The Washington Post

Ginger snaps Cain: The end of a presidential campaign

It was only a matter of time before the improbable high-flying book-tour-as-presidential campaign of Herman Cain crashed to earth. The former honcho of Godfather’s Pizza and one-time flavor of the month (Black Walnut, to be exact) could handle neither the scrutiny nor the demands that come with seeking the most difficult job on the planet. Cain tried to bluster his way through his difficulties, using a combination of humor, righteous indignation and an unsettling reliance on race. His “campaign” was indeed entertaining to watch and proved a treasure trove of material for scribblers like me. But it was an uncomfortable spectacle that earned its Twitter hashtag, #CainWreck (h/t @goldietaylor).



I’ll give Cain this much. His engaging personality drew people in. His “9-9-9” plan gave them something to chew on. Unfortunately, it was policy gristle. Once people, pundits and policy wonks moved beyond the superficial to the substance of the proposal, “9-9-9” didn’t hold up. Even Cain had trouble explaining it just as he had trouble explaining his perplexing position on abortion.

Nowhere was his trouble with policy more galling than in foreign affairs. From China to Libya to “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan” Cain proved himself unprepared and unqualified to sit in the Oval Office.

CHAPTER TWO: Rhetorical excesses

For better or for worse, part of Cain’s appeal is that he is a man without a filter. There are so many examples of Cain’s excesses that this utterances fell into three distinct buckets. “Reckless,” “illogical” and “yes/no.” He repeatedly said that “America needs to get a sense of humor.” His own jokes would repeatedly go over the line. Cain’s plummeting poll numbers after his many campaign missteps showed that Republican primary voters finally realized that the joke was on them.


Cain reveled in his role as the only African American in the GOP field. But he had a “race problem.” Even before the allegations of sexual harassment surfaced, he invoked race in the most unfortunate ways.

Responding to criticism from other blacks, Cain told Sean Hannity, “I left the Democrat plantation a long time ago.” He said that blacks were “brainwashed” into staying in the Democratic Party. Cain said that the establishment was “doubly scared that a real black man might run against Barack Obama.” And just last month, Cain claimed erroneously that as “a descendant of slaves I can lead the Republican Party to victory by garnering a large share of the black vote.” Wishful thinking.

When the sexual harassment accusations broke, Cain and his conservative allies played the race card with abandon. “Our blacks are so much better than their blacks,” Ann Coulter famously declared. And yet these same people said nothing as Cain’s lack of preparation and policy depth proved that infamous utterance wrong on a daily basis. His campaign was an insult on so many levels.

CHAPTER FOUR: The accusations — and the end

Despite being given 10 days to address the initial allegations made against him by a news organization that moves stories to the Web at the speed of sound, Cain engaged in epic blame-shifting. Those in the cross hairs included the liberal media; the Rick Perry campaign; a vast left-wing conspiracy of anti-black-conservative racists; and the “Democrat machine.” It was an epic exercise in self-destruction. But it would be Ginger White, a single mother in Georgia who alleged a 13-year sexual friendship with him, that would bring the #CainWreck spectacle to an end.

(h/t on “Ginger snaps Cain” to @rduggie)

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.


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