The US presidential race was rid of another pretender to the throne this weekend, as frontrunner Herman Cain suspended his campaign. The limelight proved too much for Cain, whose campaign was fatefully undermined by numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, with women coming forward claiming to have been molested by Cain or to have had extramarital affairs with him. While he was clearly an unfit candidate, running more for the attention and the book sales, it is incredible that it took these serious charges of sexual misdeeds—rather than his decidedly bizarre policies— to finally unseat his candidacy.
For those of you that have not been following the Republican race for the presidency very closely, Herman Cain became the newest frontrunner in the race about a month ago, replacing the verbally challenged ex-Texas governor Rick Perry as the Tea Party favorite. And how was Cain qualified to run for president? Because he ‘created jobs’ as CEO of the nation’s 8th most profitable pizza chain, Godfather’s Pizza. On this basis, and his willingness to toe the Tea Party line and spout anti-tax slogans at every opportunity in the debates, he had actually become the front-runner in the race to secure the republican nomination. His crown jewel in economic buffoonery was his insistence that, if elected, he would have created a 9-9-9 tax plan (apparently inspired by the computer game Sim City). Forget the intricacies of a progressive tax system. Cain’s plan would have fixed the personal income tax, the national sales tax, and the corporate tax rate at 9 percent. While this would have raised taxes for 84 percent of Americans, it clearly resonated with the electorate, who apparently prided simplicity in a tax code over silly things like practicality. Cain also demonstrated his incredible commitment to sharing a level of intellect consistent with the average Fox news viewer by claiming that China had no nuclear weapons, by dithering over which side the US was on in Libya, and by refusing to name the president of “Ubeki-beki-beki-bekistan,” as he called it. He was lauded as a breath of fresh air, a job creator bringing his private sector experience to Washington. Never mind the niggling fact that as CEO, he actively cut jobs. This is the same man who told Occupy protesters not to blame the rich or Wall Street for the nation’s economic troubles; in his words, “If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.”
One wonders whether Herman Cain was a legitimate candidate for the nomination, or merely an entertainer under the employ of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, such was his willingness to play the fool and provide the comedy hosts with constant parody material. More likely, he was an ideologue and a megalomaniac who entered the campaign to profit off the media circus. How he’ll turn the damning sexual allegations to his advantage remains to be seen.
Perhaps more incredible than the fact that Cain was a frontrunner in the first place is the candidate who has replaced him. Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, is possibly the only politician carrying more potentially damaging baggage than Cain. Gingrich has been a fixture in US politics for decades, boasting a career has been characterized by numerous affairs, severe ethics violations, and immense hypocrisy. Disgraced and fined in 1994 for accepting illegal contributions and tax fraud, he left Congress and became a lobbyist, representing the special interests that he so decries on the campaign trail today. Gingrich has made a career of taking political doublethink to a level previously unseen, appearing to genuinely believe pithy conservative talking points while shamelessly opposing them politically.
His list of stupendous hypocrisies is long and illustrious, and ranges from him claiming to be a model Christian while engaging in countless affairs, actively lobbying for ‘death panels’ in 2009 and opposing them on the campaign trail, and most heinously, leading the charge for Clinton’s impeachment over lying about his dalliances, whilst simultaneously engaging with an extra-marital affair of his own. This is a man who led the Republican charge into Congress, trumpeting the superior social values of conservatism, and shortly thereafter left his cancer-stricken first wife for a mistress, who he later married, and left in favor of a woman 33 years his junior. Thus replacing the embattled Cain with Gingrich is astounding. The willingness of a Republican Party who consistently claims the higher moral ground on marriage to consciously ignore Gingrich’s remarkably Cain-esque transgressions robs them of any last shred of credibility they may retain. While Gingrich, an expert in exchanging donations for political favors, is clearly unfit to govern, by the Republican Party’s own (admittedly dubious) social criteria, he is worse than Herman Cain. And that’s no mean feat.