Already, I miss Herman Cain.
Selfishly, I must admit, because as a columnist, I was counting on ol’ Herm to provide me with hilarious stories and goofy plot twists for months to come. No credible newspaper columnist worth his or her salt can resist the tempting siren’s song of a presidential candidate who quotes Pokemon like Confucius but can’t tell you anything about Libya or Ubecki-becki-stan-stan. (I didn’t make that up. Herm did, I swear.)
I was eagerly awaiting the day, probably a few months down the road, when white folks in middle America woke up and realized that an Obama vs. Cain showdown next fall would guarantee another four years of a Black president. I was looking forward to their horror on that day, and hoping to savor the look of sudden panic on their faces.
Here’s my theory on what happened:
The Republican Party leadership, anticipating that same scenario, and having no wish to see me and my fellow columnists chortle with glee, decided to snatch Christmas away by sabotaging Cain’s campaign.
Apparently, several of his rival candidates, including Rick Perry, already had some information on Cain’s extramarital dalliances, and fed it to the press. But that still doesn’t happen without the knowledge of the leadership, who doubtless knew they’d have to tread lightly while allowing Cain’s campaign to implode.
Surely it couldn’t be blamed on Herm’s cheating all by itself, since his replacement as frontrunner, Newt Gingrich, is an epic serial philanderer, even by Washington’s high standards.
And speaking of Newt, is there anyone beyond the unenlightened mouth breathers who form the Republican base who thinks this idiot has even a ghost of a chance at winning the nomination? My favorite quote about Gingrich is attributed to columnist Paul Krugman, who recently said Newt is “a stupid man’s idea of what a smart man sounds like.”
Here’s a guy drummed out of Congress with a host of ethics violations, who dug a grave for Bill Clinton and ended up being buried there himself, and whose idea of “family values” is that wives are expendable as soon as the next bimbo comes along. If he were a Democrat, the Republican Party would be climbing over each other to rip him apart. With Gingrich, though, they simply pretend not to see.
But more on Newt and the rest of the GOP dream team in a minute, but for now, let’s go back to the too-soon-departed Herman Cain.
Had the Republican powers-that-be waited, getting rid of Cain would have been just that much more difficult. Let’s say Cain took Iowa, or even came close, then started amassing truckloads of cash and endorsements. Once he had a machine up and running in every state, and fresh-faced white kids passing out fliers and answering phones, Cain would have been formidable, and perhaps past the point in the public consciousness where a simple charge of “Hey! He touched a white woman!” would have been sufficient to derail what he called “the Cain Train.”
No, that train could never be allowed to leave the station. It’s that simple. Once momentum had built up, who knows what mad quirk of politics would have taken over. I know of at least a couple of Black Cain fans, so there’s no telling how many African Americans nationwide could have been sucked in by the time Election Day rolled around.
Could he have beaten Obama? No, don’t be silly. The president would have crushed him in debates, running verbal rings around him while he repeated, “9-9-9!” over and over like a bad recording. But he could have made the race interesting, with his success story and his business background peeling off conservative Blacks who are looking for an excuse to proudly say they didn’t vote for Obama again.
Still, a brother vs. brother race for the presidency is a little too frightening for white folks to contemplate, so Herm had to be sacrificed — and sooner rather than later.
Which leaves us where? With Bachmann, Huntsman, Perry and Paul speeding toward oblivion, Republicans are stuck with Newt and Mitt Romney, fighting for the flip-flop championship of the GOP. Both men have taken both sides of every relevant issue at various points in their careers, and both are so soiled by their own personal demons that Republicans will end up with their very own Michael Dukakis: a doofus who can’t possibly win, but sadly represents the best their party could come up with at the time.
That fact might be good for Democrats in 2012, but not so good for newspaper columnists.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
Flipping through the channels Tuesday night, I stumbled upon the Republican presidential debate, live from Las Vegas, of all places. Being the fifth such debate in six weeks, I had forgotten all about it. But I also didn’t expect the party of pious morals and upright family values to hold a serious political event in a place known as Sin City.
Turns out though, that Vegas — America’s entertainment capital — was the perfect venue, because that debate had more sheer entertainment value than all the others combined. I’m glad I tuned in — it was comedy gold, worthy of being saved for posterity and the benefit of future generations of Americans who may want to pinpoint the exact moment the Republican Party officially went off the rails.
Business guru Herman Cain, the newly crowned GOP front-runner, found himself in the crosshairs early. Mitt Romney, the man of the perfect teeth and the empty suit, joined Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the man of the empty head, in hammering Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan.
Cain’s idea would set income and corporate taxes at nine percent, and add a nine percent federal sales tax. Sounds simple, but a study released by the Tax Policy Center this week said that Cain’s 9-9-9 proposal would raise taxes on 84 percent of Americans, with low- and middle-income families being hit hardest.
Cain tried to defend himself, countering that only lawyers, lobbyists and his ignorant onstage colleagues would argue in favor of the present tax code, which he called “a million word mess.” But between Romney and Perry ganging up on him, coupled with the incoherent babbling from Newt Gingrich and punctuated by occasional condor-like screeches from Michele Bachmann, Cain never had a chance.
The part that got me, though, was that even while bashing his proposal, Perry more than once referred to Cain as “brother.”
