At the top I must admit something: I am a supporter of Herman Cain. I want him to win the Republican nomination. Of course, my primary reason is that I think Barak Obama would beat him easily. But there are other reasons. Obama and Cain are such different characters (and not only politically) that it would create a fascinating race. Obama is thoughtful, sometimes to the point of ponderous, heavy with what the pundits call ‘gravitas’. Cain is breezy, shoot from the hip with what the pundits call ‘retail political skills’. (I first heard the term two months ago when the pundits were claiming Perry had them. Soon everybody on TV was using the term.)
It would also take ‘race’ out of the race. I don’t think you’d see too many Cain supporters carrying little monkey dolls to campaign rallies. And on a societal level it would be mind-boggling. As Howard Stern remarked: ‘If Martin Luther King came back to life he would say: “Whoa! Two Black men running for president?!? That’s a little too much, even for me!” A Presidential race between two black contenders might afford the most positive proof yet about how far America has grown up when it comes to matters concerning race. Perhaps then we could move forward and also deal more maturely with a female presidential candidate.
Or maybe not completely. Making a comparison between political camps Ann Coulter said to Sean Hannity: ‘Our blacks are better than their blacks.” Could you imagine someone saying:“Our Jews are better than their Jews”? And the charges of racism against the harassment claims are ridiculous. If this is a racial ‘high tech lynching’ than the Weiner whirlwind was ‘a high tech pogrom!’
Cain is not the most ignorant of the candidates (in my opinion Bachman and Perry get the low IQ awards) and if intelligence were a factor in the Republican primaries John Huntsman would be leading the pack instead of floating around it somewhere like Banquo’s ghost at the dinner table. Cain is also not the most egregious flip-flopper (Mitt Romney gets that award). Cain’s notorious changes of position are different, taking place over hours or days demonstrating a lack of thoughtfulness rather than a premeditated manipulation. He was a conservative talk show host and conservative radio hosts argue whatever position is in the playbook that day. When it comes to facts, whether its is WMD in Iraq, the shrunken, useless brain of Terry Shiavo, “Lying Louima” or tax cuts raising revenue conservative radio hosts will never admit they were wrong. Tomorrow is another day and another issue to inflame. Herman plays politics by talk radio rules and since most of his supporters are probably also avid listeners its no problem for them.
Early on the pundits were too easy on Cain: His explanations for his position on abortion were impenetrable. I still don’t know whether the electric border fence was a joke or not. And his bafflement over the Palestinian ‘right of return’ baffled even FoxNews, where Chris Wallace tried to help him out by explaining what it meant. Cain’s answer: “Oh, I don’t think the Israelis would have a problem with that!” Oh, really? And his latest gaffe about China ‘s attempt to gain nuclear capability makes one wonder if he also thinks we’d better catch up with the Russkies in the space race!
But later, after they had identified him as amorphous on issues, the media made every statement conform to their pigeonhole. Although I don’t support his 9-9-9 plan at all his apples and oranges explanation about state sales tax made perfect sense to me. The pundits played dumb, making believe they couldn’t understand that state sales taxes would exist either way, with or without a national sales tax. They weren’t part of the plan to adjust FEDERAL taxes. It WAS apples and oranges.
So I am dismayed that these latest charges of sexual harassment could derail the candidacy of polling frontrunner Herman Cain. Or I should say how he has handled those charges. What constitutes sexual harassment can be as relatively innocuous as telling an off color joke or as serious as molestation or coercive rape. Or a lot of noxious things in between. At this point we don’t know where Cain’s transgressions lie on the scale of severity. Still it seems odd to me that Anthony Weiner should be forced to resign over activities that were consensual and provoked no complaint and Cain should be let off the hook for actions and/or comments that were considered inappropriate and inspired serious complaint.
When I was a talk radio host I had an employee come to me, wide-eyed and clearly shocked. One of the on-air hosts, a powerful and popular man had offered her a ride home and on the way he pulled over and began to massage her thigh. He asked if she found him attractive and suggested that if they both were not married might something ‘happen’ between them. She was stunned, uncomfortable around him now and didn’t know how to proceed. I told her she had three options: 1. She could screw him. 2. She could begin the process of legal complaint (and all the negatives that might entail). Or 3. She could just not let herself get into any situation where they were alone ever again. She took a fourth option. As a man I hadn’t thought of it. She used the incident as leverage for her own benefit in the work place, a sort of tacit, teasing blackmail. As far as I can see that choice worked out better than any I had recommended.
I don’t mean to diminish the grievous nature of sexual harassment in the workplace but there is a difference between man-handling someone in the broom closet and saying a hair on a coke can looks like it came from a pubis. There are also different levels of tolerance. And different levels of sophistication. And different levels of dealing with things that make one uncomfortable. In short its difficult to form an opinion about the Cain allegations until one knows just what it was he did. On the other hand, it is entirely justified to believe that the way he has handled the scandal has only magnified the mess.
A friend of mine, one of a vanishing breed of intelligent and thoughtful conservatives asked me to explain Herman Cain’s appeal. I told him that I think a lot of politics these days depends upon emotion. Democrats want someone who will kick ass (Grayson, Weiner, both now gone)…they want their own Chris Christie (or more precisely: a Teddy or Franklin Roosevelt, someone who isn’t afraid to identify enemies and beat them.Grayson and Weiner, maybe because they were only Representatives, always seemed to me to be punching up and not always effectively. Still I cheered. Weiner originated one of my favorite quotes about current politics: ‘The problem with Democrats is that they show up at a knife fight armed with library books.’ Democrats want TOUGH. And that’s one reason Obama has toughened his talk. He’s already demonstrated to independents he can be reasonable. Now he has adopted a more Truman-esque ‘Give ‘em hell’ persona.
If Democrats want TOUGH, Republicans want PERSONALITY (they already have the market on tough!) …thats what Reagan had above all and made his policies more palatable to so many including Reagan Democrats. Who do Republicans have today? McConnell, Cantor, Ryan, Romney–guys who seem cold and robotic or Bohener, who with his crying and tan just seems weird. Palin has personality (not much else) Cain has personality plus (plus a record–I still can’t believe he was on the Federal Reserve!) One might argue that Bachman also has personality but it a forced, unnatural personality, grating after long term exposure–its the packaged responses, the oblivious response to what’s happening around her like a wind up doll with unblinking eyes and pre-recorded answers. Cain has what Reagan had—an easy going affable manner, comfortable in his own skin, a way to communicate simply and an unflappable nature no matter how many times his self-contradictory logic or ‘facts’ are challenged. Its also the ability of a good salesman who can sell 20 Mule Team Borax or the ‘city on the hill’, Domino Pizza or ‘9-9-9.
Or Juiceman Juicers, 1800-MATTRES and progressive politics!