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After conservatives criticized Herman Cain for his stumbling response to an answer about unions' collective bargaining power, his campaign sent out a press release that's a shorter version of the entire Cain campaign -- not-quite-factual statements, a refusal to offer details, and the hope that everyone will be distracted if he shouts "Ronald Reagan!" loud enough. The email is titled "Herman Cain Details Collective Bargain Position" -- but Cain's not quoted, there are no details, and name-dropping Reagan doesn't really help his case.
In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Monday, Cain had a couple embarrassing
moments. Among them were when Cain was asked whether he supported the efforts to limit state public employee unions' power to collectively bargain in Wisconsin and Ohio. Asked if he supported collective bargaining for public employees, Cain said "Yes, but not collective hijacking." And on the Ohio failed referendum to limit collective bargaining rights, Cain criticized its Republican supporters, saying "maybe they tried to get too much and as a result it failed." He also seemed to not know whether federal employees have collective bargaining rights. "They already have it, don't they?" Cain asked. The editors said no (federal employees can't strike or collectively bargain for wages). But, Cain responded, "They have unions."
A day later, Cain's campaign sent out its clarification that's a microcosm of his whole campaign.
Denial in the face of video evidence
"Mr. Cain was consistent in his Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
editorial board meeting yesterday and has always supported Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s legislation..." the email begins. When Cain says something that makes conservatives mad, he simply claims he never said it. One example of Cain's previous YouTube-denying denials: When Cain said he never said
he wouldn't appoint a Muslim to his cabinet (he did). Another example: When he said he was 100 percent pro-life
but that getting an abortion was the family's choice -- and that there's no contradiction in that (there is). "Mr. Cain was consistent" about his union views, his campaign says, but the video sure makes it sound like he doesn't know what he's talking about.
"Contrary to what the editorial board members stated, federal employees can bargain collectively on some elements of their contracts," the press release says. "The editorial board members were wrong to correct Mr. Cain on this point." Yes, federal workers can bargain for stuff like working conditions, but they can't go on strike, and most can't bargain
for benefits. Those two issues are were at the heart of the Ohio law
and the Wisconsin law
the newspaper was asking Cain about. Of course, Cain's campaign has a history of defending itself with accusations that turn out to be inaccurate, like when it falsely claimed that Politico employed the son of one of the women who accused him of sexual harassment.
Federal workers "are forbidden to go on strike" the press release concedes. "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." It's unclear how referencing a law that Cain appeared unaware of helps his case. But it's a classic move in the Cain campgin. At several debates, when Cain has been asked to offer some details on foreign policy -- which has proven especially tricky for him -- he simply says he'll be like Reagan. "I happen to have a foreign policy philosophy. It is an extension of the Reagan philosophy. Reagan's philosophy was peace through strength," he said this month
. Invoking Reagan again, Cain said
Saturday, "Clarify who our friends are, clarify who our enemies are and stop giving money to our enemies." Of course, the diplomats and troops fighting along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border will tell you that's easier said than done. Never mind, though, dropping the R-word is guaranteed to win applause and maybe get everyone to forget that you don't know what you're talking about.
The full press release:
Herman Cain Details Collective Bargain Position
Mr. Cain was consistent in his Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial board meeting yesterday and has always supported Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s legislation to balance his state budget and give his state’s government the tools it needs during the ongoing economic crisis. In fact, Mr. Cain traveled to Madison earlier this year to voice his support for Governor Walker’s initiative to limit collective bargaining privileges in Wisconsin.
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.
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is the former politics editor for The Wire