How Do You Solve a Problem Like Herman Cain?

November 26th, 2011

By Dan Miller

Herman CainOur country is suffering from depression and humor deficiency syndrome.

I thought Herman Cain had very good shots at winning the Republican nomination and the presidency before I thought he was toast.  Like many other serial flip-floppers, I’ve changed my mind. Again.

There are positions in which Mr. Cain would be a failure. He might not be a very good nun, for many reasons.

Nor would he be a great Messiah — we elected President Perfect in 2008 and look how it turned out.  Nor does the President need to be a technocrat or an instant expert on foreign policy.  Here is a Washington Times editorial comparing Mr. Cain to President Reagan in the area of foreign policy. It notes,

One of the digs at Ronald Reagan before he was president was that he lacked a keen grasp of foreign policy. The former actor and California governor had never had to grapple with those questions firsthand. Surely, critics argued, he couldn’t match the abilities of people with real-world experience like George H.W. Bush or John Connally. Once in office, Reagan demonstrated that principle and vision could more than make up for inexperience. He had a good plan and stuck to it; the rest was just a matter of details.

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is taking a page from the Reagan playbook. Like the Gipper, he believes in a policy of “peace through strength,” but he has added “clarity” to the familiar slogan, something that’s been in short supply lately. Lack of clarity has been a major weakness of the Obama administration’s approach to international relations. Too often, the United States has appeared dithering, or its stances have been ambiguous. (Emphasis added)

Hardly a moonbeam but currently a headache for the Republican establishment, Mr. Cain just might, like Maria in The Sound of Music — thought by some not be be an “asset to the abbey” — be able to “out pester any pest,” “drive a hornet from its nest” and “throw a whirling dervish out of whirl.” We suffer from many pests, foreign and domestic; hornet sting are hurting us and whirling dervishes are whirling out of control in the Mid East; they are not animated by love.

I posted a short article at PJ Tatler on November 20th commenting on this video of Mr. Cain’s November 18th appearance on the David Letterman Show:

There had been a post at the American Thinker Blog entitled “Cain steps into Letterman’s lion’s den and gets devoured.” To the contrary, Messrs. Cain and Letterman both seemed to be having a grand old time. Throughout his appearance, Mr. Cain demonstrated the good, gentle and effective humor we need.  There was nothing bitter, nothing narcissistic and nothing that seemed to suffer from the debilitating illness of political correctness. Asked about the campaign spot with his campaign manager puffing on a cigarette, he said

We have a saying in the campaign: let Herman be Herman, let Mark be Mark. Let’s let people be people. He smokes; so he was taking a smoke…. It was on the internet. We thought maybe people would notice.

That was appealing and I heard him say nothing politically correct during the entire show.  When asked how he differed from Donald Trump he said, “He’s White, I’m Black…. He is three inches taller than me.”  Had he responded seriously and tried to delineate policy differences with Mr. Trump, he would probably have been cut off mid-sentence — as happened frequently even when he was joking, as he was doing most of the time, and as people seemed to be laughing with (not at) him.  He nevertheless did quite well with the few substantive statements the format of the show permitted and which Mr. Letterman’s questions elicited.

I wonder how William F. Buckley would have dealt with an appearance on the Letterman show. He

was self-deprecating and … his humor derived from both his love for humanity and his skepticism of the human condition. In listening to his friends recount how witty he was, particularly on “Firing Line,” the debate show he hosted for 33 years, I couldn’t help but notice how little wit exists in our current political debate….

The loss of Buckley’s wit is a major loss to our political discourse. His self-deprecating style and wit were instrumental in making issues, not individuals, the center of debate; in creating a tone that allowed honest debate to occur; and in engaging folks who cared about, but weren’t obsessed with, politics. In short, it was a balm to many of the problems folks complain infect our political discourse today.

Bill Buckley, in the eyes of many, came across as an elite and snobbish intellectual with a tremendous command of big words; I liked him despite his apparent snobbishness and intellectualism.  Mr. Cain gives no appearance of either. Nor would he be the sort of president to whom we have become accustomed in recent years.  I wrote that Mr. Cain had responded inadequately to complaints about his apparently inconsistent positions on abortion and to accusations of sexual harassment; I now think I took those matters too seriously.  His non-traditional campaign — perhaps because it has been non-traditional — may turn out to have fewer problems and more pluses than I (and many others) had thought.

