There has been a lot of talk about why Herman Cain is unfit to be President following the suspension of his campaign amidst revelations about his 13-year extramarital affair. Unfortunately, the most troubling aspect about the Herman Cain saga has nothing to do with Mr. Cain's sexploits or political Hari Kari. It is that Mr. Cain led the GOP primary field for more than a month.
Mr. Cain should have been disqualified as a serious presidential candidate within a matter of days. It's a wonder that his "9-9-9" economic plan did not impact his credibility as much as his personal shortcomings. The biggest lie Mr. Cain told on the campaign trail was that "9-9-9" would balance the budget despite massive cuts to the federal income and corporate tax rates. Where exactly was that revenue going to come from? It certainly would not be made up for by a 9 percent national sales tax. According to the Tax Policy Center, Mr. Cain's 9-9-9 plan would raise equal or less money than the current tax code - it is not a fix for the deficit.
The main difference between 9-9-9 and the current tax code is who pays the bill. 9-9-9 would shift more taxes to people with lower incomes while giving higher income individuals a substantial tax break. Again, Mr. Cain pedaled falsehoods and asserted that 9-9-9 would not disproportionately burden the poor. Even GOP stalwarts like the Bush Administration's Bruce Bartlett said that was a bald-faced lie, but Mr. Cain was rewarded with soaring poll numbers.
When Mr. Cain wasn't busy selling economic snake oil he was alternating between celebrating ignorance and reveling in xenophobia. From his clueless responses on Libya, to the "Uzbeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan" quote, to his racist comments against Muslims, it seemed as though Mr. Cain was trying to take himself out of the presidential race. Instead he became increasingly popular.
Real Politik hopes that Americans of all political persuasions recognize the need for our President to know as much about the world as he or she possibly can. Take Uzbeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan. The U.S. has interests in Uzbekistan's natural resources, human rights record (or lack thereof) and military policies (America had a key military base in Uzbekistan until 2005) - to name a few. It is understandable for Mr. Cain not to know the President of Uzbekistan off the top of his head - it is unacceptable for him to be rewarded at the polls for promoting ignorance.
Mr. Cain is part of a larger disturbing trend emerging from the Republican primaries. The GOP's opposition to President Obama and the desire to win back the White House are understandable. But it is frightening that voters are pinning their hopes on the likes of Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and, most recently, Newt Gingrich, while ignoring more qualified options like Jon Huntsman and, to a lesser extent, Mitt Romney.
Voters are rightly disturbed by Mr. Cain's history of sexual harassment and inability to address these allegations in a straightforward way. The bigger question is why Mr. Cain has been able to make it this far given his glaring and profound deficiencies.
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