Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Finally Figured Out Herman Cain

He doesn't want to be President. He wants to be famous, and he's following the Sarah Palin/Mike Huckabee model to add notoriety to his fortune.

Like Palin and Huckabee, Cain has no chance of becoming President Of The United States. However, he does have enough pizza money to finance a campaign that gets him known all over the country, sell lots of books, and ensure that he'll get a big contract for his next one. It gets him hired to give big-money speeches to both business groups and political sideshows for years to come. It gets his name and face on media outlets that he could never reach as CEO of Godfather Pizza.

When that's the goal of your campaign, it almost doesn't matter what you say or do, as long as it's simple enough to resonate with a portion of the American public that's barely paying attention. That's why Cain's numbers in GOP polls are so high.

But forget what the people in Iowa say. They chose Mike Huckabee in 2008, ahead of Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson (!), and eventual nominee John McCain. What did Huckabee do with the attention those caucuses brought him? He got a book deal, lots of speech gigs, and a spot on Fox News Channel -- just like Palin.

If the goal is getting famous instead of getting elected, you can put out bizarre campaign material like the Cain ad that appeared yesterday, in which his chief of staff Mark Block talks right into the lens about "taking back America" while standing outside a building -- finishing by taking a drag on a cigarette and blowing smoke at the camera. I have no idea what the message of those last few seconds is, unless by "taking back America," Block wants to somehow get revenge on all those non-smokers who forced nicotine addicts like him to stand in the cold while inhaling their tobacco fumes.

Or he's the new spokesman for the Occupy Lung Disease movement.


Regardless, the commercial doesn't accrue to Cain's benefit, but it does get him more attention, and that's what this is all about. That's why he can continue promoting his 9-9-9 tax plan despite numerous reports that it would increase the burden on the middle class while giving more breaks to millionaires like him. When you're not really trying to be President, you don't have to offer specifics on foreign policy ("I'd ask my advisers," he told David Gregory on "Meet The Press"). You can make ridiculous comments about building an electrified fence along the US/Mexico border, then claim "it was a joke" and blame critics for not having a sense of humor, but then repeat that you'd still build it.

Cain is a businessman, and I gather he's pretty good at making money, but I don't know if he makes a good pizza -- there's no Godfather outlet here, and even if there were, I prefer my pizza to come from a local place, not a chain. However, his coffers are sure to swell (as well as his ego) from all of this, and he's sure to exploit the opportunity for as long as anyone will pay attention.

Which I guess, if you'll pardon the biblical pun, makes the media a Cain enabler.