When Herman Cain comes to town on Thursday, Oct. 18, it will be but one of many stops on his robust road trip. In fact, it will be stop No. 27 of 30 on his College Truth Tour.
Cain makes the point of his tour very clear. As the official website collegetruthtour.com states, “How do we ensure that a student doesn’t walk across the stage to get their diploma and go straight into the unemployment line?” It doesn’t require a detective to understand why this message would resonate particularly close to the students he refers to.
Cain himself has been a politically polarizing figure, but that hasn’t stopped him from claiming that his tour has nonpartisan intentions.
“This is not a Republican, Democrat, conservative or liberal issue,” his website states. “This is not about any particular president, congress member or corporate leader. This is about the facts. This is about the Truth.”
Quite an honorable endeavor. And if that was all there was to it, then I suppose this would be a much shorter article. But one of the advantages of being stop No. 27 is that there are records of what he said at the previous 26 locations.
Which is why I must ask: If this isn’t a conservative issue, then why did he tell students at the University of Miami that “I believe we must take the conservative message to college students,” as reported by the Miami Hurricane?
And if he intends to have a discourse on economic policy and not get dragged down into the battles of the politicians themselves, then why did Central Michigan Life report that he declared to a crowd at the University of Central Michigan that “politicians propose stuff that will pass. Businessmen propose stuff that will fix the problem”? That sure sounds like a dig on politicians to me.
Even the subject matter has been inconsistent. Sure, he has spent plenty of time talking about the tax code, government spending and “ObamaCare,” all matters that obviously affect the employment opportunities for college students on a very direct level. But that Central Michigan Life article also mentioned that he announced: “We are the Saudi Arabia of coal.”
Besides for those majoring in coal mining, this point hardly seems salient.
On an even more fundamental level, Cain can’t even seem to develop a consensus on some basic personal details.
In talking about the wonders of the American Dream to the Central Michigan crowd, Cain brought up an inspiring tale of personal persistence when he asked the audience, “Do you think I ever imagined by age 60, 62, I’d be running for president of the United States? Only in America can that happen.”
The very next day, Cain dutifully answered that question with a resounding “yes” when he told the audience at Michigan State, as reported by the State News, that as a child, he was determined “to be vice president of something, somewhere.” Then he promptly added: “And I almost pulled it off.”
The point of this is not to make it seem like Cain is some sort of terrible, manipulative liar. While he has been guilty of several contradictions, that shouldn’t be seen as an indictment of his intentions.
By every account, he doesn’t seem to be using this tour to further any personal political ambitions. In fact, he has repeatedly denied any interest in running for president ever again. With political blemishes quite like his, why would you?
The point is to illustrate that college students should be wary of anyone who appears under the guise of friendship, presenting a helping hand and waving a bouquet of “unbiased” information, advice and friendly discussion. To expect that Cain has nothing but our best interests at heart is foolish.
He may not be seeking to further his own political image, but he is most certainly serving as an ambassador for conservatism. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
But what is wrong is that we have to pretend that he’s here to just pat on us the back and offer himself in camaraderie.
Let’s not be naïve. Maybe there is some part of Cain’s College Truth Tour that is rooted in altruism, but it would be a small minority at that. The overarching goal is to further the conservative cause, specifically in terms of economic policy. That is exactly what Cain, who was rapidly accruing conservative followers in the Republican primaries just several months ago, would be expected to do.
So let’s not sugarcoat why he is speaking to students on Main Campus. Be honest with your intentions, Mr. Cain. Because if there’s one thing I hate more than worrying about my employment prospects, it’s being lied to.
Zack Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ZackScot11.