Posts Tagged Herman Cain
Major Retailer Urges Workers To Take ‘Civics Course’ With Anti-Obama Content
AlterNet uncovers an anti-Obama program linked to the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, spoon-fed to employees of a major home-improvement chain.
October 31, 2012
If you live in the Midwest and you’re working on a home-improvement project, you’re as likely to do your shopping at a Menards store as at a Lowe’s or Home Depot. With 270 stores and 40,000 employees, Menards is the third-largest home-improvement chain in the U.S., and one of the largest privately held corporations in the country. But Menards stores sell more than just lumber and building supplies; their employees are sold a bill of goods in the form of right-wing ideology.
This January, as the Iowa Caucuses were underway, Menards began encouraging employees to take an at-home online “civics” course that characterizes the economic policies of President Barack Obama as a threat to the success of businesses such as Menards, and by extension, to the employees’ own well-being.
The course, titled “Civics 101: The National Self Governing Will In-Home Training,” incorporates much of the material comprising the Prosperity 101 program that AlterNet, working in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, exposed last year — a program concocted by Koch-linked political operatives Mark Block and Linda Hansen, late of the now-defunct Herman Cain presidential campaign. In March, Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the FBI is investigating possible financial improprieties involving two non-profit organizations founded by Block that are linked to Prosperity 101, which is a for-profit venture.
Menards employees who sign up for the course are graded on their knowledge via a multiple choice pass-fail test, and those who pass the test are acknowledged in company publications and bulletins. While workers are not required to take the course, those who hope for promotions may feel pressure to do so, since it is clear that management is paying attention to who is or isn’t taking the at-home classes, which are conducted on the employees’ own time. The civics course is offered as part of a battery of courses, most of which pertain to products sold by the company, or other aspects of working at Menards.
AlterNet has obtained the online textbook for the Menards civics course. The third part of the textbok, subtitled “American Job Security,” imparts a message similar to the letter sent by Koch Industries CEO Dave Robertson to retirees and employees of the company’s Georgia Pacific subsidiary, as well as the e-mail sent to employees of Rite-Hite, a Milwaukee equipment manufacturer, by company owner Mark White, urging them to vote for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. While the Menards course doesn’t offer an explicit candidate endorsement, it describes Obama policies in threatening terms, while policies that echo Romney’s proposals are portrayed in a positive and uplifting light.
In our June 2011 exposé, we reported that Herman Cain and Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore conducted more than a dozen Prosperity 101 seminars for the employees of companies in Wisconsin and other Midwestern states during the campaign season for the 2010 congressional midterm elections. Hansen, we reported, was looking to create an online Prosperity 101 program for the Wisconsin-based Menards, and it appears as if something like that happened just in time for the 2012 presidential campaign season. While it remains unclear whether the current Menards program was sold to the retailer by Prosperity 101, what is clear is that several sections of the program come directly — sometimes with minor edits — from the textbook, also called Prosperity 101, that was distributed during a breakout session that took place at an Americans for Prosperity Foundation conference in Las Vegas in July 2010. The conference, called RightOnline, took place at the opulent Venetian, owned by right-wing super-PAC funder Sheldon Adelson, and billed by AFPF president Tim Phillips as “the only non-union hotel on the [Las Vegas] Strip.”
The Americans for Prosperity Foundation is chaired by David Koch, the multibillionaire funder, with his brother, Charles, of numerous right-wing think tanks and interest groups, and co-owner of Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held corporation in the U.S. Block is the former state director for the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the foundation’s sibling organization, and was deeply involved in effecting the sharp turn to the right that took place in Wisconsin politics in 2010 with the election of Governor Scott Walker, Sen. Ron Johnson, and Tea Party-allied members of Congress and the state legislature. (During the course of that campaign, Block was implicated in avote-caging scheme apparently designed to suppress turnout of young people and African Americans at Milwaukee polling places. He also enjoyed a brief moment of fame as the “smoking man” in a bizarre Herman Cain campaign ad.)