We don’t need and probably don’t even want a typical president now. Many from the past haven’t done us much good. Ronald Reagan, hardly a typical president, had a “natural born,” well developed, apparently spontaneous and self deprecating rather than forced and narcissistic sense of humor;  he used it effectively without seeming bitter because he wasn’t.

I Am The OneWe haven’t had a president about whom that could be said justifiably since President Reagan completed his second term and left office in 1989.  He was a good antidote to his predecessor, President Carter. Might Mr. Cain be as good an antidote to President Obama? Even his former great admirer, Chis Matthews, now says that President Obama probably relishes his title but not his job and that after being elected he lost his connection with the American people.  Maybe he doesn’t particularly like people either, except in the sense that fleas like dogs.  President Reagan enjoyed his job and people; I sense that President Cain would as well.

I suggested here, in an article at PJ Media in October of 2009, that we were losing our national sense of humor and that what little remained had more than a tinge of bitterness and hate.

It is difficult to laugh when bitterness prevails and the urge to cry is so great, and it is difficult to get out of such a mess without a sense of humor. …

True, comedians still exist and some make lots of money. The jokes about Governor Palin during the recent presidential campaign produced laughter, and those about former President Bush and Vice President Cheney did as well. However, they and the laughter they produced were largely grounded in — and promoted — bitterness and the associated hatred. The few jokes directed at President Obama were much the same; there were then and there are now very few, because of the racism charges almost certain to be thrown at those making and laughing at them. Those accused, even wrongly, of racism are generally punished severely. “Code words” are found, and even unspoken and unintended words are heard subliminally and apologies must be forthcoming, even though they are not generally accepted.

One of the comments opined,

When your country and constitution are being systematically destroyed before [your] eyes by a tyrranical [sic] government only a jackass would search for his sense of humor.

Jackasses? Beats me; there are too many of them to permit a reliable humor census. But we humans should find and reinvigorate our senses of humor.

Stand-up comedians, of whom there are many, haven’t been notably successful recently in stimulating a lighter mood in the country; neither have been, nor are likely to be, other assorted jackasses clowns of today. Will Rogers and a few others from the past were.  However, the United States has no need for a clown as the President; President Reagan was by no means a clown and neither is Mr. Cain.  We do need a president capable of  establishing a lighter mood and since President Reagan there have been none.

A national leader with a real and “natural born” gentle sense of humor could not, on that basis alone, save the country from her grim economic situation. Nor could he make Iran, the Wall Street protesters, North Korea, Syria, Egypt, Islamists, cancer, hemorrhoids, acne — or even our unhappy memories of President Obama — vanish. It would be a shame if our unhappy memories, particularly of President Obama, were to vanish; we need to hold them in our memories in order to avoid more of the same in our future. Mr. Cain might, however, be able to take our focus off our manifold problems sufficiently for us to regain our collective common sense and solve them. It is very difficult to think clearly and to act effectively when depressed, and our country is depressed.  If and when the nation regains her humor and her common sense, we will have less difficulty thinking clearly about our problems, finding viable solutions and implementing them.

The solutions, some of which will very probably be unpleasant initially, are there and have yet to be implemented.  Technocrats might be able to devise solutions but getting them implemented is not something a technocrat is likely to be able to accomplish.  A spoonful of sugar does make the medicine go down and a good dose of gentle humor may work even better than sugar.

Prehistoric Politician DiscoveredWith a spoonful of humor viable solutions, which have been rejected as too unpalatable to be implemented by many “Honorable Members” of the Congress, just might get enacted.  If he is nominated to be the Republican presidential candidate, Mr. Cain’s coat tails during the next election may even help some actually honorable members get or keep seats in the next Congress. I suspect in any event that Mr. Cain would work well with the next Congress if for no reason other than his ability to charm. He might even be able to “unreset” our relationships with foreign nations, something that also needs to be done.  Charm is important and President Obama has neither used nor displayed much of it.  Sugar works better than vinegar; and that’s the truth.

(This article was also posted at Dan Miller’s Blog.)

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6 Responses to “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Herman Cain?”

  1. Tom Carter |

    I remain convinced that Herman Cain is toast. He just doesn’t know it yet — or doesn’t care. Personable, affable, funny, authentic, yada yada. All those things. I always liked Jack Benny, too, but I don’t think he would have made a good president. Sure, Reagan and Lincoln loved telling stories, laughed at themselves a lot, and were good presidents. But beneath all that, they had great political skills, had a sound and practical vision of where they were going, and had a lot of relevant experience. Cain fails on all those measures.

