Herman Cain's Glib Confusion

Does the Republican candidate know what he's talking about?

For a while during last Tuesday's Republican debate, it wasn't clear if Herman Cain was running for president of the United States or the Fruit Vendors Association. Responding to a criticism of his "9-9-9" tax plan, Cain said, "This is an example of mixing apples and oranges. The state tax is an apple. We are replacing the current tax code with oranges."

When more criticisms came, he again took refuge in the produce aisle. Cain was not taking a position on apples, but he was stoutly in favor of oranges, and he was adamant that they should never be placed in the same bag.

What the exchanges revealed is that Cain lacks a flair for metaphor as well as a working grasp of his own platform. He emphatically denied the charge that his 9 percent business levy would function as a value-added tax. But the analysis commissioned by his own campaign, which he urged everyone to read, takes a somewhat different view.

"Each business would pay tax on gross receipts less payments to other businesses," it explains. "Allowing the subtraction of payments for intermediate goods yields the value added by the company. Subtracting investment as well yields a subtraction method value-added tax (emphasis added)."

Obviously, the Herminator has managed to avoid contact with the most basic facts about his own tax plan. He describes it in terms that even his own advisers reject. And he exhibits no curiosity about what it contains. Cain brings to mind basketball great Charles Barkley, who complained of being misquoted—in his autobiography.

The danger of anyone becoming president without any political experience is not just that he doesn't know many things, but that he doesn't know what he doesn't know. Cain has an additional problem: He doesn't know what he thinks.

Not that he is bashful or tentative in expressing his opinions. On the contrary, he is all blunt candor and glib certitude. The problem comes only afterward, when he has to take responsibility for what he said.

He stated that he would not appoint any Muslim to his cabinet or to the federal bench. Then he said he meant only Muslim "extremists." He said, in a tone of complete seriousness, that he would put up a fence along the Mexican border to electrocute intruders. He then claimed he was only joking.

He said he could imagine exchanging all the inmates in Guantanamo to win the release of a single American soldier. Then he claimed he "misspoke."

Cain refused to disclose what policy he would follow in Afghanistan, on the ground that "there is obviously a lot of classified information to which I do not have access." That lack of information did not stop him from opposing this year's U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq—though, in all fairness, he may not realize the pullout was agreed to by President George W. Bush.

His latest bit of inadvertent news making came when CNN's Piers Morgan asked him about abortion. Cain replied that "it's not the government's role or anybody else's role to make that decision. ... So what I'm saying is it ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make."

It's a perfect expression of party sentiment on the subject of abortion—Democratic Party sentiment. Cain doesn't seem to comprehend that this position would automatically disqualify him from the Republican nomination.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum did realize it, asserting that "Herman's pro-choice position is similar to those held by John Kerry, Barack Obama and many others on the liberal left."

But then, Cain doesn't seem to realize what his position on abortion is. In an earlier interview, he insisted, "I don't think government should make that decision," while saying, "I'm pro-life from conception" and "abortion should not be legal."

He says that two plus two equals four and then says it equals five and then says he is being perfectly consistent. What's more, he actually seems to believe it. At least until he is forced to backtrack in a fog of confusion.

Cain's big achievement up to now was serving as president and CEO of Godfather's Pizza. But at the rate he's going, Americans will soon start to wonder if he knows the difference between a thin-crust pie and the box it came in.

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  • ||

    And he makes shitty pizza.

  • Cain as muddled as libertarian||

    Libertarian: We hate big-government regulation!

    White Indian: Let us degregulate the big-government Land enTitlement program's artificial lines drawn upon Mother Earth to restrict free movement of people.

    Libertarian: WE NEED GOVERNMENT!

  • Officer, am I free to gambol?||

  • Deregulation is Insane!||

    A message from the Soviet Libertarian Psychiatric Institute of Anti-State Political Dissent.

    Soviets. Libertarians. All agricultural city-Statists.

    "Agriculture creates government." ~Richard Manning, Against the Grain, p.73

  • Officer||

    No. Stop asking.

