In the Arena

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

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It’s sort of fun to watch as the right-wing press attempts to handle the phenomenally unprepared and unworthy Herman Cain with kid gloves. Here, for example, is the neoconservative Weekly Standard, explaining Cain’s cluelessness about neoconservatism on Meet the Press:

 “Would you describe yourself as a neoconservative then?” [David] Gregory asked.

Like any good Socratic neoconservative, Cain answered the question with a question: “I’m not sure what you mean by neoconservative?  I am a conservative, yes.  Neoconservative?–labels sometimes will put you in a box. I’m very conservative, but…”

“But you’re familiar with the neoconservative movement?” Gregory asked.

“I’m not familiar with the neoconservative movement,” Cain replied. “I’m familiar with the conservative movement.” Cain was able subtly to indicate that he knows, unlike Gregory, that neoconservatism is apersuasion or tendency, not a movement.

Are you kidding me? A subtle Socratic? Actually, Cain has a tendency to be unsubtly unpersuasive on a cornucopia of issues.

Here is another Weekly Standard piece offering the candidate some advice about things he has to “work on.” The author presents this quote as an example of Cain’s need to brush up on foreign policy:

“When they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, I’m going to say, you know, I don’t know,” Cain told the Christian Broadcasting Network last week.

Where to begin. Several thoughts come to mind:

1. Imagine how Drudge or, ahem, the Weekly Standard would have handled such a quote if it had been uttered by, say, Barack Obama in 2008.

2. Let’s say Cain was just joking, which is his all-purpose excuse on the myriad of occasions where his ignorance erupts into public view. Let’s say he actually knows that the name of the country is Uzbekistan. Does a prospective President of the United State really want to make fun of that? I mean–and I hope, Herman, you’re listening–there is a major airport in southern Uzbekistan that NATO has been using as a crucial transfer point for troops and materiel headed into Afghanistan. Wouldn’t want to tick off the Uzbek president, Islam Karimov…because it might make life significantly tougher for our troops over there. Not the sort of thing one jokes about, Hermanator.

I know what I’m about to say is impolite, but Herman Cain strikes me as something of a jerk and an ignoramus. He has made absolutely outrageous statements about Muslims, immigrants and homosexuals; he takes the most extreme position imaginable on abortion. Indeed, I have never, ever seen him acknowledge the idea that complexity exists in the world…or that an ability to weed through complex issues might be a qualification for the presidency.

No, the guy is a marketer. He had other people handle administration and finance at Godfather’s; he was all about the pies. Hence, we have his 9-9-9 plan, a truly rancid scheme to benefit the rich at the expense of the rest of the country, a scheme that would tax a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread.

Would it be too much for the Weekly Standard–a journal of strong, and occasionally intemperate, opinions–to acknowledge that this guy is a snake oil salesman? That he’s an embarrassment to the Republican Party? That his momentary strength is a four-alarm cry of Republican desperation?

Once again, let me state my interest here: I’d like to see the Republicans nominate a plausible President, since he could very well win and, at the current moment, we can’t afford amateur hour.