    If I had to bet on the outcome of the primaries, I’d put my money on Romney. If Republicans really want to defeat Obama next year, they’ll do the same thing.

  2. Dan Miller |

    Perhaps, Tom. But even toast has redeeming qualities. I have been told that it’s good for an upset stomach and know that it tastes great with lots of butter and honey.

    Currently, the United States is suffering from worse than a troubled tummy and the bitter taste is becomming more pronounced.

    My often defective crystal ball and Ouija board are broken, having been thrown with great force against the most convenient cement wall due to their incompetent predictions. Nevertheless, after once again consulting my old and reliable deck of cards I am confident that, as a very competent and rational gentleman, you will eventually come to see things my way.

    Governor Romney? Sure. If he’s the Republican nominee I’ll cast my vote for him as a vote against President Obama. But then if my pup Princess were to get the nomination I’d vote for her even more happily. On second thought, she might have to move to Washington and I might have to accompany her as FPOTUS (First Pet of the United States). Not good.

  3. Tom Carter |

    I’m sure there are many people like you, Dan, who will vote for whomever the Republican nominee is — and I’m one of them, almost. I retain the option of just not voting, as I did in 2000. I suspect there are also a lot of people like me, and the Republicans could lose a lot of us by nominating the wrong candidate.

    Now, if the ticket were your dog and my cat, I’d definitely vote for them. How could do they do worse?

  4. Dan Miller |

    Now, if the ticket were your dog and my cat, I’d definitely vote for them.

    Don’t be hasty lest you flip flop. Would you like to live in Washington as the SPOTUS (Second Pet of the United States)? True, it would be worth it to have President Obama out of the White House. Still, some sacrifices are simply too great to bear.

  5. Dan Miller |

    Is it possible that some of these accusations might yet be made against Mr. Cain?

    “My fellow citizens, it is my patriotic duty to inform you of some disturbing facts about my opponent.

    “Are you aware of the fact that the Senator is a known sexagenarian? He is a flagrant Homo sapiens who for years has been practicing celibacy all by him­self. He has been seen on repeated occasions masticating­ in public restaurants, and he even vacillated once on the Senate Floor!

    “In fact, your senator is a confessed heterosexual who advocates and even participates in social inter­course in mixed company.

    “He habitually visits the YMCA, where he frequently engages in abdominal exercises, while at the golf course he perpetrates horrible lies.

    “His very home is a den of propinquity. The place is suffused with an atmosphere of incense, and there, in the privacy of his own residence, he practices nepotism and extroversion with members of his own family.

    “Now let’s take a close look at the salubrious acts committed by the members of the Senator’s family:

    “It is a controvertible fact that his father, who died of a degenerative disease, made his money publishing phonographic magazines and distributing pamphlets about horticulture.

    “His mother was a known equestrienne who nourished colts on her country estate and practiced her diversions out in the field.

    “His daughter, who is powerfully attracted to sects, is a well-known proselyte, who accosts lay people outside of churches.

    “Not surprisingly another daughter pursues a hortative life and offers advice filled with hoary platitudes.

    “His son matriculates openly at Harvard University and is a member of an all-male sextet.

    “For many years his sister was employed as a floor­walker, and she practiced her calling in some of our city’s best department stores.

    “His brother was known to consort with numismatists­ and philatelists and spent three years living in a Buddhist colony.

    “His uncle, a purveyor of used condominiums, goes to movies almost every night and has turned into a heroine addict.

    “His aunt is so susceptible to moral suasion that she has been pushing for oral hygiene in our schools.

    “And at this very moment the Senator’s wife is off in wicked New York City living the life of a thespian and performing her histrionic acts before paying customers!

    “Now I ask you. Do you want a man with such an explicable and veracious reputation occupying public office and setting an example for our youth, who under his influence might convert to altruism?

    “Clearly a vote for my opponent is a vote for the perpetuation of all we hold dear. A vote for me is a vote for the very antithesis of the American way.”

    Thanks and a tip of the hat to the unknown original author.

  6. Tom Carter |

    I suspect many of our fellow citizens would be horrified to hear these outrageous charges. That would include many of our recently graduated students of high-class expensive universities.

    Reminds me of the real case of a white employee of the D.C. government. He used the word “niggardly” in the context of a budget discussion. His fellow employees immediately branded him a racist and filed complaints. He was fired. Later, he was re-hired when better educated folks got involved.

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