  • ||

    White Indian: Let us deregulate big-government's property entitlement programs. You have no more right to the deerskin loin cloth that you're wearing than the rest of us, and besides it restricts your free movement IYKWIM.

  • NotSure||

    Making no sense has never hindered a politician before.

  • ||

    if Chapman could only get it right, i.e. Cain also turned around Burger King's N.E. territory.
    so, according to Chapman's logic, because he missed the above information he is confused and doesn't know what he is talking about when it comes to Herman Cain...
    or the box calling the pizza awful?

  • SIV||

    Cain has the advantage of never having held elective political office, plus, he's not Romney.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Romney had private-sector experience, you know.

    In fact, Republican primary voters have several choices if they want someone with actual private-sector experience. Cain delivered pizzas, Paul delivered babies, and Romney did investment-type things (but not on Wall Street!).

  • Fatty Bolger||

    You missed one - Gary Who? started his own construction company at the age of 23 with one employee (himself) and grew it into one of New Mexico's top construction companies with over 1000 employees.

  • Almanian||

    AH - so he's an Evul Corporashun! I'll sway away from him, thanks!

  • Almanian||

    In addition to SWAYING away from Mr J, I will also STAY away from him.

    *staggers off*

  • anonymous commenter some guy||

    Plus he has plenty of executive experience and the rugged good looks of a... never mind.

  • Len||

    He sat on a Fed board of governors, now granted he did not have to be elected, but that's certainly a political office.

  • Fluffy||

    Cain's participation in the Federal Reserve hierarchy is, to me, much more damning with regard to "insider" status than having been governor of a state. Gary Johnson was governor of a state, but Ben Bernanke is more of an insider than Gary Johnson.

    And I'm a little stunned by his gross mishandling of the abortion questions he got last week.

    Everyone already assumed you were pro-life, dude. All you had to do was just be pro-life. How hard is that? How do you mess that up? I'm pro-choice and not even I could mess these questions up as much as he did.

    I'd like to see him perform better but right now his campaign bus is a clown car.

  • Joe M||

    No, he's just one clown. The GOP nomination is the clown car.

  • Rhywun||

    His position on abortion seems perfectly consistent if one accepts that personal belief =/= policy. But I can see how that's unacceptable in Party politics.

  • BradP||

    "I don't think government should make that decision,"

    and

    "abortion should not be legal."

    Are perfectly contradictory statements regardless of belief. And if you have a personal belief that government shouldn't make personal decisions regarding abortion, yet you still support policy outlawing abortion, that is probably worse.

  • Rhywun||

    People go "there oughtta be law!" all the time. Even the President doesn't get to make up laws. But we're supposed to pretend that every thought in their head is going to translate into policy. But yes, I agree he'd be better to shut his mouth on the topic - if he wants the job.

  • Len||

    Presidents make laws all the time, either through their departments making regulations (which do everything that laws do), or through executive orders.

  • Fluffy||

    That's awesome - if you're running a pro-choice campaign.

    Do you think Cain intended to be the pro-choice alternative in the Republican field?

    That's what I'm dumbfounded at.

    He obviously does not intend to be a pro-choice candidate. That should make answering abortion questions simple.

    All he had to do was NOT differentiate himself from the rest of the field on this issue and it's a settled topic that never comes up again.

  • Maxxx||

    Maybe people are sick of the hysteria on both sides of the abortion issue. Republican have been running on that issue for decades and nothing has changed. There is nothing incoherent about saying that abortion is wrong and should be minimized but that complete legal prohibition is unworkable. I don't think that makes someone "pro-choice" any more than being against the drug wars makes someone pro-drugs.

    The truth is that almost no one wants the law to outlaw all abortions and treat them like murders. Only the most raging operation rescue nutjob would be willing to prosecute women that have abortions, or eliminate the rape and incest exemption. Which is nonsense if your position is that abortion is murder. No one gives a woman a pass for killing her own children, even if they are the result of rape or incest.

  • Tony||

    But plenty has changed. Republicans have been doing everything they legally can to restrict access to abortion, especially since they took over a lot of statehouses in 2010. They're going to make it a civil rights issue all over again.