Menards, as we reported last year, is notorious not just as a polluter, but as a virulently anti-labor company. One former manager told Milwaukee magazinereporter Mary van de Kamp Nohl that he wasn’t allowed to hire two job candidates because, while in high school, they had worked as baggers in a union-organized grocery store. Menards threatened store managers with a 60 percent pay-cut, according to a 2003 Forbes article, if a union managed to get a foothold in a Menards store on that manager’s watch.
So it was not surprising to learn that Menards’ voluntary at-home civics course is part of a broader training program in which employees are encouraged to take part, unpaid, on their own time, often to simply learn about products sold in various store departments. After completing any of these courses with a passing grade, the employee is given a certificate, and sometimes a prize, such as an item of apparel bearing the Menards logo.
Attack on Obama
Among the materials the Prosperity 101 book and the Menards employee civics course both share is an article by Herman Cain, and another by Stephen Moore and Tyler Grimm (but in the Menards course, the article includes some Menards-specific references and a jokey graphic mock-up of an IRS tax-filing form that demands the filer pay his or her entire income to the government). More troubling, though, is an unsigned article not included in Prosperity 101 that is based on a study by the Heritage Foundation. The article, titled “A Path to Prosperity,” characterizes Obama’s 2012 budget as a “job destroying,” “reckless spending spree,” while laying out, in positive terms, an economic agenda almost identical to that of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. (See graphic, below.)
In an article titled “The Keys to Prosperity” that also appeared in a slightly different form in the Prosperity 101 textbook, Stephen Moore offers, as I reported in 2011:
…a series of charts, some of them indecipherable, including a pie chart called “Where Your Federal Tax Dollar Goes.” (Apparently derived from an earlier presentation Moore made at an AFP Foundation event, the same charts can be found here; scroll to slide no. 15/16 for this one.) Citing such official sources as the Internal Revenue Service, the Government Accountability Office, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it features eight slices labeled “Flushed Down a Toilet, “Pissed Away,” “Down a Rat Hole,” “Sleaze,” “Corruption,” “Given to ‘Supporters,’” “Tossed Down the Drain,” and “Postage Stamps.” (The latter, Moore baselessly contends, accounts for 6 percent of your tax dollars — which is, incidentally, six times the allotment for non-military foreign aid.)
Graphic from Steven Moore’s article, “The Keys to Prosperity,” as presented in Menards training program for employees, “Civics 101: The National Self Governing Will In-Home Training, Course 3: American Job Security.”
The article’s primary point is Moore’s claim that the rich are already paying more than their fair share of taxes, and that to ask them to pay more would have a detrimental effect on the economy.
A second piece bearing Moore’s byline in the Menards course, “A Nation of Takers, Not Makers,” argues that the public sector is too large, and that government employees are draining the economy. The piece opens with this misleading statement:
If you want to understand better why so many states—from New York to Wisconsin to California—are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, consider this depressing statistic: Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960, when there were 15 million workers in manufacturing and 8.7 million collecting a paycheck from the government.
If you’re a person stuck in a low-paying, non-union retail job, that sounds pretty awful. But Moore neglects to mention that the percentage of the workforce made up of government workers is almost exactly the same today as it was in 1960:15.2 percent in 1960, and 15.3 percent in 2010. What’s changed is the size of the manufacturing sector due to the offshoring of manufacturing jobs — something Moore and his paymasters at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation (which owns the Wall Street Journal) and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (from which he’s collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees) are all in favor of.
The very title of the “Takers, Not Makers” piece invokes the old right-wing “producerist” trope, described this way by Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons in their book, Right-Wing Populism in America:
Calls to rally the virtuous “producing classes” against evil “parasites” at both the top and bottom of society is a tendency called producerism. It is a conspiracist narrative used by repressive right-wing populism. Today we see examples of it in the Tea Party and Republican Party rhetoric, some sectors of the Christian Right, in the Patriot movements and armed militias, and in the White Supremacist Right.