I don’t know about you, but few things make me want to punch a white man in the mouth more than that patronizing, condescendingly familiar way they call you “brother,” or even worse, “my main man.” Sometimes I think they do it because they don’t actually have any Black acquaintances and this is their awkward way of being friendly; and sometimes I think they do it just to see how far they can push you before you haul off and punch them in the mouth.
In Perry’s case though, I suspect the reason was overcompensation — a feeble attempt to clear up the recent controversy surrounding the former name of his hunting ranch by publicly reaching out to the only Black man he knows who isn’t one of the domestic help.
Even kooky old Ron Paul showed he still has a few chuckles left in him when he spoke in favor of the Occupy Wall Street protestors, defended the middle class from the excesses of the super-rich, and — get this — freely admitted that the recession, and the resultant lousy economy, is a direct byproduct of the short-sighted policies of the Bush administration. You can imagine how well that went over with the GOP faithful, but the oblivious Paul clearly has no idea that his chances of the nomination fade a little more every time he completes a sentence.
The best part, though, was when Perry and Romney grew tired of attacking Cain and turned on each other like a couple of pit bulls.
Perry brought up the illegal immigrant story that haunted Romney during the 2008 primary, calling it “the height of hypocrisy.” Several years ago Romney hired a landscaping company whose managers weren’t too vigilant about checking employees immigration status, and it’s hung around his neck like an albatross ever since.
Romney countered with a dismissive line about how Perry should be forgiven because he’s been losing ground with each successive debate, and the rumble was on.
Back and forth they went, the volume — and the tension — rising with each snide interruption and catty retort. I thought for a minute there it might come to blows, and found myself sitting on the edge of the couch eagerly anticipating the first wild left hook.
That punch was never thrown, but plenty of equally damaging verbal shots landed cleanly, with Perry once again forced to repudiate his friend, the pastor who called Mormonism a cult, and Pennsylvania’s own Rick Santorum once again forced to justify his own relevance.
I sure hope President Obama was watching. Seeing the caliber of the best that the GOP hopes will unseat him must be quite comforting — and funnier than anything else on television.
From sex scandals to revolutions and natural disasters, the top ten national and international stories of 2011 had it all. The Tribune compiled a synopsis of its top ten stories.
9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden killed by U.S.
A Navy SEAL team shot and killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden on May 1 at his hideout in Pakistan. He’d been the world’s most-wanted terrorist for nearly a decade, ever since a team of his al-Qaida followers carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The manhunt ended with a nighttime assault by a helicopter-borne special operations squad on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden was shot dead by one of the raiders, and within hours his body was buried at sea.
Penn State sex abuse scandal topples Joe Pa
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually abusing 10 boys over a 12-year period. He has been charged with 52 counts related to the abuse and is currently free on bail.
The scandal rocked the university, leading to the firing of iconic coach Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier. Both men were fired by the board of trustees on Nov. 9.
Paterno led the Penn State Nittany Lions for 46 seasons and had amassed 409 career victories — a Division I record. His dismissal led to riots in State College, as students protested his removal.
Sandusky, 67, who since 1977 headed up a charity for trouble children called the Second Mile, has maintained his innocence.
Occupy Wall Street spread inequity protests to more than 200 cities worldwide
Demonstrators first gathered Sept. 17, in Zuccotti Park, located in New York City’s Wall Street financial district to protest against social and economic inequality, high unemployment, greed, as well as corruption, and the undue influence of corporations — particularly from the financial services sector — on government. Under the slogan “We are the 99 percent,” the protests in New York City have sparked similar protests and movements around the world.
Arab Spring spreads across the Middle East
A wave of protests rolled across the Middle East, leading to revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, and civil war in Libya. In addition, there was major civil unrest in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen along with protests in Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco and Oman.
Demonstrators shared frustration at growing economic inequity in all of those countries and well as oppressive regimes. The most famous of the protests took place in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Tens of thousands of protestors forced out dictator Hosni Mubarak with largely peaceful demonstrations.
Boxing legend Joe Frazier dies
Former Heavyweight Champion Joe Frazier died from liver cancer at 67 on Nov. 7.
Born in Beaufort, South Carolina, and long a fixture in Philadelphia, Frazier became the only American fighter to win a gold medal in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.
Turning pro, he beat Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title in 1971, the first man to do so. But, Frazier held the title for just four fights.
The two men battled it out three times, twice in the heart of New York City and once in the morning in a steamy arena in the Philippines in an epic battle dubbed “the Thrilla in Manila.” They went 41 rounds together. Neither gave an inch, and both gave it their all.
In their last fight in Manila in 1975, they traded punches with a fervor that seemed unimaginable among heavyweights. Frazier gave as good as he got for 14 rounds, then had to be held back by trainer Eddie Futch as he tried to go out for the final round, unable to see.
In the end, the two sworn enemies forgave each other. Both are members of the Boxing Hall of Fame.
Black Republican Herman Cain flames out as possible Republican nominee
Pizza mogul Herman Cain, briefly considered the likely Republican nominee for president, dropped out of the campaign on Dec. 4, as charges of sexual impropriety grew.
In his announcement, Cain said he decided to drop out to avoid news coverage that was hurtful to his family.
His decision came five days after an Atlanta-area woman claimed she and Cain had an affair for more than a decade, a claim that followed several allegations of sexual harassment against the Georgia businessman.
