Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Caindidate's End

Herman Cain's campaign has officially been suspended, following a month-long odyssey of twists and turns. Just before that odyssey began I had publicly endorsed Herman Cain on The Not Ed Morrissey Show. I argued he was the only candidate in the race far enough outside the political thought process to have a shot at actually attacking the problems in Washington in a substantive way. I still believe that much, at least, to be true.

I don't know if the sexual harassment allegations against him are true. I don't know if he was prepared to be the President of the United States (or if it's even possible to be prepared for that job.) I don't know if he could beat Barack Obama. But he was my only hope in the GOP field, and it saddens me to see him go, especially this way.

Now, to be clear, much of what happened to Herman Cain was of his own making. No rational assessment of his candidacy can claim otherwise. His inconsistency of message between himself and staffers (Mark Block in particular) and general inability to clearly articulate stances on foreign policy questions were certainly troubling.

But what troubles me most about Herman Cain is the way he was treated compared to others in the race, and the gloating and glee over his destruction. He was immediately dismissed as unqualified and unelectable, unworthy of the support he garnered even as he became the ostensible frontrunner.

What is it about this man that commanded so little respect? His entry into the race was greeted with derision. His accomplishments in business brushed aside to simply be described as "the pizza man." Repeatedly my betters in the media chided me that he had "no executive experience" because apparently being a Chief Executive Officer is not "executive experience."

When his response to a question was imperfect or unclear, the benefit of the doubt was never given to him. It was immediately clipped and reported as merely another piece of evidence that Herman Cain knows nothing about anything.

Consider: it is still often repeated that Herman Cain does not know China has nuclear weapons. Their evidence? His use of the phrase "develop nuclear capability." It took a full day for the media to realize the word "develop" does not automatically mean "from scratch" even if it is sometimes implied, and to "discover" that Cain worked on those pesky things that deliver nuclear weapons to targets, ballistic missiles, for the Navy. Nor was there any walkback when reporters realized this, merely complaints that Cain did not quickly respond to the non-gaffe by sending them a copy of Webster's Dictionary.
And when the Politico story broke (conveniently right as Herman Cain was getting ready to go to foreign policy camp), they weren't laughed off the Internet for their hack work. Instead, Herman Cain was blamed for not being prepared to deal with their story. It was his fault Politico refused to tell his campaign what the story was about so that they could use those 10 days to prepare. It was Cain's fault all the records regarding the story in question were sealed and the participants under NDA such that the only place to get information on it was Herman Cain's memory, and so it was Cain's fault he could not remember every detail of an incident over a decade prior or of an investigation and agreement of which he was not a part. It was Cain's fault he hadn't alerted the media at the outset of his campaign that, years ago before he was running for president, he was cleared of sexually harassing women.

Compare that with say, Rick Perry, who for each debate was given a new lease on life because of his "excellent record" running one of the few states in the union that can run itself. Each new debate is "his last chance to get back in the race." Even after he quite explicitly insulted the very people he wanted to vote for him. Even now, it's "well he's just a bad debater" or "he just had a brain fart." Nobody complained he hadn't told them about his "racist" rock either when that non-story broke. Clearly because he worked in government he can't possibly just be unprepared, stupid, or only in the race because the GOP told him he could win in a walk.

Or Mitt Romney, whose ability to avoid the media almost entirely and "win" every debate by not spectacularly imploding makes him "very Presidential." His executive experience as governor is touted as a plus even though it was fiscally ruinous to his state, and he's obviously very clever and witty to deflect when he's asked if he could name all 59 points of his economic plan, rather than unaware of them and unprepared to discuss them.
Or Newt Gingrich, whose actual proven sexual indiscretions are apparently no big deal because he'd clean Obama's clock in a debate due in large part to him having spent the last decade or so learning to talk smack on TV as a professional commentator. I thought giving the media grief was the Press Secretary's job, but he's a disgraced former Speaker of the House, so I must be wrong.
The irony is, this foolish "pizza man" with no experience and who had no business running for the highest office in the still to this day the only candidate who demonstrated the ability to lead during this primary. He targeted a specific problem we have, created (along with experts) a plan to address that problem, and turned the entire national discussion to both that problem and his solution to it. This in turn "inspired" other candidates to come up with their own solutions.
But because he didn't have all the answers (and had the temerity to admit it) Herman Cain was the dumb unprepared charlatan running just to sell books and thus totally unqualified for the position he sought.
Perhaps it is my naiveté speaking, but I always thought the hallmark of a leader was the ability to lead. I guess in this day and age, it's more important to have a quaint rehearsed response to every issue of the day or a helpful deflection when one doesn't.
In the end, whether you believe Herman Cain did himself in or the media took him down, the only people now considered "qualified" to lead this nation are again the professional politicians. And that is truly a sad thing to behold.