Berlet and Lyons go on to explain producerism’s origins during the presidency of Andrew Jackson, during which a ”vision of the producing classes included white farmers, laborers, artisans, slave-owning planters, and ‘productive’ entrepreneurs…”
In the Menards civics course, which also addresses the nation’s early history, Andrew Jackson is given an outsized role — four pages unto himself, more word spillage than devoted to any one of the nation’s founders, for instance. What makes Jackson such a hero to Menards? He paid off the national debt in full before leaving office. (The method by which he did this had nothing to do, the reader is assured, with the ensuing Depression.)
Fear-Mongering on Regulation and Environmental Protection
Other articles in the Menards civics course focus on the evils of cap-and-trade pollution-curbing schemes which, the reader is told, “have resulted in the pilfering of nearly $1 trillion from the private sector.” The Waxman-Markey bill, supported by the Obama administration and which aimed to apply a cap-and-trade framework to reduce carbon emissions, is described as a threat to job security, and would, according to Menards, “destroy between 1.8 million and 2.4 million jobs.”
Cap-and-trade is also a favorite bugaboo of Americans for Prosperity, and coincidentally an idea fiercely opposed by Koch Industries, whose core business is in the gas, oil and coal sectors.
Also targeted for the ire of Menards management is the auto bailout, and the TARP measures that bailed out the big banks. Meanwhile, government programs aimed at helping smaller businesses are described as a government plan for making small businesses dependent on government.
If this rhetoric sounds familiar, it’s because these are the same lines that have been advanced by Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity, and the Tea Party movement that AFP shaped and nurtured. In fact, the opening volume of the course is a rather benignly told history of the nation’s founding that is imbued with graphics recognizable to any Tea Party-leaning individual, thanks to the movement’s co-option of some of the American Revolution’s most iconic symbols, most notably the “Join or Die” cartoon published by Benjamin Franklin showing a snake cut into segments labeled for eight territories or colonies. The cartoon was appropriated by Glenn Beck for his 9/12 Project, which was a Tea Party organizing effort conducted over the cable spectrum occupied by Fox News Channel, which is also owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
When the Prosperity 101 program from which the Menards civics course is derived first launched, Linda Hansen promoted it with an endorsement from Menards’ owner, J.R. Menard, who is quoted on her textbook’s back cover:
“It is the duty as a responsible employer to inform employees of the current and future business climate so they may make the best decisions for their career and their families. Public policy that is not business friendly will be detrimental to job quality and growth unless we voice our concerns and make a difference.”
On the inside cover, Hansen is described as the creator of Prosperity 101, and executive director of the Wisconsin Prosperity Network, one of the two non-profits founded by Mark Block that have earned the scrutiny of the feds. The other is a now-defunct entity called Prosperity USA, whose last profit-and-loss statement, as reported by Daniel Bice, revealed up to $42,000 in payments to Hansen’s for-profit Prosperity 101, for which she is named as the registered agent. Prosperity USA was also revealed to have improperly covered expenses for the Herman Cain campaign. including the chartering of a private jet to ferry the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO to campaign events.
When he shilled for the Prosperity 101 program at Sheldon Adelson’s hotel in Las Vegas in 2010, Cain called it the right’s “answer to ACORN” — referring to the now-defunct community organizing group that was famous for registering voters, especially among the poor and communities of color.
In his article in the Menards course, Herman Cain reinforces the notion that workers’ jobs are threatened by those who seek to regulate business. He writes:
There are three things you can do to protect your personal prosperity. First, you can become informed about threats to your prosperity. Secondly, be involved. Register to vote and make sure you vote in elections. You can be involved by being connected to an organization that reflects your values and helps to express your view. Last but not least, be impactful. Voting makes an impact, but also be ready to protect your right to prosperity with your voice. Your voice and your votes are the two major weapons you can use to make sure we get this nation back on track.
At Menards, the boss may step just shy of telling you who to vote for, but there’s little doubt for whom he thinks you should cast your vote. Hoping for a promotion? You just may want to rethink that Obama/Biden bumper sticker.
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In Tampa, Much of the Drama Will Stay Offstage
Updated: August 26, 2012 | 10:09 p.m.
August 26, 2012 | 10:08 p.m.
