Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO seems to be less involved in a race for the 2012 Republican nomination than in a race to offer one of the most inept campaigns in recent memory. Forget the quick melt down of Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Cain’s damaging comments, his handling of the sexual harassment allegations in a way that suggests Mel Gibson was contracted to handle his damage control, and his decision to kiss off and p-off New Hampshire’s biggest and legendarily conservative Republican newspaper were PART of the gift that keeps on giving. And here is the lates gift: he says Occupy Wall Street is a danger to America.
In New Hampshire on Thursday, Cain accused the protesters of “trying to destroy the greatest nation in the world” with plans to stop traffic and subway commuters. He accused them of trying “to infringe upon people’s right and liberty to go to work.”
He isn’t alone in criticizing Occupy Wall Street — a movement that seems to have totally consumed some of the leftist and rightist ideological radio and cable talk shows. Mitt Romney:
The previous day, Romney told conservative commentator Sean Hannity in a radio interview that the demonstrators are lawbreakers. “I salute the fact that the mayors have finally wakened up to this,” said Romney, referring to actions in New York and elsewhere to remove the OWS tent cities. “I wish they had done it earlier.”
But the difference here is glaring.
Romney — who never met a position he couldn’t change or a sentiment out there that might get him votes that he couldn’t co-opt — is critical but not painting it as a danger that will cause the American Republic to crumble.
Cain is increasingly unable to talk in terms that can remotely be appealing to anyone except Glenn Beck Fans. He rose in the polls because he seemed a blunt spoken, likable, candid, conservative self-made businessman who conservatives felt could be a strong anti-Romney. Some compared Cain to a modern Ross Perot –and it seems he is on his way to suffering the same ultimate fate (political oblivion) but for different reasons. Cain has not totally fizzled in the polls but former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is clearly on the ascent and poised to replace him as the anti-Romney. And Cain is now the first GOP Presidential candidate in the current race to get Secret Service protection.
Now he seems to in a mode where he is avoiding or and providing reporters with quotes and becoming the kind of person a candidate does not want to be: a quote machine famous because he a)talks outside the mainstream b)appears to be on the verge of being almost a bit of a nutcase. He is at a) and seems to be working hard to to reach b )if he suggests Occupy Wall Street is a threat to America.
The sad part for Cain will be this: Cain’s ascent was rapid and it looked like he had a real chance to defy the pundits and experts and become the GOP nominee because of his appeal and seeming candor. Both of those factors are now in quick decline.
One note on Occupy Wall Sreet: those of us who lived during the Vietnam War can’t help but feel a sense of deja vu over how each side is reacting to the demonstrations.
America’s left has become almost obsessed with the demonstrations themselves. Liberal radio and cable talk shows are focusing on OWS ad naseum and giving further evidence of how liberal talk can be as tiresome and predictable now as right wing talk. To listen and watch some od these programs, you’d think that the number one issue facing America is how the demonstrators are treated and that the country’s freedom of speech is danger of being taken away. Any attempt by mayors or police to contain or control the demonstrations are being painted as repression — but few mainstream folks on the left are (yet) using that Vietnam era word.
And those on the right are virtually taking all the old rhetoric hippies…kids who are supported by parents…why don’t they get a job…far leftists…) from the Vietnam era. Conservatives are trying to play the 1960s all over again with the way they paint OWS while liberals seem to see it as a chance to recapture what they see as the nobility, courage and political impact of the days when the public finally turned on the Vietnam war.
Demonizing is much more exhilarating than taking a slow deep breath.
Which is what Herman Cain should do.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.