How do you Solve a Problem like Herman Cain?

Our 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: Sorry, the video originally posted was removed and this one has an advertisement. Oh well.

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 One.

We 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 discovered.

With 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.

About danmillerinpanama

I was graduated from Yale University in 1963 with a B.A. in economics and from the University of Virginia School of law, where I was the notes editor of the Virginia Law Review in 1966. Following four years of active duty with the Army JAG Corps, with two tours in Korea, I entered private practice in Washington, D.C. specializing in communications law. I retired in 1996 to sail with my wife, Jeanie, on our sailboat Namaste to and in the Caribbean. In 2002, we settled in the Republic of Panama and live in a very rural area up in the mountains. I have contributed to Pajamas Media and Pajamas Tatler. In addition to my own blog, Dan Miller in Panama, I an an editor of Warsclerotic and contribute to China Daily Mail when I have something to write about North Korea.
This entry was posted in Abortion, Conservatives, Herman Cain, History, Letterman, Political Correctness, Politics, Republicans, Role Models. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to How do you Solve a Problem like Herman Cain?

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  5. boobuns says:

    silly conservatives, always thinking the President is their ‘Messiah’ or Savior …

    I mean seriously, Romans 13 is a book of nonsense. Obama is NOT appointed as leader by God.

    And the fact that anyone would even consider Cain a viable candidate says a lot..

    America is doomed. Sorry 🙂

    • And the fact that anyone would even consider Cain a viable candidate says a lot..
      America is doomed. Sorry

      That’s a possibility, I suppose. However, if President Obama is reelected it’s a probability.

  6. Thanks, Bette.

    I’ve never had an opportunity to see Mr. Cain in person, but just watching videos of his various appearances has impressed me very favorably. He has an appeal that is difficult to define other than as Reaganesque and yet he is an original, not merely a Reagan clone. I hope some of that sense came through in the article.

  7. Here is a November 20th statement by Mr. Cain expanding on his views about what the foreign policy of the United States should be, “Peace through strength and clarity.”

    • Bette says:

      Now Dan, I really like the blog on Hermann Cain. None of those who are in the top three are impressing me particularly. Having seen Hermann take the stage in person, he was very very ‘large’ in the way that he filled the room with his personality and rhetoric. The multitudes in attendance were representative of NYC conservatives; a rare breed, but they exist and they loved him………………and then the smear.

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