Some of the biggest names in politics will be missing from the stage during the Republican National Convention this week in Tampa, and that’s no accident. The Mitt Romney campaign is aiming to focus squarely on President Obama’s record and the GOP future rather than on polarizing figures and controversies from the past.
The idea is to portray a competent, forward-looking party—and that has translated into leaving out a recent president and vice president, some tea party stars, and most of the Republicans who only months ago were fighting Romney for the nomination. The absent former rivals include Rep. , who won the straw poll in 2011; former pizza magnate Herman Cain, who once led national polls during the primary race; Gov. , viewed as a juggernaut before he ran; and retiring Rep. Ron Paul, who is getting a video tribute but no live address.
Also missing from the podium, and the convention as well: Former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney. Bush and Cheney represent a decade of GOP dominance that voters don’t remember fondly. Even Republicans have been highly critical of deficit spending and bailouts during the Bush-Cheney years.
The two decided separately not to attend. They probably realized the ramifications of showing up, said Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union. “The leaders of the party from the last decade agree it’s in the party’s best interest to move forward,” he said.
Almost all of these no-shows have national favorability ratings in the 20s and 30s. That includes former Gov. Sarah Palin, who made an electric convention debut four years ago as the GOP vice presidential pick but won’t be onstage this year. Her absence, along with that of Cain, Bachmann, Donald Trump, and other tea party favorites, has not gone unnoticed. The conservative group TheTeaParty.net has asked conservatives to sign a petition condemning convention organizers for what they call a blatant and outrageous attempt “to silence TEA PARTY voices and ignore the historic success of the Tea Party since 2009.”
Convention organizers are clearly aiming for the preferred audience in a new Convention Insiders Poll, in which 71 percent of Republican Insiders said it was more important for the convention to appeal to swing voters. Only 22 percent said it was more important to energize the base. Perhaps even more relevant for GOP planners: In an NBC News/ poll last month, only 25 percent of Americans said they supported the tea party; 65 percent said they did not.
(Some Democrats, of course, will also be notably absent in Charlotte next week, including former Vice President Al Gore and former presidential contender Michael Dukakis. But Bill Clinton will speak just before President Obama accepts his renomination. And in 2008, even after Hillary Rodham Clinton’s long, hard primary fight against Obama, both Clintons spoke at the convention in a show of party unity—after Obama had chosen another rival, Joe Biden, as his running mate.)
The GOP nomination fight was a free-for-all of charges and countercharges. “It was a bruising primary, a roller-coaster primary where some very nasty words were exchanged,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist. For instance, Perry saying Romney had practiced “vulture capitalism,” Gingrich’s never-ending complaints that Romney and his allies were buying the election, and former Sen. Rick Santorum’s assertion that Romney was “the worst Republican in the country to put up against Obama.”
Bonjean said putting former rivals onstage would make them look hypocritical after all that. But Santorum nevertheless scored a speaking role this week, and Gingrich did as well. A revised schedule issued on Sunday shows him slotted for an appearance with his wife on Thursday night. The rest of Romney’s onetime competitors? No go.
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Newt Gingrich may have ended campaign, but he will remain out of this world
By Dana Milbank, Published: May 2
With “more discipline and more courage to be more outside the mainstream,” Newt Gingrich told USA Today on the eve of ending his presidential bid, “it might have worked better.”
Actually, Mr. Moon Colony was plenty outside the mainstream. But discipline? Yes, that might have helped.
Speaking Wednesday afternoon at an Arlington hotel, the former House speakerformally departed the GOP primary race in much the manner in which he ran his campaign: discursive, chaotic and utterly devoid of self-control.
For 23 desultory minutes in an overheating conference room, Gingrich took the 150 campaign workers and reporters present on a stream-of-consciousness tour of the Newtonian Mind. He spoke, in no particular order, of Capt. John Smith in 1607, mining asteroids, his novels about George Washington, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Ellis the Elephant, the Strait of Hormuz, Alzheimer’s disease, Chinese bondholders, Todd Palin, electromagnetic pulses, radical Islamists, C-SPAN, his high school years, Nixon, Carter, Reagan (both Ronald and Michael), the civil service, the Civil War, autism, holograms, the Soviet Union, nanoscale science, the Federalist Papers and Herman Cain.
