Part of my regular TV viewing is a show that airs on weekdays called “Morning Joe”. It focuses mainly on political events but also has a hodge podge of other issues. It is hosted by Joe Scarborough, a former Republican Congressman from Florida and Mika Brezinski, the daughter of Zbigniew Brezinski, the former National Security Advisor to President Carter. Scarborough represents what may be referred to as a moderately conservative view – although some Republicans consider him to be a RINO ie a “Republican in Name Only” – and Brezinski is an uninhibited and unreserved liberal. Scarborough will accord credit to Obama at times and is critical of the “crazy right” as evidenced in this video clip.

Which brings me to the current race for the Republican presidential nomination of which Scarborough aptly said:

“All the world is a stage and in this year’s GOP presidential race, it is a reality show soundstage cluttered with clownish characters auditioning for the role of commander in chief.”

Scarborough went on to say about Herman Cain, the current front runner in polls:

“All of this leads us to Herman Cain, a man so woefully ill-prepared for the presidency that his lone economic adviser brags about being ignorant of economic theory with as much gusto as candidate Cain mocks those who would suggest he knows little about world politics.

“When they ask me, ‘Who is President of UBEKI-beki-beki-becki-stan, stan, I am going to say ‘Do you know?’”

Then we have Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, who comes across as a cowboy and was described by a commentator as being “George Bush without the brains”. Perry, in various speeches, seemed to call for the hanging of Ben Bernanke for treason along with the secession of Texas!

There are a variety of likely explanations for some of the actions of the so called “crazy right” and much of it is probably linked to the dismal state of the economy. The US has serious problems and there is no apparent easy solution. For the first time, the majority of Americans believe that the next generation will likely have a lower standard of living than the current generation – something that has never happened before. There was a time when parents would tell their children that if they worked hard and did well in their studies and went to a good college, they could one day own a big house or a very desirable car or go on vacations to exotic places. This is no longer the case as many college graduates, some from highly regarded colleges, cannot find jobs and when they can find a job, it might not pay enough to maintain a decent standard of living and repay their sizable student loans.

Which brings me back to Herman Cain and his simplistic solutions to the complex problems that the US is facing. The notion that the economic woes of the US can be resolved by his signature 9-9-9 tax program is bizarre and the fact that he enjoys a lot of support from the Republican base because this proposal is even more amazing. It is a poorly thought out proposal and the more it is examined the more the flaws that are apparent – never mind that there are no reputed economists who support the analysis that Cain has offered.

So what is Herman Cain’s appeal? One is that he is not a career politician which in today’s environment where the average voter is thoroughly disillusioned with the credibility of elected officials, it has an appeal. Then we have a rags to riches story – the kind of thing that happens in the US and rarely in other countries. Cain’s mother was a maid and his father was a janitor and barber! But Cain went on to become the CEO of “Godfather Pizza”, a well known national pizza chain in the US. Cain was also a member of the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in 1992 and served as its chairman from January 1995 to August 1996, when he resigned to become active in national politics. So Cain’s life has been one of real accomplishment – not unlike that of Obama – especially given the hurdles that he also faced as an African-American.

The appeal of his 9-9-9 tax policy – with all of its flaws – is its simplicity which just about anyone can understand. In essence it is a 9% federal income tax on income irrespective of how much one makes, a 9% federal sales tax on new purchases and 9% tax on businesses. The existing tax code would be abolished and 9-9-9 would take its place. Not much room for confusion!

Its appeal reminds me of something that was taught to me in the early 1980s’. I was then working at a company and was one of several executives who were sent for a training program for dealing with the media especially if we were interviewed by the media. We were told that if the interview was for consumption by the average American, the important thing was to keep the level of discourse to something that the average sixth grader would be able to comprehend. At the time the most popular sit-com was “Three’s Company” – a show where the dialog was something that would be understood by a middle school student. We were told that keeping the level of explanation and discourse to such a level ensures that one would be understood. I believe that part of the success that Cain has enjoyed especially with his 9-9-9 program is that it meets that low threshold despite all of its flaws.

More recently there have been major contradictions in Cain’s position on negotiating with terrorists, on abortion and on immigration which may well mean that he has peaked. One of the things that Cain, who is a “tea party” favorite puts to rest is that “tea party” supporters oppose Obama because they are a bunch of racists. Given Cain’s African-American background, their strong support for him seems to affirm their claim that opposition to Obama is to do with his policies and not his race.

He likely embarked on his quest for the nomination to give greater visibility to his book tour and to increase his fees as a speaker through the publicity that would result. He probably never thought that he would get as far as he did and is probably the most surprised at what has transpired ….. which explains his tendency to wing it when he answers questions.

If Cain does win the nomination – very unlikely despite his current lead in the polls among Republican contenders – he will may well be termed “the accidental nominee”!

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