Herman Cain, when he launched his presidential campaign, had the benefit of being unaffected, cheery and candid. As his profile and poll numbers rose — and the criticism increased — some unattractive aspects of his personality have emerged, quite apart from whatever you think of the allegations of the four women accusers.
For one thing, there is now a Newt Gingrich-like indignation about scrutiny by the media. The New York Post reports:
[In Friday’s] radio interview, Cain said he was now under extraordinary scrutiny.
“I call it flyspecking. Every word I say now is going to be flyspecked by somebody, and somebody who does not support Herman Cain, they’re going to try to spin it into a negative,” Cain said.
It’s extraordinary, actually, that this should come as a surprise to him, and a disagreeable one at that. He is, at least ostensibly, running for the presidency. Was he perhaps expecting a coronation, rather than a contested election in which his positions, experience, gaffes and character are all considered (at least by everyone else) to be fair game? Does he imagine that only positive commentary should come his way, or that criticism from people who don’t support Herman Cain (there’s that third-party usage again) is somehow illegitimate?
This hostility toward criticism perhaps is understandable, since he contends God selected him. He seems to mean this quite literally, as opposed to the sentiment that he “found his calling” or that he prayed for God’s guidance.
Herman Cain, whose campaign could use some redemption in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal, told a crowd of young Republicans on Saturday that God convinced him to run for president and that he “prayed and prayed and prayed” about it.
The Republican contender made no mention of the allegations from former subordinates at the National Restaurant Association. But his comments here were accented with more than the usual references to his faith and his calling to politics.
“I prayed and prayed and prayed. I’m a man of faith, I had to do a lot of praying for this one, more praying than I’d ever done before in my life. And when I finally realized that it was God saying that this is what I needed to do, I was like Moses. ‘You’ve got the wrong man, Lord. Are you sure?’ ” Cain told a crowd of over 100 people at the Young Republican National Federation, an event hosted by the Georgia Young Republicans at the Westin Peachtree Plaza.
No mention was made of a burning bush.
This is more than a little troublesome. Pols who think they’re selected by God naturally would think they are above criticism, and, I suppose, would consider those seeking to block his nomination as apostates. And what does that say of his opponents: They are confused if they think they too were chosen? Or are they acting contrary to God’s will in blocking his path?
From the get-go, Cain has shown an indifference to what Americans have come to regard as essential qualifications for the presidency — a working knowledge of public policy, a track record in the public sector and a professional campaign that reflects his organizational prowess. What most would regard as a lack of qualifications, he dresses up as groundbreaking. But if one is so arrogant to believe that one has won the God primary, all of this is irrelevant, I suppose.
Cain has escaped deserved criticism from many on the right who have been charmed by him or felt compelled to defend the not-Obama, non-racial narrative that was central to his original message. But perhaps it’s time for them to consider whether his expressed self-image — if not “a sort of God,” then “designated by God” — and his lack of basic knowledge should be taken as a flashing red light. Conservatives, of all people, should be wary of a presidential contender whose messiah complex is entirely at odds with his abilities.