The businessman had surged in polls until news surfaced in late October that he had been accused of sexual harassment by two women during his time as president of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
Casey Anthony declared innocent in death of her daughter
The Florida mom on trial for killing her 2-year-old daughter in 2008 was acquitted July 5 after the jury deliberated for 11 hours. The 25-year-old had been charged with first-degree murder, which could have brought the death penalty if she had been convicted.
Instead, she was convicted of only four counts of lying to investigators looking into the June 2008 disappearance of her daughter Caylee. The tot’s body was found in the woods six months later and a medical examiner was never able to determine how she died.
Jailed since August 2008, Anthony was sentenced to four years but left jail July 17 for time served.
Steve Jobs, Apple founder dies
Apple founder, technological and business guru Steve Jobs died Oct. 5 at the age of 56 from pancreatic cancer. He had been fighting the disease since 2004.
Jobs’ death created a huge outpouring of emotion with mourners who lauded him as a visionary and turned Apple stores across the country into impromptu memorials.
Earthquake strikes Japan
A 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck Japan on March 11, triggering a deadly tsunami that washed far inland, swamping towns, sweeping away a train and sparking massive fires, including one at a major nuclear plant.
The quake ultimately claimed nearly 20,000 lives and caused an estimated $218 billion in damage. The tsunami triggered the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, after waves knocked out the cooling system at the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing it to spew radiation that turned up in local produce. About 100,000 people evacuated from the area have not returned to their homes. Traces of radioactive materials linked to the accident were detected as far away as Massachusetts.
The offshore quake struck at 2:46 p.m. local time at a depth of 24 kilometers about 125 kilometers off the coast, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, U.S. representative from Arizona
Forty-one-year-old Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot on Jan. 8 while meeting with constituents in Tucson, Ariz. Six people were killed and 13 wounded in the attack, including the lawmaker and members of her staff. Giffords was shot by Jared Loughner, who was quickly captured and imprisoned while being evaluated to determine if was mentally incapable of participating in his defense.
It took more than seven months for her recovery. She returned to Congress on Aug. 1.
This story has been compiled from Associated reports.
Despite Herman Cain’s inability to display a grasp of Libya, or its situation, African Americans have an active involvement and interest in international affairs. America’s post-war years witnessed social and political growth which culminated in the civil rights triumphs of the 1960s. Those triumphs helped increase African Americans’ presence in high-level international affairs. Condoleezza Rice is often presented as a Black American success story.
In her most recent book, “No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington,” Rice gives an account of the eight years she spent in the Bush administration. It is the former United States Secretary of State’s second book. As the 66th Secretary of State, Rice was the second African American, and first Black female, to hold the post as head of the nation’s foreign affairs and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence. The title “No Higher Honor” helps shape the image of Rice as the loyal aide that helped the president shoulder “his burdens.” The book casts Rice as enjoying a close relationship with President George W. Bush. It is this closeness that makes the book an important contribution to the history of a controversial presidency.
In meeting its “servile” moniker, “No Higher Honor” provides reasons to view Rice’s relationship with Bush as concubine-like, but opens no new ground for African Americans’ distinction or achievement. For Americans who opposed her and Bush’s policies, the book could be called “A memoir of a war criminal who worked with bigger war criminals.” Rice is often viewed as a moderate Republican, and has never [publicly] identified with Black issues. In her roles as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State, Rice, along with the rest of the Bush administration, created an imaginary scenario that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, an idea that was used to justify an illegal invasion of Iraq. “Condi,” as she was called among Bush’s inner-circle, approved and apologized for numerous war crimes on behalf of the Bush administration. She is most remembered for using visions of mushroom clouds and other tactics to scare Americans. Rice allowed torture to replace diplomacy as the hallmark of the U.S. foreign policy.
Probably the only area in “No Higher Honor” that may be of interest to Black readers is the section where unmarried Rice deals with what she calls Moammar Gadhafi’s “fascination” with her. Rice alleges that Gaddafi had a crush on her. She met Col. Gadhafi in Tripoli, Libya in September 2008 and said that he had an obsession with her that was “weird and a bit creepy.” Rice says that in their meeting he played a montage of video images of her. The clip was set to a tune, written by a Libyan composer, titled African Flower in the White House. In a recent television interview promoting the book, Rice recalled her relief when the video turned out not to be raunchy.
Hailed as a role model by many Americans, some see Rice simply as a “stooge for her masters.” Like Colin Powell before her, Rice took her job seriously and soldiered on, doing her master’s bidding. The book shows Blacks acquired no high honor in having her in the positions she held from 2001 to 2009.
After her time in these positions ended, Rice returned to Stanford University as a political science professor and the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution. In September 2010, Rice became a faculty member of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a director of its Global Center for Business and the Economy. She is also a founding partner of the Rice Hadley Group.
Even if you too believe in the image of Rice as “close adviser” to the most powerful person in the world, the servitude she illustrates in “No Higher Honor” shows she deserves no accolades as a successful sister or as a positive model of Black achievement. — (NNPA)
William Reed is available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org.
The term “First Black” is becoming more and more irrelevant.
When President Barack Obama entered the White House, it was clear that times had changed. There was Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, who served as Secretary of State during the Bush Administration. There was the former Chairman of the Republican National Party, Michael Steele. And the chief law enforcement official in the land, Attorney General Eric Holder.
Which leads one to wonder: can the Republican Party make its own history by nominating an African American to be its presidential nominee? Does Herman Cain really have a shot to be president of the United States of America?