  • ||

    what access has been limited, tony? Your side was trumpeting the virtues of partial birth for a while, a procedure so hideous that even some pro-choicers find it indefensible. Excesses from one side are often a pendulum swing back from excesses of the other. I'm with Cain on this one - just because I believe something does not mean the govt should have a law enforcing my belief system.

  • ||

    what access has been limited, tony? Your side was trumpeting the virtues of partial birth for a while, a procedure so hideous that even some pro-choicers find it indefensible. Excesses from one side are often a pendulum swing back from excesses of the other. I'm with Cain on this one - just because I believe something does not mean the govt should have a law enforcing my belief system.

  • The Unborn||

    Fuck off.

  • ||

    No one gives a woman a pass for killing her own children

    Are you sure of that?

  • anon||

    Only in politics does being honest preclude one from holding office.

  • ||

    hello, stop the b.s.
    isn't the REAL issue the Gub'mint isn't in budget reality and still keeps spending, spending, spending...
    why do you think the MSM is bringing up all these side issues, hoping that someone stumbles giving Owebama a sound bite to drill into everyone's head...
    stick to the subject and don't let the MSM lead you around...

  • Fatty Bolger||

    He's not a politician, and he lacks a politician's skills. Which are, mostly, the ablility to sling bullshit, pander, and still stay on message all at the same time. (See also: Things that turn Steve Chapman on.) People who are successful at jobs that require actual results usually underestimate how difficult this is.

    Still... Cain seems to have a bit of a natural teflon coating, so it hasn't hurt him too badly so far. I don't know if that will be enough when they really start gunning for him, but it will give him time to do some prep work, if he's willing to take it.

  • sarcasmic||

    Cain seems to have a bit of a natural teflon coating

    That's just the color of his skin you racist fuck.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Paul doesn't strike me as slick, but his enemies haven't been able to find many examples of Cain-style backtracking. I suppose Paul's campaign must be a well-oiled spin machine!

    Romney actually looks like a President and he has experience in glib talking. Yet that hasn't protected him from being caught at taking out multiple positions.

    Unlike Paul, Cain has a private-sector background where giving clear, consistent messages to the public is vitally important. How do you think you market pizza? Godfather's slogan was "the pizza you can't refuse" - talk about staying on message and capturing the public's short attention span! And he helped run a restaurant lobby group - again, a chance to hone his public-communication skills.

    If he comes across as incoherent, it's not because, oh gosh, he's just a simple businessman without experience in communicating things to the people. It's because he's still trying to figure out what he believes - or what he wants the public to believe he believes.

  • Forked-Tongue Libertarians||

    Have libertarians yet determined what they want the public to believe they believe?

    • Zero Government!

    • We Need Government to protect our [x] rights!

    Which way is it?

    Or are both positions merely debate conveniences, much like the non-aggression "principle," for libertarians who speak with forked tongue?

  • Rhywun||

    I do not think the word means what you think it does.

  • say the word...||

    ...and quit obfuscating, Rhywun.

  • ||

    that's forked up logic....NO ONE has advocated zero govt, except for the morons at OWS. Govt's job IS to safeguard our rights and liberties, the ones outlined in the Constitution, not the pseudo rights that interest groups, politicians, and unelected bureaucrats manufacture from thin air.

  • wareagle's ZEROGOV lie||

    NO ONE has advocated zero govt

    BULLSHIT.

    There is even a commenter here who goes by the name "ZeroGoverment."

    Even Reason itself does.

    Somalia has been doing better without an effective central government...

    The Anarchy Advantage in Somalia
    Brian Doherty | December 27, 2006
    http://reason.com/blog/2006/12.....e-in-somal

    I would like to be a zero-government libertarian. ~Milton Friedman

    Best of Both Worlds
    Milton Friedman reminisces about his career as an economist and his lifetime "avocation" as a spokesman for freedom.
    Brian Doherty from the June 1995 issue
    http://reason.com/archives/199.....h-worlds/3

    You've been called on your bald-faced lie, wareagle.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    "I would like to be a zero-government libertarian" is a far cry from "I believe there should be zero government."

    Particularly if the very next part of the quote was, "...but I don't believe that ever would work in reality" or some such words.

