dropping out, his spokesman J.D. Gordon quickly told The Washington Post that "reassessing" doesn't means what they think it means. "He is not thinking of dropping out of the race," Gordon said. "He is simply reassessing the state of the campaign. We intend to be full speed ahead." So as a service to the public's understanding of the once-frontrunning candidate for the Republican nomination, we've assembled a glossary of what words mean when spoken by Herman Cain.
- What Cain said: "I did not have an affair." -- November 28.
- We think it means: Cain did not have a sexual relationship with Ginger White.
- What Cain means: A sexual relationship between two consenting adults is none of your business. "Rather, this appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults -- a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public," Cain's lawyer told Fox 5 Atlanta.
- What Cain said: "We didn't hear about it in the previous -- the previous Congress, because 'Princess Nancy' sent it to committee and it stayed there," Cain said at the November 9 debate, referring to then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi in explaining why the Republican health care plan wasn't well known. Though his campaign quickly tweeted the comment, right after the debate, Cain admitted, "That was a statement that I obviously should not have made." The next day Cain told reporters, "I apologize for calling her 'Princess Pelosi,' if that's the biggest story you all have, OK?"
- We think it means: Cain thinks that wasn't a very nice thing to say about a high-ranking female politician.
- What the Cain campaign thinks it means: Cain thinks that wasn't a very nice question to have to answer from reporters. Why did he apologize? Cain said, "So you all will stop asking me about it, OK?"
- What Cain said: Does he support public unions' right to collective bargaining, which Midwestern Republican governors have battling to chip away at all year? "Yes, but not collective hijacking. What I mean by that, if they have gotten so much for so many years and it's going to bankrupt the state, I don't think that's good. It appears that in some instances, they really don't care." Cain told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel November 14.
- We think it means: Cain supports public workers rights to collectively bargain for pay and benefits.
- What the Cain campaign thinks it means: Cain is just like Ronald Reagan. Responding to the outcry, Cain's campaign sent out a press release saying he's been "consistent" in his support for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's law that allows unions to bargain only for raises up to the level of inflation, but not for benefits. Noting that Cain had been surprised when the newspaper's editors said federal workers couldn't collectively bargain, the press release says, "Contrary to what the editorial board members stated, federal employees can bargain collectively on some elements of their contracts. The editorial board members were wrong to correct Mr. Cain on this point. They are forbidden to go on strike. This was a provision within the legislation that allowed federal employees to form unions. We all remember President Ronald Reagan famously firing the air traffic controllers because they went on strike in violation of federal law. We need leadership like Reagan’s today in Washington – and this is why Mr. Cain is running for the office."
- What Cain said: "That's a joke." -- October 16, after people got mad he said he wanted to build an electrified fence on the border with Mexico. "It was a joke," Gordon explained November 10 after people got mad when Cain laughed about the possibility that Anita Hill would endorse him.
- We think it means: Things people say that are meant to be funny.
- What Cain means: a) Things that Cain regrets saying -- like every mentioning Anita Hill, ever, b) Things Cain says that are entirely serious. The day after that electric fence comment, CBS News reported that Cain said, "I'm not walking away from that," adding a fence "might be electrified."
- What Cain said: "I'm not sure what you mean by 'neoconservative' … I'm not familiar with the 'neoconservative movement.'" -- October 16.
- We think it means: A leading school of political philosophy widely embraced by George W. Bush's Administration from 2000 to 2008.
- What Cain means: It's an annoying label applied by Washington insiders who just don't understand that all the American people want are clear plain talk from business leaders. Or something like that. A Cain aide told The Daily Caller's Alex Pappas, “Of course he’s heard of it,” referring to neoconservatism. “He just doesn’t want to be labeled.”
- What Cain said: "I am 100 percent pro-life." -- October 20.
- We think it means: Cain doesn't think abortions should be legal.
- What Cain means: Cain doesn't think abortions should be legal, but it's okay if a family decides to break the law and get an abortion anyway. First Cain said, "The government shouldn’t be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to a social decision that they need to make." Then he clarified, as Hot Air notes: "Look, abortion should not be legal. That is clear. But if that family makes the decision to break the law, that’s that family’s decision."
- What Cain said: "[O]bviously, this is cause for reassessment ... Now, with this latest one, we have to do an assessment as to whether or not this is going to create too much of a cloud, in some people’s minds, as to whether or not they would be able to support us going forth." -- November 29.
- We think it means: Cain's not sure he wants his campaign to go on.
- What Cain means: Gordon seemed to be telling the Post that Cain is acknowledging a bad story is in the news but not thinking about how that news might affect his candidacy.
- What Cain said: "I am I am unaware of any settlement. I hope it wasn't for much, because I didn't do anything." -- October 31.
- We think it means: Cain did not know of any women getting large sums of money after accusing him of sexual harassment.
- What Cain means: Oh sure, women had to promise not to disclose what happened in return for a payout, but that's not called a "settlement." That's called an "agreement". Cain clarified on November 1, "Well, it wasn't intended to be Clintonian. It was simply using the word 'agreement,' which in business organizations that I have run, whenever there has been an employee leaving, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, we would generally call it an agreement."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.