“Outside of a few states, Herman Cain’s success will be dependent upon his ability to lay out his policy proposals and not his race,” said Dr. Kyle Scott of Duke University. “Cain has a chance to win Iowa because of his ideological appeal to those voters, but will almost certainly lose New Hampshire because of his proposed national income tax.”
So why isn’t Cain’s ethnicity as much a part of his story as it was with President Obama?
“I think that his supporters are more focused on who he is and his principles,” Luke Livingston, executive producer of the 2009 documentary. ‘The Tea Party Movie,’ said to CNN. “Regardless of your race, whether you’re Hispanic, Black, white, Jew, Gentile whatever — you get up on that platform and you talk about the principles of our founding fathers and people look past race.”
Last summer, the NAACP made claims that the tea party was not doing enough to dispel racism. But its backing of Cain dispels any notion of racism, considering Cain has long been a tea party favorite. A former radio talk show host, Cain has been a sought-after speaker at many rallies, is frequently praised by its members, and even won the Tea Party Patriots’ presidential straw poll at their first summit in Phoenix, Arizona, in February.
“The mood at (the) summit shows that tea party activists are looking for leaders who share our principles of fiscal responsibility and limited government and who will vow to uphold policies that reflect those principles once in office,” Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, said at the time.
Livingston said he thinks “people are encouraged that there are Black conservatives, because the tea party has been labeled as racist ….But I don’t think [tea partiers] are making it a big deal.”
Martin echoed a similar sentiment. Her group is the nation’s largest in the tea party movement.
“I think that having an African American with so much tea party support does show that, yeah — it’s another example that the tea party movement is not racist,” Martin said. “[It shows] that we’re looking at the issues and we’re not looking at skin color.”
Time magazine’s Michael Crowley told CNN’s “John King, USA” that while Cain’s skin color isn’t central to his candidacy, it does have its appeal.
It’s something that conservatives really like about him,” Crowley said. “To have someone like Herman Cain come out to kind of fight back and to have a Black man saying this is exaggerated, it’s overstated, the Republican Party is not racist and a different set of possibilities for what you could have from a Black candidate I think really does energize a lot of white conservatives.”
Cain’s race hasn’t totally been ignored, though.
Recently, in an interview with MSNBC, host Lawrence O’Donnell pressed Cain: Why didn’t he participate in the Civil Rights Movement?
Cain answered: “I was a high school student. The college students were doing the sit-ins. The college students were doing the freedom rides. If I had been a college student I probably would have been participating.”
During a recent interview with CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley – host of CNN’s “State of the Union” — Cain said that African Americans “weren’t held back because of racism.”
“People sometimes hold themselves back because they want to use racism as an excuse for them not being able to achieve what they want to achieve,” Cain added.
Cain is also buoyed by the 2010 Congressional wins of Black GOP candidates Allan West in Florida and Tim Scott in South Carolina. But West and Scott won in rock solid GOP districts, against weak, under-funded Democratic foes. Their wins were regional wins with absolutely no national implications or, for that matter, any real influence in Congress. They are just two of hundreds of GOP congresspersons, and they are in no position to make, shape or dictate policy to either Congress or the Party.
The GOP presidential candidate is a different matter. He is more than just the Party’s most important political standard-bearer. He is the standard by which the Party is judged and gauged by voters. And that doesn’t just mean his philosophy, positions, style and vision of governance. It means his visibility, and in this race does matter. If Obama had a tough sell with many white Democrats, at least initially, Cain has to sell the broad rank and file in the GOP.
A 2006 Yale study found that white Republicans were 25 percentage points more likely to cross over and vote for a Democratic senatorial candidate against a Black Republican foe. The study also found that in the near twenty-year stretch from 1982 to 2000, when the GOP candidate was Black, the greater majority of white independent voters backed the white candidate.
Elections are usually won by candidates with a solid and impassioned core of bloc voters. White males, particularly older white males, vote consistently and faithfully. GOP leaders have long known that blue-collar, white male voters can easily be aroused to vote and shout loudly on the emotional wedge issues: abortion, family values, anti-gay marriage and tax cuts. For 14 months, the Republicans whipped up their hysteria and borderline racism against health care reform. These are the very voters that GOP Presidents and aspiring Presidents — Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr. and W. Bush, McCain and legions of GOP governors, senators and congresspersons — banked on to seize and maintain regional and national political dominance.
Whatever the exact reasons, Cain is very popular among Republicans right now, and the race for the nomination has never seemed so volatile and wide open.
Cain has amassed out-of-this-world popularity among Republican primary voters. The NBC/WSJ poll found that 52 percent of them have a positive view of him, while just six percent have a negative view — a 46-point spread that no one else even comes close to matching.
“The conservative wing of the Republican Party has been auditioning for an anti-(Mitt) Romney alternative for months now,” former GOP strategist Dan Schnur said. “They’ve tried Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, and they both wilted under the scrutiny. So far, Herman Cain seems to be holding his own.”
CNN.com contributed to this report.
Zack Burgess is the enterprise writer for The Tribune. He is a freelance writer and editor who covers culture, politics and sports. He can be contacted at zackburgess.com.
Presidential candidate Herman Cain came to Washington to talk about his tax plans, but ended up talking about sex. Welcome to the life of the top-tier candidate, Mr. Cain.