    And a report saying that Somalia has done better without an effective government than it was before also is not the same as advocating for zero government here in the U.S.

    In short, STFU, moron.

  • ||

    one person does not define an entire way of thinking or did the public school system fail you, too. It's like saying OWS is indicative of Democrats.... uh, wait...bad analogy.

    People who can think, which excludes liberals, understand that govt has a place. It's in the Constitution and everything, or did you miss that part, too. Write back when you can show how we should be more like Somalia.

  • MrGuy||

    Has everyone forgotten that zero-government is actually called Anarchy?

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Ron Paul first ran for office in the mid 70's, so I don't know what kind of problems he had with this back then. I'm betting it was a rude awakening for a beloved obstetrician, though.

    Romney has flipped positions depending on the voter base he's trying to appeal to at the moment. You just know that every time he does it, though, a strongly representative, multi-panel focus group has approved everything he says beforehand. Bullshit, pander, and stay on (today's) message.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I think my point is that to grow his business and his lobbying, Cain developed (or already had) public-relations skills - he's not an innocent babe in the woods on this front. But even with great communications skills, he needs a coherent message to communicate.

    Paul *still* hasn't fully gotten all the skills of public communication, though he's clearly improved. And his message is sufficiently consistent and principled that people can get him.

    If Cain doesn't know if he's advocating a VAT or not, that doesn't make him a charming gosh-i'm-new-to-this-politics-thing outsider. It makes him someone who hasn't grasped the policy he's advocating.

    If Cain goes both ways on abortion, it's not because oh-look-he's-so-authentic-and-honest-and-doesn't-use-spin-doctors. It's because he hasn't thought much about abortion - a very important subject on which plenty of people in the private sector manage to have clear opinions without being politicians. Or it means he's *too much* of a politician and is trying to use the same fancy work tricks other politicians use when trying to get votes from both sides of the abortion issue.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    I agree with all of that. You may be reading more into what I said than is there. I meant it quite literally - he doesn't have the political skill, and like most non-politicians, thinks that it's a lot easier than it really is.

    That isn't a reason to vote for Cain. However, I'm not a big fan of people like Chapman, who are mostly interested in political gamesmanship and would use it to try to disqualify him. I recognize the skills involved in running for office - but do not admire them, or think they necessarily translate to good governance.

  • F Hart||

    Dumb Ass Quote of the Day:

    "Managers produce management."

    - From a self-proclaimed ancom.

  • H Fart||

    Dumb Ass Quote of the Day:

    "Libertarianism produces liberty."

    - From a self-proclaimed ancap.

  • JT Florida||

    I'm just baffled by these "empowerment zone" or "opportunity zone" things he is talking about. The whole idea of 9-9-9 is to get rid of the complexity and the social engineering built into the current tax system. Creating these zones has the government picking winners and losers all over again. What criteria will determine which areas are designated as one of these zones? How long before businesses and individuals in these zones start lobbying to get this status and the whole corrupt process of people lobbying to get their special carve out in the tax code starts all over again.

  • Somalize opportunity zones!||

  • Rhywun||

    "What criteria will determine which areas are designated as one of these zones? "

    Insufficient access to pizza.

  • Maxxx||

    How long before businesses and individuals in these zones start lobbying to get this status and the whole corrupt process of people lobbying to get their special carve out in the tax code starts all over again.

    Did you really think that would stop?

  • rather||

    Since Cain's proposal has had media traction, both Perry and Bachmann are singing about their own flat tax.

  • rather||

    He was just on Fox explaining he was played by a reporter; he has the public empathy.

    Everyone is tired of the professional politician; all the right answers but no follow through

  • MrGuy||

    You mean like the non-politician Obama? Man, he's been fantastic about his follow-through.

  • pas cher ugg||

    only.....

  • sarcasmic||

    If his plan goes into effect, all that will happen is that the federal government will have a new tool for social engineering - a sales tax.

    Before the ink is dry on this new tax it will be increased for this and decreased for that, in effort to encourage or discourage people from purchasing certain politically correct or politically incorrect products.

