By Rochelle Riley
Detroit Free Press
Who will Herman Cain be next week?
The Morehouse math grad who has been lauded for his business acumen, most notably for turning around Godfather’s Pizza, threw his hat into the presidential ring after a year spent talking to Tea Party rallies around the country.
When he announced last May, Cain was Ross Perot in the 1992 presidential campaign, and spent the summer explaining his 9-9-9 tax plan, a tax code requiring a 9% business transactions tax, a 9% personal income tax and a 9% national sales tax.
The concept was noted for its simplicity, but criticized by those who attached past traditions and policies to the plan. It became clear that Cain should have gone everywhere with a PowerPoint presentation.
In September, Cain was the Rev. Jesse Jackson. His winning the Florida straw poll and becoming a serious Republican presidential candidate harkened to when Jackson won the South Carolina Democratic primary — and people sat up and said, “What?!”
Within a week, Cain was Donald Trump, full of his own destiny and self-importance and becoming the Republican most likely to be retweeted.
But then he let his campaign manager release a bizarre ad that ended with a puff of smoke, and Herman Cain became Charlie Sheen, with new and better You Tube videos showing up every day — Cain singing gospel in response to every adversity, Cain realizing – on national television – that China has nuclear weapons.
Then he became Bill Clinton, responding to allegations of sexual harassment with misleading statements, I-don’t-remembers and oh-wait-now-I-remembers.
When the first allegation surfaced, Cain denied it. Then he said it was a misunderstanding. First, he knew of no settlement between the National Restaurant Association, which he served as president, and a woman who said he went too far. Star Jones rightly said that some companies and organizations settle such matters just to keep them out of court. That could be the case. We don’t know. But here’s a hint for Herman Cain: When there’s nothing to hide, turn on the light. If, as he says, a woman misunderstood his need to compare her height to his wife’s with his hand, let her explain where his hand was.
Yes, Herman Cain has been many things.
Now he’s Clarence Thomas, claiming that the allegations being made against him are race-based and constitute a lynching.
Back in 1991, Thomas sat in a congressional hearing room, fighting for his future. A silent conservative with few black friends, Thomas called the questions about his treatment of Anita Hill, his assistant at the U.S. Department of Education and later at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a lynching. What many people don’t remember is that Thomas’ nomination hearing had ended, but was reopened after the press revealed the allegations, gleaned from an FBI interview of Hill.
Cain, too, thought he was on his way.
Leading in the polls, which isn’t hard when your opponents are a Texas lunatic and a closet Democrat, Cain was already counting the money from speaking engagements and books. I doubt that he ever planned to be president. I think, privately, some Republicans pushed his candidacy to have their own African-American front-runner all the while singing, “We can do it to, punchanella, punchanella.” (And you read it here first: Cain and Obama will face each other as their respective party nominees.)
But now Cain is Clarence Thomas, fighting for history and against a tide of discontent, reaching back to the only thing that might work: racial discrimination.
“There are factions trying to destroy me personally, and this campaign,” the Washington Post reported Cain telling technology executives in Tyson’s Corner, Va. He lit into a reporter hours later for asking him about sex after he told him not to.
““Don’t even bother asking me all of these other questions that y’all are curious about,” Cain snapped. “Okay? Don’t even bother.”
“It’s a good question,” the reporter pushed.
“What did I say?” he spat, pushing his way through. “…What part of ‘No’ don’t some people understand?”
He’s Clarence Thomas, knowing that race trumps sexual harassment, race trumps ignorance of China’s nuclear capability, race trumps everything.
But if the lynching thing doesn’t work, Herman Cain needs to understand this: There’s always something.
If there’s a baby, he becomes John Edwards.
And have we checked where he goes to church and looked at tapes of his minister’s sermons? Is there a Jeremiah Wright in his past whose vitriol in the pulpit will make people throw their bibles at Cain?
Contact ROCHELLE RILEY: firstname.lastname@example.org