After his sexual harassment scandal broke over the weekend, celebrity conservatives predictably rallied to his defense. They charged media bias, attacked his accusers and blamed racism as a paranoid one-size-fits-all excuse. In short, they reacted with the same sort of baloney that they usually criticize in liberals.
In fact, Cain has no one to blame but his own political inexperience for the legs on this story. As the old Watergate-era saying goes, it’s not the scandal that hurts you; it’s the cover-up. In Cain’s case, it is not the allegations that are throwing him off his message, it’s his waffling answers.
Politico reports that during Cain’s tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association at least two female employees left their jobs in the late 1990s after accusing him of sexually inappropriate behavior.
Citing “multiple sources” and documentation, Politico reported that the women signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave both of them financial payouts “in the five-figure range” to leave the association, but also barred the women from talking about their departures.
After 10 days of attempts by the political news website to get a straight answer from his campaign office, Cain declined to comment Sunday when a Politico reporter confronted him in a tense street interview outside the Washington bureau of CBS News.
Over the course of televised public appearances the next day, Cain’s powers of recall improved. He acknowledged the allegations, but insisted that he had recused himself from the complaint process. He didn’t know whether there was a settlement, he said at a National Press Club event that I attended, but quipped, “I hope it wasn’t for much, because I didn’t do anything.”
But Cain amended his statement on the settlement in a later interview with Fox’s Greta Van Susteren, saying he did recall hearing of a complaint and settlement with only one woman. He didn’t remember for how much and maintained that he had done nothing inappropriate.
Whatever the truth may be, Cain created new problems for himself by trying to brush off this controversy. He’s playing in the big leagues now and, as he himself quipped, “This bull’s eye on my back is getting bigger.” Indeed, but you don’t need to help it to grow, Mr. C.
Like any other top-tier candidate, Cain faces increased scrutiny from media and his opponents’ research teams. He has to avoid even the appearance of evasion.
Yet his conservative allies tried mightily to deflect attention back onto familiar irritants of the political right, such as the media and Justice Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation fight against Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations.
Radio star Rush Limbaugh tore into Politico’s story as an “unconscionable, racially stereotypical attack” and “the politics of minority conservative personal destruction.”
Best-selling firebrand author Ann Coulter also referenced the Thomas case on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, saying, “Liberals detest, detest, detest conservative Blacks,” she said, partly because “our Blacks are so much better than their Blacks.”
And Brent Bozell, head of the conservative Media Research Center, borrowed a memorable Clarence Thomas metaphor, calling the Politico story a “High-tech lynching” of Cain.
“In the eyes of the liberal media,” Bozell wrote on the conservative Newsbusters website, “Herman Cain is just another uppity Black American who has had the audacity to leave the liberal plantation.”
Well, as an African American, I find it heartwarming that so many conservatives have become eagle-eyed watchdogs against any hint of racism, even if it only seems to show itself when liberals are the suspected instigators.
But liberals aren’t Cain’s biggest headache at this point in his campaign. His base already expects the “liberal media” won’t give him an even break. His biggest concern has to be his fellow Republicans and the independent swing voters the party’s eventual nominee will need in order to win the White House.
As an accomplished success story in the corporate world, Cain is a novice to politics. That’s a great virtue to his fans, who hate “big government” and “big media” except big conservative media. But amateurism is a handicap in big-time politics. Cain has soared in Republican polls with his straight talk. Now it is time for him to give some straight answers.
E-mail Clarence Page at cpage(at)tribune.com, or write to him c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207.
Two weeks ago Herman Cain was a seemingly unstoppable polling juggernaut, reaching new historical heights once seen as unattainable for a Black Republican.
The Cain Train had found itself steaming ahead by 20 full percentage points within one month, a once impossible feat only explained by a combination of luck, Cain charm and the X-Factor dynamics of a “non-politician” candidate who cleverly downplayed his political past.
By last week, that train came to a screeching halt as claims of sexual harassment began dogging the new rising political star as fast as a Kim Kardashian divorce.
But, according to many observers, it’s not so much a matter of the accusations as it is a matter of how Cain’s handled it.
This week was characterized by a series of stumbles, fumbles and persistent contradictions as Cain stammered about looking for a narrative to events that stretched nearly 20 years back.
Once the storm passes, political strategists and crisis management hacks are certain to write studies on the affair as a perfect example of what not to do.
“In the end, the Cain campaign has just shown us once again that they are not ready for primetime with this ‘scandal’,” charges Jason Johnson, Hiram College political scientist.
They’ve been utterly unable to quash a story that happened over 20 years ago and has so many gag orders attached to it that nobody can get out their story except for Cain anyways.”
That said, the real measure of how much the story damages Cain relies on a couple of major factors emerging from one simple fact: it’s a Republican primary.
How much traction the story gets depends on how a primary dominated by White males and seniors over 60 respond to it. While the pundits and maestros of the conventional chattering class all assumed it was Cain’s last week in the running, most forgot that the dynamics in a red meat conservative Republican primary determine how sexual harassment accusations shake out.
While such charges and Cain’s handling of the affair have become his political kryptonite - eliminating him from any future in a general election where the electorate and attitudes are much more diverse — it still doesn’t push him out of temporary contention in a crowded GOP pack that either despises Mitt Romney or watches Rick Perry from a side eye of suspicion.
For now, depending on new allegations or more details arising, Cain is still the flavor of the season, captivating largely white conservative audiences with his toothy grin.
