Herman Cain and Other Republican Fiascos
Nothing so dramatized the combination of grandiosity and naÔvetť that characterized the Herman Cain campaign as the words he spoke when he suspended it. He said that the false accusations against him had made it impossible to go on, when if he had the solid character he claimed to have it would have spurred him to continue on. Bill Clinton survived worse, and the charges against him were probably true. Cain also said that he put his family first, and so he was not going to expose them to any further hurt. But every serious presidential candidate knows that he is putting his family second when he decides to run for President. At the least, their family life will become the talk of the town, the talk managed as best it can be. At the worst, deep family secrets will be exposed to the humiliation of everyone: candidate, the family of the candidate, and the public at large. Ask Mitt Daniels, who decided not to run rather than put his family through a public discussion of his stormy but ultimately successful married life. Cain has no idea of what Presidential politics involves and reduces the realities of that to soap opera values about putting family first.
Cain was already dropping in the polls by the time the revelations about his private life took place. He had gone through the stage of being a fresh face, one of those who appear on the campaign trail with no serious chance at the nomination, but of interest for a while because of some character traits. In his case, that was his glibness and his good humor, and so already a cut above Ross Perot, though not nearly as interesting as just about all those candidates who shared a platform with Barack Obama. Just think of that list, most of whom were perfectly credible as Presidents, and not just Hillary Clinton. There was Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, and even Dennis Kucinich, who understood his own point of view well enough so that he could explain it, while Ron Paul the self-certified ideologue in the present Republican field, gesticulates and sputters rather than explain what his Libertarianism means, given that the business cycle preceded the Federal Reserve Bank. He should point out whether he rejects John Locke establishing a standard currency for England in the late Seventeenth Century, something that was part and parcel of the rise of England to world eminence as an economic power. Everyone else in the Republican field is also a lightweight, including Newt Gingrich, who Paul Krugman correctly describes as a stupid manís idea of what a smart man is like. Newt says outrageous things calmly. That is his schtick. He never considers a point at length. Consider his remark about children who have few people in their neighborhoods who work and so can supply role models for helping them enter the work force. That is the culture of poverty theory very popular fifty years ago and that made sense then but does not make sense in the current economic configuration where people are underemployed rather than unemployed and where even the unemployed are people who once held jobs while the take on the unemployed fifty years ago was that they never had been unemployed. Newt has not kept up.
Then, for a bit, Cain caught on with the public. Republicans decided that they liked 9-9-9 because Cain enunciating their tax the poor predilections was like a talking dog. It didnít much matter whether he said ďRuffĒ so long as the answer to the question was Babe Ruth. Ask a different question, about Libya, let us say, and all Cain could do was mumble. Cain was a one man minstrel show, the Republican Partyís own black man, to be trotted out to amuse its followers until the Party found a more suitable candidate. To their credit, black commentators on the cable shows did not take umbrage. They were in on the joke. A black man was able to be a foolish rather than a sober minded contender for the Presidency because Barack Obama had set the standard for what a black man has to do to become acceptable to the American electorate: to walk that narrow line between being a denier of his racial background and an example of his racial background. Obama was masterful at that, comfortable in his own skin even if some voters were not comfortable with his skin, a modern day Jackie Robinson, who also trod that fine line with extraordinary grace. We will remember that contribution of Obama to American history for a long time to come. Herman Cain, on the other hand, is like Vanessa Williams, who broke new ground by becoming a black woman who disgraced, so the organizers thought, the Miss America contest by having posed a few years before for raunchy pictures. It had become alright by that time for black women to no longer have to be a credit to their race. And so Herman Cain did not have to have the gravitas with which Shirley Chisholm conducted her symbolic race for the Presidency just to show that a black person could do it.
So Cain was already becoming tired goods when the sex scandal broke. In fact, in retrospect, it gave him a neat way to get out of the race before his numbers plummeted even further. There is, however, something very suspicious about these charges. Not one of them has been corroborated with supporting evidence. No hotel receipts; nobody who saw them on a plane cooing at one another; no taped phone calls; nothing. The early accusers had simply vanished into the woodwork. There had been no follow-up stories on any of them. And the interviews with Ginger White did not reveal a woman wronged. Her story was that she was a kept woman. She got airline tickets and vacations and rent money in exchange for sex. She said that love had nothing to do with it. She will not say how much money she received, perhaps because she did not declare it on her income taxes. She has to be reminded by her lawyer to express some sympathy for Mrs. Cain after having given the refreshing answer that she had nothing to say to Mrs. Cain. What did Mrs. Cain have to do with it? This is the person who had numerous text message exchanges with Cain in the week before her announcement of their relationship. To what end? To arrange for her payments, she says. Sounds like extortion to me. And who pressed her to come forward remains murky. Do you believe her when she says ďno oneĒ? If that were true, you might believe that there was nothing sexual in Cainís relationship with her.
And yet this is the woman who brought down the Cain campaign. Donít journalists feel any need to look beyond the surface? Cain canít resurrect his campaign after it is shown, somewhere down the road, that he was indeed set up, just as Dominique Straus-Kahn canít rehabilitate his career now that the reporting of Edward Jay Epstein shows that he was also probably also set up by political opponents. Not that he didnít have a four minute or so sexual encounter with the maid, but that encounter was arranged so that he would take the bait, just as the transmission of information that set up the Bill Clinton testimony that could be interpreted as perjury was also arranged. Now, Bill Clinton was able to withstand the sexual scrutiny of his campaign and even survived an Impeachment Trial, but that was because just about everybody liked Bill Clinton and he was Presidential from the beginning of his own first campaign for the office. Cain was a target at a carnival, waiting to be brought down.
The Republicans who remain standing are tarnished by the collective foolishness, ignorance, vainglory and lack of principle that characterizes every one of them (except Huntsman). They look like the collection of odd people that make up a family in a lot of New Yorker cartoons. Obama will just have to air reruns of the big Republican debate moments to show that the Republican Party is no longer a serious party, never mind the qualities of the person who eventually gets the nomination. Do you want to trust this party with the countryís future? What kind of Cabinet appointments will be made? Will only flat-earthers get nominated for Federal judgeships? It was bad enough when so many Justice Department jobs in the Bush Administration went to graduates of Regent University Law School. You might as well get rid of a Department of Education headed by people who are against evolution. Romney may believe in evolution but he will not resist the temptation to pay off the right wing in this way. No backbone now; no backbone later.
Well, the American people have been well forewarned. The succession of Republican debates has shown in detail the attributes of the candidates. There is no escaping from what a candidate really is. I donít know anyone who would like to have his character so carefully scrutinized in public, every fault just hanging out there for all to see. But these guys and gal asked for it, and it has not been pretty, even if it has been fascinating. So let the voting begin. Maybe nobody will show up at the Iowa Caucuses.