He had little to say about the one thing people in the room cared about most — whether he would endorse Mitt Romney, the man Gingrich had dubbed a liar and a fake. Gingrich was tepid. “You know, this is not a choice between Mitt Romney and Ronald Reagan,” he said. “This is a choice between Mitt Romney and the most radical, leftist president in American history.”
Gingrich, who enjoys dinosaur fossils and zoos, chose instead to tell his captive audience about his pet projects. “I’m cheerfully going to take back up the issue of space,” he proclaimed. With his wife, Callista, in her usual place at his side, her mauve jacket perfectly matching her nail polish, he acknowledged that she was correct in telling him that his proposal for a moon colony “was probably not my most clever comment in this campaign. I thought, frankly, in my role of providingmaterial for ‘Saturday Night Live,’ it was helpful.”
About this aspect of the Gingrich campaign there can be no dispute. He gave us child janitors, the Tiffany charge account, algae, a Greek cruise, the mass defection of his campaign staff and the “food-stamp president.” He told us he worked as a “historian” for Fannie Mae, boasted about his speaking fees, and mercilessly condemned Romney as a man who “can’t be honest,” who “looted a company” and who “doesn’t seem capable of inspiring positive turnout.”
After his win in South Carolina, a Gingrich nomination briefly seemed plausible. But that possibility was quickly extinguished to everybody but Gingrich. As recently as two weeks ago, Gingrich was vowing to remain a candidate until the Republican National Convention. The New York Times’ Mark Leibovich caught up with him last week and discovered that he was the only reporter in Gingrich’s entourage. Soon after, even Gingrich’s Secret Service detail abandoned him.
Gingrich exited with typical disorder. First he was preempted by an aide, who announced last week that the candidate would quit. This week, Gingrich preempted himself, making a video on Tuesday to give supporters “insider advance notice.” That left little mystery on Wednesday afternoon, only the contradiction of having Gingrich, who campaigned against Washington and the national media, making his formal announcement inside the Beltway to the national media.
It was, he said, “a truly wild ride . . . all just sort of amazing and astonishing.” Gingrich had the good manners to thank Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire who kept his candidacy afloat. He regaled the cameras with a long recitation of his well-known biography and a detailed list of his future plans (“I will focus again on national security in three zones” and “modernize unemployment compensation to attach to it a training component”).
By the time he reached his defense of the moon-colony proposal, most of the reporters in the audience had stopped writing. A sound technician covered a yawn. One man had his chin on his chest, asleep. The former candidate’s granddaughter, standing onstage, exhaled deeply and put an arm around her mother.
“This is not a trivial area,” Gingrich insisted. Perhaps not. But his rambling farewell was a reminder of why his candidacy, like his speakership, was destined to fail: Gingrich occasionally has brilliant ideas and strategies, but they are difficult to find amid the clutter of his mind and oratory, and that makes him seem unpredictable and unstable.
“I’m not totally certain I will get to the moon colony,” Gingrich acknowledged. But one thing is certain: He will always be way out there.
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Republicans Reveal that Entire Presidential Race was a Prank
April Fool’s Day Announcement Brings Practical Joke to an End
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – In an April Fool’s Day announcement that took the political world by storm, the Republican Party revealed today that its entire presidential race had been an elaborate prank.
“April Fool!” exclaimed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum at a press conference in Washington, where they were joined by fellow merrymakers Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain.
Moments after revealing that the GOP primary had been one long practical joke, Mr. Santorum explained the rationale behind staging such a complicated and expensive prank.
“A lot of Americans are suffering right now and need a good laugh,” he said. “I think my colleagues and I can be justifiably proud of the entertainment we provided – even if it meant me wearing these ridiculous sweater vests.”
Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain agreed that the prank had gone well, but added, “I’m just amazed that the American people never figured out we were kidding.”
“I mean, I kept saying ‘9-9-9’ every four seconds, which was total and utter bullshit,” he said. “And everything out of Michele’s mouth made her sound like a mental patient.”
“True that,” Rep. Bachmann agreed.