Cain’s largest defense and public relations buffer zone are the polls at the moment. Observers were already raising a brow when Rasmussen Reports, one of the more reliably Republican-leaning polling firms in the country, was showing Cain with an inexplicable 10 point edge over Romney in South Carolina – only two days after the scandal dropped.
How could a Black man, clumsily dodging the worst of Washington allegations, take out a white man by 10 points in a southern state where 36 percent of white Republicans, according to a Winthrop poll, don’t believe President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
Some of the answer lay in many of the statements made a number of conservatives like the thorny Ann Coulter and the even thornier Rush Limbaugh who’ve publicly come out in support of Cain, calling the whole affair a “high tech lynching.”
The parallels to Judge Clarence Thomas’ ugly Supreme Court nomination battle in 1991, in which he bitterly fought off sexual harassment allegations from former colleague Anita Hill, are uncanny.
As with Thomas, Cain still enjoys a coterie of head-patting white ultra conservatives who believe he’s a high profile Black Republican man being targeted by “mainstream, liberal media.”
“Think of all the news stories there have been ... and after five days, there has yet to be a report what he did,” growled Limbaugh on his radio program on Friday, blasting Politico for reporting what amounted to an “empty scandal.”
“I'm saying horrible, angry, feminist women hate conservative Black men because they can't accuse us of racism for supporting, you know pro-life positions, or supporting Herman Cain over Obama,” was Coulter ranting in perpetual book selling mode earlier in the week. “Yeah, coincidentally, the two utterly innocent conservatives who have been falsely accused [Thomas and Cain] are both conservative blacks."
Racial, gender and political dimensions aside, Cain is still climbing in the polls. While some thought the South Carolina poll was an anomaly, the Washington Post/ABC News poll at the end of the week confirmed that Cain wouldn’t be going anywhere away from this race anytime soon.
The national poll found the former businessman “neck-and-neck” at 24 percent against the former Massachusetts governor, with 55 percent of Republican voters saying it was “not a serious matter” and 70 percent of that set saying the allegations would not influence their vote.
Still, nearly 40 percent of Republicans and 42 percent of Republican-leaning independents still see the charges as “serious.” Over 30 percent of that group is leaning more towards Romney.
Politic365.com commentator and talk show host Jeneba Ghatt, herself a Republican, sees it getting worse depending on the racial identity of the accusers.
“How will this play out once the race of the women are revealed?” asks Ghatt. Confirmation of Black accusers will spell the death sentence to this story which will then be swept aside by week’s end. It could be one of the chief reasons for Team Cain’s own clumsy response. After all, Clarence Thomas (and most recently Dominique Strauss-Kahn) all escaped scandal fueled by Black women accusers without too much injury. Thomas got his lifetime appointment and Strauss-Kahn’s charges got dropped like a brick.”
The question of identity is what’s rattling Washington this past week as inquiring minds are pressed to know exactly who made the accusations. Few details are being leaked, with only one accuser providing a statement to denounce Cain’s version of events. Still, the anonymous accuser’s lawyer Joel P. Bennett seemed to drop an interesting clue. “She has a life to live and a career, and she doesn’t want to become another Anita Hill.”
WASHINGTON — In the 21st century, the Black Republican is a rare creature, even when you count those of moderate views such as Colin Powell. Rarer still is the tea-partying, tax-cutting, Obama-dissing Black conservative like Herman Cain, who is currently occupying the anybody-but-Mitt chair in the GOP presidential parlor game.
There are sound reasons for the scarcity of Black tea partyers. A fight-the-federal-government philosophy doesn’t appeal to the vast majority of Black Americans, who have depended on federal intervention to save them from the tyranny of state law and the violence of local custom — especially in the Deep South. Furthermore, even a handful of tea party protesters holding up overtly racist signs — President Obama dressed as a witch doctor, for example — would be enough to persuade most Black voters that the group isn’t serving any tea they’d like to drink.
Still, Cain’s politics have obscured a fundamental truth: His upbringing, his resourcefulness and his self-reliance are common among the Black middle class. His corporate success may be unusual, but the values that propelled him are not.
In his new campaign autobiography, “This Is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House,” the businessman-turned-talk-radio-host noted that his mother, Lenora, worked as a maid, while his father, Luther, chauffeured one of Atlanta’s richest businessmen, Robert Woodruff, CEO of Coca-Cola. His dad worked additional jobs, Cain said, in order to buy a house.
Cain’s parents valued education and church attendance. They emphasized self-respect. They expected him to hew the line of respectful and orderly behavior.
Cain has drawn some criticism for the revelation that he avoided the civil rights protests that marked his adolescent and college years; in his autobiography, he suggests that was due to his father’s admonition to “stay out of trouble.”
But that’s hardly surprising in the context of the times, given a movement whose success was hardly pre-ordained.
We rightly honor the heroes, such as Julian Bond and John Lewis, who put their lives on the line to dramatize the ugliness of Jim Crow and force political change. But countless Black men and women of Cain’s day chose the safer route, including many Black professionals and businessmen who didn’t want to risk their relative comfort by confronting white authority.
In short, there is nothing about Cain’s early years that is rare. I know countless Black Americans who were reared in much the same way.
My parents, like Cain’s, taught me to excel at academics, to work hard and to respect authority. They taught me to love my country. And they went out of their way to ensure that the overt racism I encountered didn’t leave me angry or bitter.
