Editorial by John Ziegler
Cain 2012 Looks a Lot Like Obama 2008, Except with a VERY Different Outcome
Much has been written about the almost primal desire among conservatives to find the next Ronald Reagan, or at least someone they can get excited about, when it comes to choosing an opponent for President Obama in 2012. A huge number of Republican primary voters and Tea Party members now consider it almost a betrayal of their sacred honor to “give in” and vote for Mitt Romney, even if the evidence is overwhelming that he would have the best chance to beat the guy who provoked so much of their passion to begin with.
What is particularly stunning about the way things are currently breaking is that it appears the “Not Romney” brigade is, in a stupefying bit of irony, now beginning to convalesce around the man who is most like the guy they claim to want to beat. Instead of a new Reagan, conservatives have instead found themselves their own Obama in Herman Cain.
The similarities between Cain in 2012 and Obama in 2008 are striking and go far beyond their shared (sort of) race. Both were basically political novices who just a few years before had been crushed in attempts to win seats in congress. Both are charismatic speakers. Both have massive holes in their foreign policy resume/knowledge. Both came out of crowded fields by appealing to the fringe of their parties and using the partisan media to gain enough traction to become the primary challenger of establishment candidates who no one really loved. Both seem to have a Teflon quality as their many mistakes never seem to stick to their personal appeal.
Now, based on the early returns, it appears as if Cain’s campaign is in the process of sharing an even more important historical commonality with Obama’s miracle run to the nomination. Just as Obama’s campaign was rocked with revelations that his long-time friend and pastor Jeremiah Wright was an anti-American racist loon, Cain’s is now in the process of dealing with allegations that in the 1990’s two women were paid to keep quiet about having been sexually harassed by the candidate.
While the charges were very different in both their nature and their seriousness (for my money Wright was much more of a presidential disqualifier than what we currently know about whatever Cain did), they are remarkably similar in how the media and political partisans are reacting to them as well as their apparent impact on each campaign.
In 2008, Obama told various conflicting stories in a desperate attempt to explain the inexplicable. The liberal elements of the media did everything they could to minimize the story, spinning it as being about race rather than an insight into his character and truthfulness. In the end, the base of his party was forced to rally around him and, in some bizarre way, you could argue the controversy clinched him the nomination.
Now, in the 2012 cycle, history seems to be repeating itself. The conservative media is rushing to Cain’s defense. Fox News has provided him with a platform where he can answer only softball questions, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, among others, have strongly condemned the allegations as racial motivated liberal hit jobs, and Matt Drudge is already asking if America is ready for an Obama/Cain general election matchup. The base seems to be instinctually rallying around him, inherently and understandably distrustful of any remotely suspicious charge against a “true” conservative by a liberal media outlet.
Meanwhile, the real issues of his truthfulness, ability to handle a crisis, and electability have been largely downplayed by the conservative media (the only media that really matters in a Republican primary) and the liberal media seems to be holding back the big guns, salivating over what a Cain nomination would mean for them economically and ideologically.
The most interesting/important figure in the Obama/Cain comparison is clearly Matt Drudge, whose legendary Drudge Report dictates so much of the content for Fox News, talk radio, conservative blogs and, to a lesser extent, CNN, MSNBC and major newspapers.
In 2008, the evidence I have seen (both public and currently private) that Matt Drudge was in the tank for Barack Obama, at least until his election was secure, is overwhelming. (As a point of full disclosure, I used to fill in for Matt on his old national radio show and used to be close to his former right hand man Andrew Breitbart.)
All one needs do is go back in the Drudge archives
from March 14, 2008, the day after the Wright story broke to see absolutely no mention of it on the site with the headline stating that super delegates were breaking towards Obama. This is just one of dozens of examples of where Drudge, apparently because he felt an Obama nomination/presidency would be good for his business (which it undoubtedly has been), downplayed or simply ignored stories which could have easily brought Obama down when he was still vulnerable. When compared to the extremely anti-Obama tone of the site today, it is downright comical to go back in time to see how Drudge portrayed events then.
Now, Drudge is playing the exact opposite role in the Cain “scandal,” heavily promoting conservative celebrity defenses of Cain and the narrative that this is just all part of a predicted “high tech lynching.” The Drudge Report was your only source of information; you would think that Cain was about to be named the nominee.
While Drudge’s actions may appear to be very different in 2012 than they were in 2008, their effect is exactly the same. You see Drudge is extremely savvy and he understands that Cain is good for his business in the short run by making the primary season far more compelling. He is also a potential long-term asset as a general election between Cain and Obama (one Drudge promoted heavily on Tuesday) would be the most electrifying in history. He also knows that having Cain as the nominee would virtually assure that his cash cow (Obama) would be around for another four years. In short, Cain is a no lose proposition for the conservative media in general and Drudge in particular.
While this analysis may seem exceedingly cynical to those who have not devoted years of their lives to this issue of media corruption as I have, I can assure you it is not. If there was one piece of knowledge I learned during the making of my last documentary film “Media Malpractice,”
that I wish everyone else knew, it would be that the news media, especially ideologically driven media, is a business
and not a cause.
While there are obviously exceptions, the vast majority of people making content decisions in the media are far more concerned with their job security than they are about saving the country.
To media people a Cain/Obama matchup means short term job security for everyone and at least four more years of living off Obama for conservatives. After all, the dirty little secret of ideological media is that it is bad for business when your guys are in power (if you doubt that, just look at how Obama’s election impacted the ratings of Fox News and MSNBC).
Now, it is possible that some reading this are now saying, “Okay John, if you are right and this is going to play out like 2008, doesn’t that mean Cain would be the next president?” The answer to that is decidedly no; because the fundamental reality of presidential elections, the one which has prevented conservatives from finding their next Reagan, is that the rules in a general election are totally different for Republicans than they are for Democrats. The incredibly unfair treatment of Sarah Palin in comparison to Obama in 2008 should have, if nothing else, at least ended any question about that obvious truth.
If a Republican had Obama’s ties to Rev. Wright he would have gotten slaughtered by the increasingly partisan mainstream media. Similarly, Cain has already given the media more than enough to “Palinize” him should he be the nominee. His 9-9-9 plan can be easily demonized, his statements about Muslims, Illegals and Gays will be used to make him seem like an extremist nut, and his own admissions regarding his lack of interest in foreign policy will turn an Obama weakness from 2008 into a decided advantage. All this is already exists before the real pressure of a campaign even begins and Cain’s penchant for “straight talk’ surely comes back to haunt him on multiple occasions.
In short, a Cain/Obama campaign would be fun, but it would also result in a democratic landslide at the polls. The only “conservatives” who would gain from that scenario are those in the media. Unfortunately, they are also the ones controlling a narrative that most of their customers can’t currently see the danger of.
As inequitable as it is, conservatives are simply not allowed to nominate an Obama. We gave up that right when we allowed virtually all of the major communication/education outlets to be taken over by liberals. About the only thing worse than this unfair rule would be to not accept its inescapable reality.
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