by Joe Shea
October 25, 2011
MITT AND PERRY CAN'T RAISE CAIN
BRADENTON, Fla., Oct. 25, 2011 -- I remember turning to Ron Fournier, the AP's chief political writer, as we listened in Denver to Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont talking about something or other long forgotten. He's on the margin of hysteria, I told him; I could hear it coming in his voice, and it was going to get loose pretty soon, I said.
Months later, when Dean did get patently hysterical and began screaming incoherently after his loss in Iowa, my observation proved true, and to his credit, Ron remembered it.
I'm not going to say anything quite so insightful tonight, except that I think the major media talking heads are in a twilight world where if they are not told the truth they are somehow unable to see it.
It's Herman Cain and his standing in the polls amid the Attack of the Talking Heads that prompts this feeling. I heard a table of pundits on the McLaughlin Group all predict Sunday afternoon when Cain will "peak," as McLaughlin put it. "Late October," said one. "November 7," said another. And on they went, naming a date in the near future. Who informs that kind of nonsense?
And Sean Hannity, just to name one of many, has been just as ridiculous. Today he tried to make it a federal crime for Herman Cain to say that on the political side, he is adamantly against abortion, but that on the personal side he wishes each person and each family could make that decision for themselves.
Hannity believes that the government should be lying in bed with the parents at the moment of conception; Cain knows something about human nature, while Hannity, Boortz, Levin, Savage, Limbaugh, the fallen Beck and Huckabee and the rest of that lot know only the rhetoric of political life.
They know how to exaggerate a miniscule factoid and make people think it is important to them. Or, at least, the talk set used to be able to do that until the Tea Party came to Washington in 2010 and turned Congress upside down, as it deserved to be. Ever since then, people have traded in rhetoric for the truth of guns, gold and a pantry full of grub.
Herman Cain is going to sweep most of the primaries, with the likely exception of New Hampshire. It has been that way since Florida - and I'll explore some reasons in a moment - but it became a virtual certainty when the world learned (even as the talking heads tried not to say it) that then-Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney had signed the Health Safety Net into law in 2006, and that law very clearly let illegal aliens receive health care at taxpayer expense. Conservatives don't like that bit of history one bit, and nothing about it will persuade them from backing away from Mitt.
Romney today tried to blame his act on his successor, sort of like a little boy with cookie crumbles in his pants pocket, but his successor didn't sign the law. In truth, just as many conservatives believe and have frequently said, Romney is secretly an Eastern liberal Republican in the mold of Illinois' Sen. Charles Percy, New York's Sen. Jacob Javits and the Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, all deceased. He signed it and the Massachusetts electorate loved it. End of story.
Yet the talking heads grasp at every straw to beat Cain. Unfortunately, I suppose, for them, no one ever got beaten to death with a straw. Oh, God! they cry in unison. He changed his mind! He has a private and a public side! He doesn't drag his family around with him! What are the scandal-mongers waiting for? It's almost Iowa!
And Iowa is just 70 days from today. Itís too late for anyone but Cain to win.
How did voters learn to discern the fine line between bedrock conservatism and conservative rhetoric that flows from the radio and television? They did it when someone on the House floor during the debate on the first debt ceiling hike stood up to Eric Cantor and John Boehner and said, over and over again, no matter what plums they were offered, "No. No. No." They simply would not vote for it, and the leadership had to eat a smelly, heaping plate of crow.
At that moment the Tea Party Revolution became real. The GOP was no longer the god of the House, its majority; now there was a god and a Tea Party, and American politics will never, ever be ther same. The people had tasted the fine savor of truth spoken to power, and they loved it.
You can't talk crap to American conservatives anymore. Rick Perry found that out most painfully. He didn't want a border fence; he wanted to let Mexican children to go to public colleges on the taxpayer's dime. He wanted to win primaries among people three miles to the right of him and Romney, and he thought one of these two could do it because they had a ton of money, could throw a blizzard of ads and lies at Cain and walk away with the prize. Like the media, they are two steps behind, while Cain is one out front.
That's what I mean when I say Mitt and Perry can't raise Cain. In the poker game of politics, they can't rehabilitate themselves quickly and fully enough to overcome their liabilities and quench the fire of and for a man who lives on steel and sells a million pizzas a day. They have no political capital to spend; their identities have been exposed and people don't like them; they think they're double-talkers and that they'll lie through their teeth to get elected.
Better, they say, to elect a man who may not be so "polished" as to say he doesn't want a border fence and that he wants Texas taxpayers to pay for the college education of Mexicans living in Texas. Better to stay away from a man who wrote the textbook health law for Massachusetts that the White House studied to create the detested Obamacare.
So let me sum up: other than in New Hampshire, where Herman Cain is going to kick Rick Perry's butt, yet won't be able to overcome the next-door-neighbor friendliness to Romney, the black gentleman from Georgia (and he rejects the stupid appellation African-American) is going to win Nevada, South Carolina and points east and west and go to the convention with nearly enough or enough delegates to win the Republican nomination.
He will make mistakes along the way; he's already apparently made a major one by agreeing some kind of one-on-one Cain-Gingrich debate that the other candidates actually set up to embarrass him. He'll make others, too, but he has come through life thus far without the damning scandal that may yet explode on Perry and Romney's turf. Perry, for instance, has boasted of being the son of a "tenant farmer," but his father was a county commissioner and the county lost half its population after he served.
Romney's Bain Capital will be the source of financial manipulations that were never intended to come to light. He's going to smooth himself out so skillfully he'll disappear when you look at him sidewasys. Gingrich, of course, will never overcome delivering divorce papers to the bed of his first wife, hospitalized with cancer. The man who will soon begin to shine is Ron Santorum, who will slowly discard those sad, cute, pleading eyes and start to reveal himself as a real firebrand.
But Herman Cain will prevail, not Hannity and the McLaughlin Group, nor the rest of the media dumbfounded by a man whose into first place with no real money and no organization - just by telling the truth, his truth, to power.