On the heels of last night’s Senate defeat of the Republicans’ Medicare-ending budget, presidential contender Herman Cain went on Fox News to defend the plan. Cain has recently pulled ahead of former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) in the polls, and used his new credibility to admonish the rest of the GOP field for backing away from the plan authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).
As national backlash to Ryan’s Medicare privatization plan has grown, Republicans have become increasingly divided about how to sell something so deeply unpopular. Many, including Ryan himself, have cynically tried to deny that it’s a voucher scheme at all, but rather the much more appealingly-named “premium support” plan. Speaking with Fox and Friends host Gretchen Carlson, Cain criticized this hedging and urged his fellow candidates to call the Ryan plan what it is — a voucher system:
CAIN: Nobody’s talking about the fact that the centerpiece of Ryan’s plan is a voucher. Now, a lot of people don’t like to use that term because it has a negative connotation. That is what we need. [...]
CARLSON: It sounds, Mr. Cain, like you’re supporting Congressman Ryan’s plan. It’s interesting becuase other Republican candidates like Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty are not outright supporting it because they say they’re going to come up with their own plans. How do you respond to that?
CAIN: I support Ryan’s plan 100%. We don’t need to come up with another plan. The people who are backing away from Ryan’s plan, which is very well thought out…they simply lack courage. I don’t know another way to put it. They lack courage. Don’t back away from something simply because it’s controversial or because it’s difficult to explain to the American people.
To placate the conservative base of the party without destroying their chances with a national audience, GOP contenders have had to walk a fine line — endorse the idea of Medicare reform and applauding Ryan for his “bold” attempt, but stop short of coming out for the plan itself. But Cain, who has never had a problem with bluntness, sees their rhetorical acrobatics as nothing but dishonest pandering.