Texas Governor Rick Perry said he worried that “every time I screwed up at a debate people would figure out I was pulling their legs,” but added, “The American people seemed to accept the idea that a Governor of Texas could be a blithering idiot.”
When one reporter mentioned that Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) was not at the press conference, a sudden silence fell over the gathering.
“Did anyone ever tell Ron this was supposed to be a prank?” Mr. Romney asked. “Holy cow, maybe he’s really serious.” Borowitz Report.
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POSTED JANUARY 22, 2012
In Confident Sign, Gingrich Changes Facebook Status to ‘In an Open Relationship’
Newt to America: ‘Join Me. Join Me in My Marriage’
CHARLESTON, SC (The Borowitz Report) – In a sign of renewed confidence, just minutes after former House Speaker Newt Gingrich romped to victory in the South Carolina primary he changed his Facebook status to “In an Open Relationship.”
Mr. Gingrich made no reference to his new Facebook status during his victory speech, in which he made an emotional appeal to the American people: “I say to each and every one of you: Join me. Join me in my marriage.”
The former House Speaker used the speech to highlight the differences between himself and the current resident of the White House: “The American people have a choice: do they want a President who issues food stamps, or one who runs up a $500,000 tab at Tiffany?”
Mr. Gingrich drew cheers and a standing ovation as he concluded his remarks, saying, “In closing, I am staying at the Marriott, Rm. 205. Ladies?”
In yet another boost, Mr. Gingrich received this nod from former rival Herman Cain: “I am not endorsing Newt Gingrich, but I am endorsing Newt Gingrich’s lifestyle.”
At the White House, President Obama made only a glancing reference to the results in South Carolina, telling reporters, “I haven’t been this happy since we smoked bin Laden.”
For his part, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney minimized Mr. Gingrich’s 12% margin of victory: “That’s even less than I pay in taxes.”
- Newt Gingrich Wins South Carolina Primary Beats Mitt Romney in Gop Race (binsidetv.net)
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From Iraq to OWS, Republicans are going to increasingly absurd measures to protect the wealthy
According to the most reliable counts, the United States’ invasion and occupation of Iraq has killed , or more than . In other words, we’ve vaporized the equivalent of Billings, Mont. (pop. 104,170), Memphis, Tenn. (pop. 646,889) or San Jose, Calif. (pop. 945,942).
- The insanity of running as a sane GOP candidate – 2012 Elections – Salon.com (mbcalyn.wordpress.com)
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- Obama and the art of picking a fight – Barack Obama News – Salon.com (mbcalyn.wordpress.com)
- Cynicism, the GOP’s most destructive weapon – Republican Party – Salon.com (mbcalyn.wordpress.com)
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POSTED NOVEMBER 15, 2011
Startled Deer Becomes New Republican Frontrunner
Inability to Speak Considered a Plus
CONCORD, NH (The Borowitz Report) – The race for the Republican presidential nomination took an unexpected turn today as a new poll showed that a startled deer was the new GOP frontrunner.
Bucky, the red deer who is the first choice of likely Republican voters is believed to be the first woodland creature ever to lead a major party’s presidential field.
“Voters like what they see in Bucky,” said veteran political strategist Ed Rollins, who has signed on to helm the red deer’s primary campaign. “The fact that he is unable to speak is a major asset.”
In his first appearance in Concord, New Hampshire, however, the antlered candidate garnered mixed reviews for what some observers said was an unsteady performance.
Appearing frightened by the TV lights, Bucky kicked over the podium and then pranced down the hall before being subdued by a tranquilizer dart.
“Clearly he’s a little rough around the edges,” said Mr. Rollins. “But he still did better than Herman Cain.”
It was another rough day for Mr. Cain, who offered this response to a reporter’s question: “For the last time, I did not touch her down there. Oh wait, did you say ‘Libya?’”
Gov. Rick Perry also stumbled badly in a campaign appearance in Iowa, telling supporters, “If I am elected, I will find out where Iran’s nuclear weapons are. Also, where Iran is.”