    Before you know it the federal sales tax code will be ten thousand pages of bullshit.

    Fuck that.

  • ||

    Good point. But the feds can pretty much use any kind of tax as a social engineering tool. I don't think a sales tax would ever pass anyway.

  • Privation Prop. = social eng.||

    Privation Property is the social engineering that libertarians crave.

    Let us degregulate the big-government Land enTitlement program's artificial lines drawn upon Mother Earth to restrict free movement of people.

    Officer, am I free to gambol about forest and plain?

  • Officer||

    No

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Damn, did someone fart?

  • Maxxx||

    The benefit of a sales tax is that it's in your face every day that you make a purchase. The public resistance to increasing it, once past a very low level, can be extreme.

  • Concerned Citizen||

    His sales tax proposal reminds me too much of the first Bush's Luxury Tax. 10% tacked on to luxury cars, yachts, and jewelery. Killed the domestic yacht industry, and paid out more in unemployment benefits to former yacht builders than it brought in.

  • Almanian||

    I had such high hopes for the Hermanator - but this last week he's just gone full retard.

    And that's why I'm voting for myself for President.

  • anonymous commenter some guy||

    I'm voting Gary Johnson until he's out.

    Then I'm voting Ron Paul until he's out.

    Then I'm voting Almanian, unless GJ or RP come back as an independent.

  • Joe M||

    Since this is the first election in which I'll be old enough to legally qualify for the post, am I also voting for myself.

  • ||

    I was hoping Cain would win so that I could accuse liberals of racism every time they complained.

  • ||

    I like Cain but I'm to the point I don't know what he stands for. Take a position, take shit from the liberal press on said position and move on.

  • anonymous commenter some guy||

    I really hate the abortion issue. Who cares what a candidates stance on abortion is? It's not like there's much he can do about it. You'd need a constitutional amendment and the President has no part in that process. The only thing he might be able to do is sign bills regarding things like late-term or partial-birth abortion...

    It's such a small issue to compared to everything else that's going on out there.

  • ||

    Who cares what a candidates stance on abortion is?
    --------------------------------
    liberal media types talking to conservative candidates. It's the media way of ignoring the things most folks are actually talking about and distracting the public by painting this righty or that as wanting to regulate people's private lives. Cain was clear that his view did not equate to an executive order, but how many in this uninformed populace got that far. Seriously....the economy has tanked, the debt keeps going up, Obama is ushering in sharia law states in the ME, but the media wants to play gotcha games with Repubs on abortion.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    ^this^ (anonymous commenter's point).

    Even if a candidate came out and said, "I will end legal abortion in the U.S. and make sure that Congress enacts legislation banning abortion nationwide," that's a far different thing than actually getting such legislation passed - which no candidate ever would. I cannot imagine an outright, nationwide ban on abortion getting enough traction in Congress to make it to the President's desk.

    And if it did, the next election cycle, there would be a bloodbath and all those who voted in favor would find themselves trying desperately to hold on to their seat in Congress. And the next Congress could very well repeal the legislation.

    To an extent, it's akin to the gun control issue. The gun control types can whine and bitch all they want, but the reality is that the majority in the U.S. are not in favor of more/stricter gun control laws, and as the Dems found out in 1994, it would be political suicide to try it. Although there still are a few in Congress who evidently did not get that memo.

  • anonymous commenter some guy||

    I cannot imagine an outright, nationwide ban on abortion getting enough traction in Congress to make it to the President's desk.

    Thanks for the support, but I'm not even talking about the political ramifications of Congress banning abortion. They couldn't even try to do it without first amending the Constitution or drastically alterring the Supreme Court. Thanks to Roe v. Wade you can effectively ignore politics when it comes to abortion... unless you expect a bunch of SCOTUS judges to leave the bench in the near future...

  • Derivative||

    When the income tax was put in place, the top marginal rate was 7%. In one election cycle is was 77%. 9,9,9 becomes 9,9,99

  • ||

    the income tax affected a very small minority; sales taxes cover everyone. Good luck with the notion of raising it by any amount, let alone an astronomical one.

  • Derivative||

    Cain frequently transposes the subjects and the objects in his sentences. It's like a mental disorder.

