There are plenty of reasons not to take Herman Cain seriously as a presidential candidate. There is one, however, that is rarely mentioned. And it is more important than the ones the media are talking about.
The ones getting all the attention from the commentators are not without merit. The most recent reason it is said Cain may be unelectable is the sexual harassment charges from his time running the National Restaurant Association. His mishandling of the story, contradictory comments and failure to come clean make Bill Clinton’s remarks about Ms. Lewinsky look like a case study in candor.
Lacking any real defense, he and his supporters have gone on the offensive by charging the media and his critics with racism and conducting another "high tech lynching." That worked for Clarence Thomas — a man who makes little attempt to appear awake while in court and has not asked a question there in the last five years.
It is interesting that race is being used to attack those who think Cain should be honest about his past. Another reason not to take him seriously is that he will never get the nomination from the party of choice for racists. No, not all Republicans are racists, nor are all racists Republicans. But Lyndon Johnson was an optimist when he turned to Bill Moyers as he signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and said that Democrats had lost the south for a generation.
The hysteria on the right over immigration would not exist if the illegal immigrants were white. And the fact that building ten-foot fences on the border would only create a market for eleven-foot ladders shows Republicans like to ignore real solutions and love to play the race card. They have written off the Hispanic vote to pander to their racist base. So while they may find him entertaining, Cain is not going to be the nominee of Republicans.
Another reason not to take Cain seriously is his pandering to another core constituency of the Republicans: the rich.
In the interest of appearing objective, the media often try to consider seriously ideas that range from the ridiculous to the absurd. Take Cain’s plan to tax everything at nine percent. This is coupled with his desire to abolish two other taxes — the capital gains tax and the inheritance tax — paid almost exclusively by the wealthy. The result of his 9-9-9 plan would be a massive shift of the tax burden from the richest Americans to the poorest and the middle class.
Cain’s assertion that his plan would be fair and neutral shows the degree of his dementia or his dishonesty. Only under the most wildly optimistic assumptions and by using supply-side, voodoo economics does his plan generate the same amount of revenue as the existing complicated tax structure.
One definition of a fair tax is one that someone else pays. For Cain, that someone is anyone not bringing home an upper six-figure income. His plan would result in a more perfect plutocracy and should dispel any doubts about the Republican Party being a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of Koch industries. If he were the candidate, however, the electorate would begin to start paying attention, do the math on and figure out they would bear the burden of his take on tax reform.
But there is another reason that should matter more than any of above. Yet it does not seem to enter much into the debate. Never before in this nation’s entire history from the founding fathers to the current occupant of the White House has a man become president without having had been elected to some other office first or having had significant military or other government experience. Cain may have been able to build a better pizza and he did lobby to keep smoking in restaurants, but there is nothing in his resume that would lead to the conclusion that he is qualified to be president.
There are those, like the tea party and other political nihilists, who are so disgusted with the way Washington serves the rich and no one else, that they would welcome this. In their opinion, having no experience is the best experience for the next person to run our government. That is like saying that, because medical care has become so expensive, the best surgeon is one that did not go to medical school.
So let’s all forget Herman Cain and let the Republicans resume their search for a candidate who is not a Mormon.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Dennis Jett, a former U.S. ambassador to Mozambique and Peru, is a professor of international affairs at Penn State's School of International Affairs.
McClatchy Newspapers did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy Newspapers or its editors.