HermanCain.jpg

Herman Cain at Hillsdale

Thanks to the efforts of T. Elliot Gaiser, who is a regular contributor to Ricochet on the Student Feed, Herman Cain braved the blizzard now besetting south-central Michigan to speak at Hillsdale this evening, and I got a chance to hear him. The turnout was huge, the forbidding weather notwithstanding. Fortunately, I had a reserved seat – as it happens, in the front row.

I have attended such events on occasion in the past. Back in the last millennium, one summer when I was briefly a reporter for the now-defunct Oklahoma Journal in Oklahoma City, I actually heard George Wallace speak. The tone of that event was worrisome. Some antiwar undergraduates staged a walk-out in the middle of his speech, and the audience went berserk with fury.

The Cain event had an entirely different tone. The man could not be more genial, and the audience was in a good mood. He told us that this was not the first time that he had spoken at Hillsdale; he added that it would not be the last time; and everyone cheered. Cain has a deep, resonant, warm voice that is easy to listen to, and he delivered a stump speech with a foreign policy focus, explaining what he had in mind when he amended Ronald Reagan’s theme – “Peace through Strength” – by making it “Peace through Strength and Clarity.” He touched on the nation’s Founding principles with some frequency. He discussed the degree to which military strength is dependent on economic and moral strength. He pointed to the dearth of American warships on the high seas – fewer than at any time since 1915, he said.

Towards the end, he spoke of his time at Morehouse College, of the lectures given by its President, and he recited a Negro spiritual mentioned in one of those lectures. He concluded with a discussion of what his parents had taught him: Believe in God, believe in yourself, and believe in this country despite its challenges.

The speech was long on abstractions and short on specifics. Cain has a great deal of experience giving inspirational speeches both as a businessman and as a Baptist preacher. He profited from that experience. Before the speech, I was of the opinion that he was not ready to be President of the United States. Afterwards, my opinion was the same.

I do not doubt, however, that he is a fine man, and my instinct is to suppose that the charges lodged against him by various women are untrue. The two who have come forward have track records suggesting that they are greedy and unreliable. The settlements given the two women who worked at the National Restaurant Association were too paltry to be suggestive of misconduct on anyone’s part. And there was every indication that Cain is the real article.

I spoke with him briefly at a reception after the event. I could not bring myself to ask him whether he would be leaving the race. The very idea seemed obscene. Someone else I know who had a more extensive conversation with him than I did told me that he was staying in. My only comment to him was that I regretted that he had not sung the spiritual he recited. He responded, “I would have, but I have to save my voice. I have three events tomorrow.”

  1. michael kelley

    Subordinate leaders are trained, schooled and guided. They move an army over the hills of the battlefield.  They are planned.

    Great leaders are born in circumstance.  They only happen to be there.

  2. Terrell David

    Thanks Dr. Rahe for the update.

    Herman Cain should continue to be a positive influence on this campaign.  I have heard him many times and he is a quality leader.

  3. Freesmith

    A very clear portrait of the man on the stump.

    I also hope the recent charges are untrue, but I wish Mr. Cain’s defense would have been more full-throated. Doubts arise when a strong man seems to wobble.

    Speaking of that, the most damaging aspect of Cain’s exposure as an unserious candidate in the area of policy is that it lent credence to Democrat jibes that conservatives only liked Cain because he was black, and therefore gave them “cover.”

    After Cain’s lapses and boilerplate, conservatives were put in the position of defending their own integrity while explaining conservative support for a man clearly unready to be president on any grounds other than race.

    Herman Cain became our Donovan McNabb. The Democrats had the pleasure of being Rush Limbaugh, calling us out for putting sentiment above performance, while enjoying the knowledge that they, unlike Rush, would never be fired from the broadcast.

    However, the worst thing is that another opportunity to contest the black American vote with the Democrats has been squandered.   

  4. Terrell David
    After Cain’s lapses and boilerplate, conservatives were put in the position of defending their own integrity while explaining conservative support for a man clearly unready to be president on any grounds other than race.

    Herman Cain became our Donovan McNabb. The Democrats had the pleasure of being Rush Limbaugh, calling us out for putting sentiment above performance, while enjoying the knowledge that they, unlike Rush, would never be fired from the broadcast.

    However, the worst thing is that another opportunity to contest the black American vote with the Democrats has been squandered.    · Nov 29 at 6:53pm

    I don’t give a damn what color Cain’s skin is nor do any other of his followers.  Race has nothing to do with it really.  Cain being black was icing on the cake.

    Cain is an advocate of continuing the principles of what this county was founded on. 

    The smear campaign worked.  There may be some degree of truth but regardless, Cain has been taken out.

    That’s why all these women came out.  Take Cain out.

  5. Peter Robinson
    C

    A marvelous report, Paul.  Thanks.  And you confirm my abiding feeling that Herman Cain is a lovely human being–and that, even if, as now seems overwhelmingly likely, he fails to win the nomination, we’ll all be better for his having made the run.

  6. Freesmith

    Terrell David

    Without a doubt the women were part of the coordinated Democrat smear to take Cain out, a mission which became urgent once he rose to the front rank of primary contenders. The Democrats understood that Cain could not be permitted to have week after week of highly publicized, unfiltered exposure to preach a message aimed at the very core of the Democrat Party’s already somewhat disaffected electoral base – American blacks.

    But that wasn’t my point. My point was about Cain’s self-inflicted wounds – his “Libya moment;” his months’ long refrain of “I’ll meet with my advisers/generals;” and his repeated “You take that one first, Newt,” whenever a foreign policy question came up at the Cain-Gingrich debate.

    Democrats could point to those things as self-evident proof that Cain was not prepared (or all that interested) to be President. And that made saying that race was a factor in the Cain surge harder to deny. After all, if he was not really ready to hold the office, what was our true reason for claiming he should be considered for it? 

    As I said, in every way a lost opportunity.

  7. David Kreps

    An argument can be made that, if most people expect the President to be an expert on everything, then a good candidate had better be an expert—or be able to sound like an expert—on everything.

    But I’m unconvinced that being an expert on everything is an essential qualification for being president.   The ability to hear what experts say and probe why, to judge their opinions based on sound principles, and then to communicate what you have decided and why—for me, that’s what it takes.  I don’t mind “You take that one first, Newt,” especially if the individual has the self-awareness to think, “Newt’s a smart guy and probably has an opinion worth hearing, before I give my own.”   

    From what I’ve seen, read, and heard, Cain has a lot of the qualities I’d like to see in a president, maybe more than any other candidate.  (Paul Ryan is, right now, my ideal point.)   But as a pragmatic matter—who fits what the electorate wants—maybe it is time to get off the Cain Train.   

    No apologies, though, for being on board for a while.

  8. Chris Johnson

     I align myself somewhat with David Kreps take on this.  Often enough, we hear somebody like Romney described as a managerial progressive.  In a similar sense, Cain is a managerial conservative.  That’s the important distinction.  I don’t think that any of the GOP candidates are “prepared” as voters may wish, to address all, or even many of the critical issues facing us and the world.  Good military commanders always listen to their troops, and ask the most junior to speak first, so that they may not be influenced my their superiors.

    What I am looking for is someone that begins, first and foremost, with a set of principles that are as close to mine, as possible.  In the current field, my Venn diagram overlaps least with Gingrich, Romney, and Huntsman.  I rather doubt the allegations against Cain, having known of him for almost 15 years now.  If they are true (which I doubt), then he and I have far less overlap than I thought.

    However, in this compressed primary season, should the allegations prove to be frivolous, where does Cain go to get back his competitive position?  Game, Set, and Match, Smear Merchants.