That’s important as a counter to Cain’s tiresome echoing and reinforcement of hoary old stereotypes. Apparently, it’s not enough that he absolve right-wing conservatives of racism. He has gone further — trading in ugly prejudices that disparage Black Americans.
He has, for example, called Black Americans “brainwashed” for their failure to support Republican candidates. He has cozied up to birthers who insist that Obama was not born in this country. And, worse still, he has engaged in some offensive stereotypes about those who are less successful than he.
“People sometimes hold themselves back because they want to use racism as an excuse for them not being able to achieve what they want to achieve,” Cain recently told CNN’s Candy Crowley.
That’s one of the dumbest things I ever heard. Many notable Black critics — Bill Cosby comes to mind — have decried the poor choices and bad habits that have exacerbated Black poverty. But it takes either spectacular cynicism or sheer idiocy to say the average Black high school dropout stopped going to school so he could “use racism as an excuse” for his unemployment.
Quiet as it’s kept, Black Americans are more optimistic about the future than white Americans, according to polls. They see racism receding, testimony to the powerful symbolic effect of Obama’s election.
By suggesting otherwise, Cain has not only disrespected the views and beliefs of mainstream Black Americans, but he has also offended voters whose support he might have hoped to win. Let’s hope he doesn’t represent the future of Black Republicanism.
The most perplexing question surrounding this year’s Republican race for the presidential nomination has been why can’t Mitt Romney seem to close the deal, despite running against what many consider an inferior set of opponents.
He has rarely exceeded 20 or 25 percent in national polls. And many pundits believe that the 25 percent support he has garnered thus far is about as far as Romney’s support will go — which leaves him extremely vulnerable to candidates like Newt Gingrich, who is working to distinguish himself as the latest ‘non-Romney’ candidate and consolidate much of the remaining 75 percent of the Republican vote.
There was Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and now Gingrich. While the non-Romney’s rose and fell, Romney’s numbers have never seemed to move, with voters seemingly transferring their support from one surging candidate to the next.
“So far, with only three states having weighed in on who the nominee should be, I don't think it's fair to say that Romney isn't able to close the deal,” said Client Strategist for the Republican National Committee Eric Wilson. “At the end of the day, Republicans are going to unite around our nominee, because any of the candidates still in the race will make a better president than Barack Obama.”
If you look beyond the top-line data in the polls, it becomes clear that nowhere near 75 percent of Republican voters have been vehemently opposed to nominating Romney. A Gallup poll conducted before New Hampshire’s primary, for instance, found that only about 30 percent of Republican voters considered Romney an unacceptable nominee. These numbers have bounced around a bit from time to time and from survey to survey, but these results are fairly typical when questions like these are put to the voters.
About 25 percent of Republican voters are in Romney’s base (incidentally, about 22 percent of Republicans nationwide voted for Romney in their party’s primaries in 2008). And about 30 percent of the Republican primary electorate is truly opposed to him.
That leaves a swing group of about 45 percent of the vote. These voters can certainly imagine candidates that they’d prefer to Romney — but they also consider him an acceptable choice, more or less.
What seems to have become clear is that the hypothetical candidate these voters might have preferred to Romney has not materialized.
There are enough substantive and stylistic differences between the various non-Romney candidates that they should not be viewed as interchangeable, this evidence suggests. A considerable number of Santorum’s voters prefer Romney to Gingrich; a considerable number of Gingrich’s voters prefer Romney to Santorum.
And voters in the swing group are now settling for Romney. They are not necessarily doing so enthusiastically: A recent Pew poll found that there has been little improvement in Republican voters’ overall views of their candidates, which is unusual but not unprecedented.
The 2004 Democratic presidential race parallels this one in many ways.
For example, Democratic turnout was reasonably strong in November 2004, despite voters’ initial lack of enthusiasm for John Kerry. The opportunity to beat a polarizing incumbent is a powerful motivating force.
Jon Huntsman was candid when he offered insight into just how little faith Republicans have that Romney can beat Obama. Keep in mind, Huntsman has thrown his support behind Romney now that he is no longer in the race.
A recent Gallup poll found that GOP enthusiasm is on the decline. Republicans and Democrats are almost even, enthusiasm-wise, as they move further into the election year.
And the 2012 election is looking more like a carbon copy of 2008, which also looked an awful lot like 1996. Republicans are lining up behind Romney. The GOP seems to be coming to the realization that they have to nominate somebody, so it might as well be Mitt Romney.
But Romney's sudden downgrade from Republican frontrunner to potential also-ran coincided with a massive shift of conservative Christian voters in South Carolina to Gingrich's camp.
Why? Many observers trace it to lingering suspicion among evangelicals — a key Republican constituency — about Romney's Mormon faith.
And that has led some to suggest that Romney needs to make a speech about his Mormonism along the lines of John F. Kennedy's defense of his Catholicism to Protestant leaders during the 1960 campaign.
So could Romney pull a Kennedy? Should he?
Mike Huckabee, an evangelical favorite who sought the GOP nod in 2008, told Fox News after Romney's South Carolina implosion that the time had come for Romney to give it a shot.
"I do think he ought to address it," Huckabee said, arguing that such a speech would "sort of dismiss it, make it less important."Top of Form
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But few political observers, and apparently even fewer Romney's allies, appear to be urging that step.
