Years ago, students of public relations would invariably be introduced to the pseudo-event phenomenon. Among the ingenious practices of the industry, students would learn, would be professionals contriving all manner of “happenings” to draw media attention to a product, a service, a personality or what-have-you. What a bonanza such students would enjoy today if assigned to real-time engagement of a pseudo-event, here in this fantasia-like media fixation with Herman Cain’s implausible presidential nominee aspirations.
I mean, had there been a PR professional somewhere in the Cain shadows, working this media frenzy thing, could he or she have come even remotely close to the media’s voluntary compliance in allocating topic A ranking to this farcical Cain candidacy? The man’s presence in the public square, mockery though it is, has somehow been able to grab the media spotlight for this bid of his to capture the Republican nomination. Whether it’s his bizarre tax proposal, his out-to-lunch foreign policy utterances or any other nuggets the candidacy has so far produced, the loony stuff keeps right on coming. The campaign didn’t really need the sexual harassment allegations that recently became the latest oddball twist in the plot, but they’ll wrestle with that too.
All of this tomfoolery may delight, apparently, some GOP/Tea Party social conservatives for whom, we are told, Cain has some kind of appeal. But it’s hardly a confidence builder to others on that side of the political divide, even of conservative bent. Here’s PBS NewsHour analyst David Brooks last week: “In the pre-season you have fun. Herman Cain, fun. But then when you get to choose a president, you choose a president. And he certainly justified the belief that he’s not ready to be president. This is a job that requires discipline and organization and professionalism. And we can all talk. It’s lovely to have outsiders who are political amateurs. But if you’re actually in the White House, or seriously running for it, you need to have these essential qualities. And he doesn’t have them.”
Brooks has lots of company in that dismissive assessment of Cain as a candidate to be taken seriously. As we have previously voiced here, why is there any element of the citizenry, as the pollsters suggest, that is expressing a preference for Herman Cain to become president? If, as the surveys indicate, such expressions of support are coming from hard-right social conservatives, it’s once again a sobering commentary on the consequences of paying less than adequate attention to the responsibility to entrust leadership only to deserving aspirants for elective office. We are too dangerously close in this country to where ideological blinders worn by a fanatical minority exercise undue influence on what’s to be the way forward. Never mind that it’s polling among Republicans producing these freaky results, it’s scary enough that there are folks willing to fall in (so they say) behind a guy so clearly lacking those “essential qualities,” as Brooks noted.
Among those obviously treating the Cain candidacy as the circus attraction that it is, are the strategists for the Obama reelection campaign. Like anyone else given to a common-sense take on things, Obama’s people aren’t about to expend resources on an undertaking they know to be going absolutely nowhere, apparently opting for greater concentration, at this point, on the legitimately challenging nomination drive of Mitt Romney.
As an African American with a party allegiance that would put his nomination prospects somewhere in the slim-to-none range, Cain began this hare-brained romp with more than enough to be a laughable caricature. Dramatically underscoring how unready he is for any presidential run only added to the buffoonery. And the claims of a sexual harassment history that have now grown fresh legs with an alleged victim coming forward, make for the kind of media overkill that isn’t exactly what his camp had in mind by way of outsized exposure.
This buzz about whether or not he made improper sexual advances some years ago is, again, straight out of the land of make believe. It is mere diversion, perhaps orchestrated by a Cain opponent outraged by his artificially enlarged profile, perhaps just a not unexpected outcropping in the crazy-quilt pattern that has framed this so-called bid for the presidency.
After the sexual harassment firestorm broke, Cain came up with an interesting analogy in his choice of Clarence Thomas’ infamous “high-tech lynching” protestation in his high court confirmation hearings. Funny that Cain would go for the noose image that Thomas chose, with which he snookered enough senators in 1991 to earn that god-awful, razor-thin vote for confirmation. It’s rather doubtful that Cain’s “high-tech lynching” regurgitation would do much for him today.
And then there are those cowpoke hats Cain seems to favor. Now there’s a misfit. Who knows, that Texan finish may have done wonders for him while he walked tall in the pizza world. But if he was himself unaware, he ought to have been told that new rules applied once he felt emboldened to plough this new terrain. And in a pursuit that was always programmed to remain unfulfilled, Cain will likely be discovering that this leap of his, that seemingly landed him in pseudo-event heaven, was always doomed to be a lot more trouble than it was worth.