A wartime aphorism says that you know you are over the target when you start getting hit with flak fire and for Herman Cain it began at the last debate, when all of his opponents quite literally ganged up on him in a concerted attack on his 9-9-9 Plan. Over at NRO, he’s been taking additional hits on the abortion issue. He’s been roundly criticized for not having a turn-key foreign policy and continues to be dismissed as a dilettante when it comes to the reins of political power in the nation’s capital.
Straight out of the box, the 9-9-9 Plan is anything but perfect and I was among those who criticized it for the national sales tax that it promotes. I still believe that while a very good and persuasive case can be made for the third component in Cain’s plan, a better case can be made for a flat tax alone and I urge Mr. Cain to consider the political reality he’s facing: even if the 16th Amendment is repealed, most Americans instinctively back away from a national sales tax.
Then again, the 9-9-9 Plan is just that – a proposal – and not a finished piece of legislation. As such it represents the starting point of the discussion, not the terminus. And Cain deserves props for moving the flat tax debate to the front burner and turning up the heat: Gov. Perry of Texas is working with “Mr. Flat Tax” himself, Steve Forbes, on his own plan for a flat tax and more people are discussing the flat tax as a serious alternative to the byzantine progressive income tax system that is presently strangling the economy of this nation. Instead of dismissing Mr. Cain as the author of a flawed and unworkable plan, we ought to be congratulating him for stepping forward with a plan that is fundamentally sound but in need of major tweaking.
On the matter of abortion rights, I cannot understand why some people – such as NRO’s Katrina Trinko – have trouble figuring out Cain’s position; in his CNN interview he was simply acknowledging as a matter of reality that if abortion were illegal as a matter of federal law, there are those whose desperation would drive them to break the law in much the same manner that certain individuals will assist others in committing suicide in spite of laws that make it illegal to do so. In that respect, it is ultimately still a matter of choice. For the record, Cain has garnered the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee.
Cain has also been taking flak for waffling over the issue of negotiating with terrorists – and deservedly so. It means he’ll need to hit the books and have some in-depth Q&A discussions with advisers who have expertise in these matters.
One can certainly argue – as many already are – that Cain’s lack of ANY political experience is a lethal defect in his candidacy and would seriously hinder him as President of the United States should be elected. The disastrously failed presidency of Barack Obama, they argue, is a case study of what happens when a political lightweight occupies the Oval Office – and Obama had more political experience than Herman Cain.
I don’t buy this argument because its premise – that political experience in general and executive political experience in particular – is the sine qua non for the office of president. It simply isn’t so for a number of reasons: for one thing, the qualifications for president as enumerated in the U.S. Constitution make no reference to prior political experience – or any experience, for that matter.
For another, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight Eisenhower were each elected president in spite of the fact that none had any experience whatsover in elective office. Although Taylor’s term in office – 16 months – was the third shortest on record, he was nevertheless a competent and capable Chief Executive. The presidency of Ulysses S. Grant is a little more problematical:
As president, he led Reconstruction by signing and enforcing civil rights laws and fighting Ku Klux Klan violence. He helped rebuild the Republican Party in the South, an effort that resulted in the election of African Americans to Congress and state governments for the first time. Despite these civil rights accomplishments, Grant’s presidency was marred by economic turmoil and multiple scandals…He left office at the low point of his popularity.
Eisenhower fared much better than either Taylor or Grant: he enjoyed two successful and relatively uneventful terms in office and today is considered among the top ten U.S. presidents. What these three have in common is their executive experience in the U.S. military
On the other hand, some of the worst presidents in American history had plenty of political experience: Jimmy Carter served in the Georgia Senate and became governor of Georgia; James Buchanan served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, the U.S House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and was U.S. Secretary of State from 1845 to 1849; Lyndon Johnson served for over a decade each in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate before being drafted by John F. Kennedy as his running mate.
In the case of Barack Obama, we have a committed socialist ideologue with minimal political experience and positively zero military or private sector experience whose tabula rasa candidacy for president in 2008 was filled in largely by the Drive-By media.
In the case of Herman Cain, we have a stalwart conservative with no political or active military experience (he did work in a civilian capacity for the Navy Department in the early 70s) but enormous private sector executive experience. In that capacity he has prepared budgets, signed paychecks and transformed failing businesses into thriving enterprises.
As American Spectator’s Aaron Goldstein observed:
In the food service industry, Cain had to take risk and innovate or go out of business. At the risk of sounding clichéd, Cain thinks outside the box. He isn’t constrained by conventional political wisdom and will do what it takes to ensure this country doesn’t go out of business.
Some consider this to be his greatest weakness and, perhaps, the single biggest reason for passing him over. But Goldstein correctly observes later in his article that “…Cain is a quick study. He possesses the diligence necessary to turn whatever weaknesses he might possess into strengths.”
We’ve seen what experienced politicians have done to this once great republic. We’ve also seen what an inexperienced politician with zero private sector experience has done. Honestly: how much worse can it get if we elect a man with no political experience but an enormous wealth of real-world, private sector experience and a track record of success that would make Donald Trump blush?
Most importantly, Herman Cain has integrity, an attribute I discussed at length a couple of months ago:
A man of integrity is first and foremost true to himself – and if the reflection in the mirror of his own mind is not identical to that which he knows he truly is, then he has become a liar – and worse, he knows he is a liar because the very first falsehood is silently uttered to himself.
A man of integrity does not fear following the dual pathways of empirical and moral truth to whatever destination they lead him – for truth is reality and the denial of such, a corrosive fantasy that further damages an already disfigured visage in the mirror of his own mind.
A man of integrity is willing to engage the hard choices that he inevitably encounters while traveling the pathway of the truth and, upon encountering a fork in the road, does not recoil when asked to make a decision based on the facts in a sincere effort to do good and avoid evil. If his decision is demonstrated to be erroneous, he will have the humility and spiritual fortitude to admit the error and choose the correct road.
A man of integrity does not dwell on the proverbial fence, trying to have it both ways in an effort to avoid making hard choices or to benefit from either playing both sides against the middle or one side against another. He accepts that it’s a far better thing to make a decision and live with consequences that may lead him to the pasture of obscurity than it is to be everything to everyone and don a plastic laurel wreath of shallow public acclamation or indulge himself in the rotted fruit of personal aggrandizement.
It is the difference between a man who, if asked to choose between two radically different flavors of ice cream, declares, “My favorite flavor is this one because it is sweet and pleasing to the palate while the other is rancid and tastes like crap” from the man who says, “You are asking me to choose between two flavors of ice cream, and I won’t because I like them both.”
The former is a man of integrity. The latter is a weasel.
Herman Cain may very well have myriad flaws that will reveal themselves in the fullness of time during the primary season. But lack of integrity won’t be among them. I stand by my endorsement of Mr. Cain for President of the United States.