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Posted at 04:10 PM ET, 11/10/2011

Herman Cain jokes his way to the top


Herman Cain likes to say “America needs to get a sense of humor.” He’s not wrong in that assessment. With all the problems facing the nation, retaining the ability to laugh at ourselves and each other might be the only thing getting us through these tough times. Rick Perry’s handling of his “oops” moment is a prime example of laughing your way through adversity. But Cain has used humor throughout his improbable campaign not only to paper over deficiencies in policy knowledge but also to jab at critics. Jabs that are so stinging, hard-edged and unbecoming a potential president that he almost always has to walk them back — kind of.

In criticizing the failure to repeal the health care law, the former chief of Godfather’s Pizza called the former speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, “Princess Nancy” at the debate last night. “That was a statement I probably should not have made,” he said on CNBC immediately after the debate.

Of course, Cain being Cain, apologies are never unconditional or uncomplicated. Today in Michigan, an irked Cain said, “I apologize for calling her ‘Princess Pelosi,’ if that’s the biggest story you all have, okay?” Asked to explain why he apologized, he said, “So you all will stop asking me about it, okay?” Okay, then.

This is the same tactic Cain used when his hardy-har-har over electrifying a border fence that would kill illegal immigrants who touched it was deemed unfunny. First, he apologized saying it was a joke. Then he apologized while standing by his electrified-fence position. “I just don’t want to offend anybody,” he said at a press conference in Arizona on Oct. 17. Too late.

Cain is good at offense. Did you catch what he said about Gloria Allred? She’s the celebrity-seeking attorney for Sharon Bialek, who went public with her graphic allegations of sexual assault against Cain when he was head of the National Restaurant Association. Cain was a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live the same evening of Nov. 7 when the host asked him, “Have you considered hiring Gloria Allred as your attorney?”

Uh…you almost made me say something that my handlers say you should not say…but let me put it to you this way: I can’t think of anything that I would hire her to do! Ok (laughter) I can’t think of a thing.

Gee, whatever could he mean?

Given the way Cain has run his campaign, handled his response to very serious and multiple allegations of sexual harassment against him and his obvious lack of policy depth, there’s no way he should be in serious contention for the Republican nomination for president. Yet, he remains high in the polls. And he’s raising money hand over fist, $9 million since Oct. 1 to be exact. It’s only a matter of time before the Republican primary voters rallying to his side learn that the joke’s on them.

By  |  04:10 PM ET, 11/10/2011

 
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