For one thing, the tracking polls in the GOP contest over the past months have registered more spikes and dips than an erratic electrocardiogram. Romney's cardiac moment in South Carolina — and his continuing struggle heading into Tuesday’s Florida primary — needs to be seen in that context.
"I think it was more a result of Newt Gingrich catching fire combined with a pretty tough week for Mitt on issues like taxes and income," said David French, a social conservative and Romney ally who with his wife, Nancy, just published a book, "Why Evangelicals Should Support Mitt Romney (and Feel Good About It!)."
"It's a pretty conventional narrative — at least by the conventions of this very volatile race," French added. "If there was any blanket anti-Mormon sentiment, then Mitt would not have been up to begin with."
When Kennedy addressed the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in September 1960, it was only two months before the November election, and he did not have to worry about his Democratic base the way Romney has to worry about securing the GOP base to win the primaries.
Kennedy's chief task in 1960 actually was not to convert his audience; they were already a lost cause, and he knew it. What the Kennedy campaign hoped to do was to influence the 23 percent of the wider electorate who were still undecided.
"The campaign's polling showed that yes, if Kennedy could paint himself as a victim of anti-Catholic bigotry, that will move people your way," said Shaun Casey, a professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary and author of "The Making of a Catholic President: Kennedy vs. Nixon 1960." And it worked.
Romney's "religion" problem is about numbers as much as theology. As Casey notes, Kennedy's other task in Houston was to rally his Catholic base, which he did. But rallying an already strong GOP Mormon base wouldn't do much for Romney.
While Kennedy had a Catholic population of 40 million behind him — about one-quarter of the electorate, concentrated in key battleground states — Mormons today number just about 2 million, and are geographically concentrated in the Mountain West in mostly reliable red states (with the exception of toss-ups Nevada and Colorado).
Romney already gave a "Houston" speech — and it didn't work. Back in 2007, Romney was struggling to overcome evangelicals' doubts about his Mormon faith. While the speech was well received, it didn't move Iowa caucus-goers back then, and a second speech now would likely not convince suspicious evangelicals in Florida (and beyond).
Romney's biggest task is convincing conservative Christians that he is a conservative, not that he is a Christian.
Evangelicals have shown they are happy to back all sorts of unorthodox candidates – Herman Cain being a perfect example. Evangelicals may not love Mormons, but they are really down on moderates. Indeed, Romney is arguably "not Mormon enough," Richard Land, a top Southern Baptist official, said on the eve of the South Carolina vote.
"If his stance on life and his stance on marriage had been consistently what the stance of the Mormon church has been, he would have far less doubts among social conservatives," Land said.
Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a top evangelical political activist, said he doesn't think Romney's Mormonism will necessarily preclude him from winning evangelical votes or the GOP nomination, so he doesn't need to make the Kennedy speech at this point.
"Bottom line is," said Reed, "he may need to address it as the campaign proceeds, and he may choose to address it as part of a speech down the road."
In Florida, which is more diverse and less ideological than South Carolina, cooler heads could prevail if Romney can exploit his advantage in minions and millions. He has had the airwaves largely to himself for weeks, accompanied by a superior organization. Romney's campaign is in attack mode now – a sign that the campaign shares the Washington insiders' anxiety.
“The process is working and there's still time for voters to decide,” said Wilson. “Romney's greatest appeal continues to be the 'electability argument' and as long as he continues to raise the money needed to fuel his organization, he'll be in the contest. The other candidates remaining in the race don't have organizations on par with Romney so in many ways they're playing catch up.”
The New York Times Contributed to this report.
Zack Burgess is the enterprise writer for The Tribune. He is a freelance writer and Editor who covers culture, politics and sports. He can be contacted at zackburgess.com.
Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan does not add up to be a good deal for most Americans.
The businessman and Republican presidential nominee’s signature tax proposal is a regressive plan that would unfairly hurt low-income and middle class Americans by requiring them to pay more in taxes while giving a big tax break to the rich.
Cain has risen in the polls based on his folksy and brash style, his business experience, being a nonpolitician and his bold 9-9-9 tax plan. The plan calls for a flat 9 percent personal income tax and corporate tax, plus a new national sales tax of 9 percent.
Cain denies that his plan would hurt those making the least. But most liberal and conservative tax experts who have looked at the plan say that it does.
An independent analysis by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank said in a release this week that Cain’s tax proposal would increase taxes on 84 percent of U.S. households, hitting low- and medium-income households the hardest. The analysis said that households making $10,000 to $20,000 would see a tax increase averaging $2,705 — an increase of nearly 950 percent.
However the rich would get big tax cuts under Cain’s plan according to the analysis.
Under Cain’s plan, current taxes on income, payroll, capital gains and corporate profits would be eliminated and replaced with a 9 percent tax on income, a 9 percent business tax and a 9 percent national sales tax.
Most liberal and conservative economists conclude that sales taxes tend to hurt low income families the most because they spend more of their income than the rich.
Cain’s plan would exempt used items. However it would not exempt food or medicine from sales tax.
Cain said his plan would create zones where people and business could get additional tax deductions, which would reduce taxes for low-income people. However the plan does not provide specifics on how that would work.
An analysis of Cain’s plan shows why he is a favorite of the billionaire Koch brothers which have funded tea-party causes.
Cain’s plan is simple and catchy but it does not benefit working Americans.