  • Derivative||

    Does anyone find it weird that his name mean Mr. Man Cain. The last guy the GOP had was John McCain. Cain is also a bad guy in the Bible. Just saying...

  • ||

    Cain is also a bad guy in the Bible.

    No, no, no! Cain was the gamboler, the one who got railroaded when he tried to discourage that city-statist Abel from drawing imaginary lines on Mother Gaia to secure his enTitlements!

  • cynical||

    Nope, Cain was the farmer, Abel was the wanderin' shepherd.

  • ||

    So true; I got it backwards. Then White Indian is right: the city-statist killed the gamboler.

  • SiliconJon||

    Have no doubt, Cain is a Newspeakian, a master of doublespeak, and a wagon of groupthink. Just look at his blatant lies regarding the Federal Reserve and his treatment of those who heckle him on the matter. He claimed there's "nothing" to audit, that the Fed is a transparent agency, even though they fought to the end in court to resist any such transparency. Cain also claimed questions regarding Federal Reserve secrecy were ignorant, but he didn't call them ignorant.

    Herman Cain, Chairman (of one sort or another) for the Federal Reserve for over 7 years.

  • ||

    Questions about whether Herman Cain knows what he's talking about ring a little hollow from someone who justifies the monetary expansion without differentiating the provision of liquidity during the crisis and the subsequent attempts to reinflate the economy.

  • Derivative||

    his "Alan Greenspan" answer in the debates kicked ass!

  • ||

    The brilliance of it: All everyone is talking about now is tax reform. Every other issue is, rightfully, being cast aside. Tax reform is long overdue, and whether Cain's plan (its just a plan, there's a looooong process to it ever becoming law) is the right one or not, there is now a general acknowledgement that the existing system is not working and it should be replaced.
    I look at it this way: I know I'm not voting Obama, and most people here know that they aren't either, so it almost doesn't matter who gets the nom, now does it? (I still hope it's Cain, though, I like him, can't help it)

  • ||

    I'm surprised more people don't consider a Cain vote just to let a black guy get hated by the MSM for four years or so. That would be instructive if predictable.

    We'd probably get the Canuck pipeline, which would frenzy the all-white eco-rad crowd but not minorities for the most part.

    I sort of like that he was CEO of a shitty suburban pizza chain. He's a symbol of what every lefty AGW-cult eugenicist wants destroyed so that conformist fashion designers and party promoters can be free to gambol about the depopulated plains in a Volt with the Ravonettes on the energy-efficient stereo. He's swarthy, not a foodie, talks kinda rough, loves capitalism and
    chunky chicks, what's not to love?

  • Derivative||

    Don't you understand the meme that sucessful black people need to "give back"?

    You can't just take your sucess and become President.

  • ||

    as we've seen, a liberal black man can become president having had absolutely no success whatsoever. He just can't sound like, well, like a black man, as VP Joe said during the campaign.

  • ||

    Exactly. I don't see any signs that the guy would be a disaster. Not a godsend either, probably he'd maintain the status quo for the most part, but he'd come with the side benefit of disowning the left of its favorite weapon. Some of these people are so genuinely convinced of their righteousness, I don't think they have a filter on the things they say at all. Let the freaks come out and show who they are.

  • Ron Paul||

    I know more than anybody else. I can fix the country. please let me win!! why won't you listen to me?

  • MSM||

    We've already chosen our winner and it isn't you.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    You've got a point there, Ron. Reason is probably the only blog/periodical that comes close to endorsing Paul. Being an O.T.T. conservative talk show host candidate isn't the best strategy, but trying to unite code pink and conservative republicans isn't a winning strategy either.

  • geo49||

    HC has more integrity in his little finger than any career politician on this planet.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Come to think of it, does Steve Chapman know what he's talking about? He has a lot of opinions, but I've been told a number of times "the fewer the facts, the stronger the opinions".

  • Rockatansky||

    If Cain drops off sharply, who picks up his support? Romney seems to be running on his hair. It won't be Perry. Gingrich? Ron Paul is still the best candidate not named Gary Johnson.

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