Editorial by John Ziegler
My Night With Herman Cain and Why He Isn't Finished Yet
I have seen a lot of strange scenes in my life and career, but few could ever top the Herman Cain event I attended Monday night for its pure “Alice in Wonderland” feel.
I was among about 300 conservatives who attended a private speech the presidential candidate had been scheduled to give for weeks. When dinner was delayed awaiting his arrival, some of us wondered if Cain was going to cancel due to the obvious firestorm surrounding the numerous allegations of sexual harassment which came to an apparent crescendo earlier in the day with a Gloria Allred sponsored press conference. As it turned out, the delay was only due to typically bad LA traffic from Jimmy Kimmel’s studio to the hotel.
Any doubt about how supportive this group would be of Cain was erased immediately when he finally walked in the door and received an extended and nearly unanimous standing ovation as he tried to make his way to his seat through the adoring crowd. While this reaction did not surprise me (as proven by the testimony of even O.J. Simpson, accused celebrities tend to get notoriously positive reactions in person), I found it to be sad, pathetic and politically dangerous.
Cain was treated like a rock star throughout his address receiving numerous standing ovations, including when he promised that the next day’s press conference would be a “smackdown…only we are going to be doing the smacking!”
It was almost as if we had entered an alternative universe where reality had no power. I am honestly not sure if Ronald Reagan had risen from dead whether he would have been treated as enthusiastically as Herman Cain.
To be fair, he was an absolutely hilarious and fantastic speaker. But to say his words were wafer thin for a leading presidential contender would be an insult to the width of wafers.
There was only one moment when reality briefly reared its ugly head. That was when, after at first appearing be the first guest speaker ever to not take questions from this group, Cain returned to the podium and said he had time for two questions.
As fate would have it, I got the chance to ask the second question.
After joking with him that we might be able to get rid of the national debt by putting a debate between him and President Obama on pay-per-view, I reminded him that many of the voters who will determine the winner of the next election don’t know who he is yet and warned him they will be educated by a media more than able to destroy him like they did Sarah Palin. I then asked him to please convince me that in such an inevitable atmosphere that he could possibly defeat a media darling like Obama.
His answer basically boiled down to a delusional hope that conservatives could go around the media to educate voters to the truth. He then slipped into bombastic platitudes and left the stage to yet another standing ovation (which at least gave me the chance to slip out the back and get to the front of the line for the valet).
It was very clear to me that what I witnessed was strong evidence that while he would need a miracle to win the nomination and absolutely would get crushed in a general election, that Herman Cain is not going to fade away immediately. His supporters simply want to like him too much and are way too invested in is success to let the truth get in the way of their fairy tale.
Then came Tuesday’s “smack down” press conference and Cain certainly didn’t disappoint his supporters when it came to standing strong. The visual setting and the audio were perfect. Cain’s new southern lawyer was commanding. Cain himself was eloquent and defiant during a statement that was neither overly read nor memorized. His answers to the remarkably tame/softball questions were all well executed. He emerged without a new mark on him.
At least for now.
However, his strategy seems to be to not just “double down” but go “all in” that each of his many accusers are flat out lying and that only he is telling the truth. This is not only dangerous because it practically invites even more accusers, but also because you can make a very strong argument that Cain’s campaign has already lied (or, to be extremely charitable, radically changed their story) at least twice during this saga regarding knowledge/nature of the settlements and who is behind the stories.
In short, only those who have already drunk the Kool Aid are going to believe Cain’s story, but those who have, probably will.
But if you were going to throw a Hail Mary pass, Cain’s was a least a spiral and Fox News (by far the most important out let in a Republican presidential primary) was more than willing to try and catch it. The panel of buffoons known as “The Five” which followed the press conference gave Cain rave reviews with only the lone Democrat giving his performance just a “B” instead of an “A.”
Meanwhile, the Drudge Report (the second most important outlet in a Republican presidential primary) once again clearly took Cain’s side, benignly highlighting his nonsensical conspiracy charges and attacks on his accusers.
I continue to point out that the conservative media has a profound financial/ratings self interest to prop Cain’s candidacy up and that they have been incredible soft on him to date. You can decide for yourself if those two facts are connected.
So we are now in a situation that is beyond bizarre. A guy who is not qualified to be president and who can’t possibly win a general election is leading the Republican race and his supporters don’t seem to care that he is at best a fraud (for reasons that have nothing to do with his treatment of women) and, at worst, a “monster” as one of his accusers has now called him.
The reasons Cain’s base of support (I am guessing at least 10 percent of the Republican primary voter population will stay with him no matter what) isn’t going to completely leave him are as fascinating as they are frustrating.
First, they desperately don’t want to nominate Romney and they see Cain as that last viable alternative. Second, they have a startling lack of understanding of (or simply don’t care about) the harsh realities of a general election against Obama. Thirdly, they understandably hate the news media so much that they refuse to believe anything negative about their guy (especially when Gloria Allred is attached), even when they would buy the very same allegations about a liberal in a heartbeat. Fourthly, the conservative media has kept their customers largely in the dark about many of Cain’s most blatant vulnerabilities. Fifthly, the fact that he is black acts like a Teflon shield easily deflecting any doubts from conservatives who instinctually fear attacking a person they so desperately want to be the man they hope him to be. Finally, the desire of conservatives to have their own Obama or Clinton is so great that it overwhelms their rationality and prevents them from accepting that the rules (written by liberals in the media) simply don’t allow for that.
The whole thing is beyond depressing and makes me further question the entire movement. What is most wretched personally is that I am quite sure that, just like with Sarah Palin, I will be further unfairly attacked for simply pointing out the obvious truth about a presidential contender whose nomination would certainly lead to four more years of President Obama.
I am beginning to believe that this result may be exactly what we deserve.
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