It’s been a time to forget for Republican Presidential Candidate Herman Cain. Several days after finding himself atop the Iowa Caucus with 23 percent in the Des Moines Register poll on Oct. 30, Cain has met several key pitfalls in the waning weeks.
First, was his presidential campaign advertisement that went viral on the Internet causing several television personalities to create their own advertisement rendition: Thank you, Stephen Colbert. If you haven’t seen it, you must be living under a rock because it was nothing short of ridiculous.
The advertisement was a one-minute video spot of Cain’s campaign manager, Mark Block, explaining to the American people that Cain will “run a campaign like nobody’s ever seen, but then, American’s never seen a candidate like Herman Cain.”
Block was certainly correct in that statement as seconds later, the video cut to an extreme close-up of Block’s face with a lit cigarette in his mouth and a dramatic ‘80s dance-club tune in the background with a woman proclaiming “I am America!” How riveting.
It doesn’t take much to understand how insane this advertisement is. A man running for the U.S. Presidency set up an advertisement–on the Internet no less–that looked like a mockery of the Oval Office.
In an interview with “Face The Nation” with Bob Schieffer on cbsnews.com, Cain defended the advertisement, explaining its message was to be interpreted as “No one has ever seen a presidential candidate like Herman Cain.” His uniqueness, he continued, was imbedded in Block’s character. “Mark is a smoker,” Cain said, “Let Mark be Mark.”
I understand Cain’s bid for his advertisement, but has anyone told him that he’s running for U.S. president, not high school class president? There seems to be an invisible code for presidential campaigns–a professional and conscientious line that Cain has crossed.
The advertisement highlights Cain’s biggest bear in the political race: lack of political experience. Cain was the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza and established himself as an unlikely front-runner for the republican candidacy.
Yet any learned politician would have gawked at the advertisement, just as I did when I saw it. Cain, please, explain to me how smoking a cigarette signifies, “Let Mark be Mark.” There are plenty acceptable ways to get the message across in a much less controversial way. But as the old saying goes, “any press is good press,” right?
Not so fast. The “Thank You for Smoking” advertisement was cheeky to say the least, creating more controversial buzz than earnest negativity, but Cain has also come under fire for allegations that he sexually assaulted women he worked with at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
It wasn’t the allegations that came under intense scrutiny, but rather Cain’s shifty response to those accusations. First, he denied any knowledge of the settlements made by the NRA with the women. Then once he began to formulate acknowledgement, he first pointed the finger at the media, then at a consultant working for Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign. Whew.
The fortunate part about all of this is the fact that Cain remains a strong candidate for the presidential bid amidst the developing scandal. The unfortunate part is that his support may not last. While the campaign advertisement offered fresh debate for the ongoing republican babble, the sexual allegations will see the downfall of Cain.
It pains me to say this, as I believe Cain’s trademark 9-9-9 tax plan, which outlines 9 percent sales tax, 9 percent income tax, 9 percent corporate tax, is more innovative and fresh than his advertisement. Before anyone debunks Cain, details were offered on his tax plan that he said would reduce taxes both for people who are poor and businesses that invest in low-income areas.
Cain maintained that his plan was misrepresented at first as reports suggested his initial plan was altered after backlash against its income tax raise, yet a provision was offered in his original plan that would essentially allow those people who are at or below the poverty line–$22,000 annual earnings–to pay no income tax. This poverty provision offers a 9-0-9 scheme for those at, or below, the poverty line.
Yet, when it comes down to it, the U.S. presidential candidacy has become less for the innovative and more for the irreproachable. The key to a successful campaign lies not with the successes of a candidate’s policies, but with his or her character. The less baggage a candidate has, the more acknowledgement they are given.
It may not be that Cain is not fit for the presidency. It just may be that the presidency is not fit for Cain. His policies are fresh and his character is one-of-a-kind, but his fervor in proving himself as a unique candidate may come back to haunt him.
Riley Loula can be reached at email@example.com.