Meanwhile, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich predicted that his recent rise in the polls is not a fluke: “The American people want an adult, and no one has a stronger record of adultery than I do.”
- Late Night Comedians Love Herman Cain (themoderatevoice.com)
By E.J. Dionne Jr., Published: November 13
Conservatives need to contemplate what the Rick Perry and Herman Cain stories say about the state of their movement and the health of their creed.
Perry’s debate gaffe last week was about something more important than “brain freeze.” Memory lapses can strike anyone, and Perry probably helped his cause a bit by poking fun at himself at Saturday’s CBS News/National Journal debate and on the David Letterman show.
What really matters is the subject that sent Perry’s brain into lockdown. He was in the middle of describing sweeping changes in the federal bureaucracy closely connected to his spare vision of American government. One presumes a candidate for president ponders such proposals carefully, discusses them with advisers and understands their implications.
Forgetting an idea at the heart of your program, in other words, is not the same as forgetting a phone number, a friend’s name, a football score or the title of a recently read book.
Perry’s memory lapse showed that he wasn’t asserting anything that he is truly serious about because he is not serious about what government does, or ought not to do. For him, governing seems a casual undertaking.
“And I will tell you,” he declared, “it’s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone: Commerce, Education and the — what’s the third one there? Let’s see.”
Yes, let’s see what “gone” might imply. Would Perry end all federal aid to education? Would he do away with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the part of the Commerce Department that, among other things, tracks hurricanes? Energy was the department he forgot. Would he scrap the department’s 17 national labs, including such world-class facilities as Los Alamos, N.M., Oak Ridge, Tenn., or — there’s that primary coming up — Aiken, S.C.?
I’m not accusing Perry of wanting to do any of these things because I don’t believe he has given them a moment of thought. And that’s the problem for conservatives. Their movement has been overtaken by a quite literally mindless opposition to government. Perry, correctly, thought he had a winning sound bite, had he managed to blurt it out, because if you just say you want to scrap government departments (and three is a nice, round number), many conservatives will cheer without asking questions.
This is a long way from the conservatism I used to respect. Although I often disagreed with conservatives, I admired their prudence, their affection for tradition and their understanding that the intricate bonds of community are established with great difficulty over time and not easy to reweave once they are torn asunder. At their best, conservatives forced us to think harder. Now, many in the ranks seem to have decided that hard and nuanced thinking is a telltale sign of liberalism.
That brings us to Herman Cain, who is trying to get out from under charges of sexual harassment. His approach is to have his campaign attack the individuals who leveled them, and, even more, to go after those who made these charges public.
True, he’s been inconsistent about laying blame. Off and on, he pointed to his Republican opponents. But Cain and his defenders have settled on a strategy to rally conservatives by assailing the “liberal media” and “the Democrat machine.”
Politico ran the first stories about the allegations, and to argue that Politico is “liberal” requires an extraordinary leap of the imagination. Most liberals see Politico as leaning over backward to give conservatives more than their share of journalistic spin.
In any event, while women of a variety of political stripes have been in the forefront in demanding accountability from Cain, plenty of liberals have been happy to look on and let the GOP settle this one. And most members of “the Democrat machine” defended Bill Clinton against impeachment in the Monica Lewinsky matter. They, too, have largely stayed away from the Cain controversy, aware as they are of the meaning of the word “hypocrisy.”
Not so with the many conservatives who donned full feminist armor during the Clinton scandal and now defend Cain reflexively, not even asking that he come clean about the facts.
There are honorable exceptions: Bill Bennett, for one, and to some degree — hard to admit, I know — Karl Rove. But that so many other members of a movement theoretically devoted to traditional values on sexual matters would eagerly jump into this mess on Cain’s side speaks volumes about its condition. To paraphrase Bennett from another context, where’s the outrage about a conservatism that is losing both its intellectual moorings and its moral compass?
- You: The real conservative scandal (washingtonpost.com)
- The True Conservative Scandal (themoderatevoice.com)
- Only family economics, Rick Santorum gets it only partially right – The Washington Post (wpvins.wordpress.com)
- Economy can’t afford Obama’s austerity (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- 2012 GOP race: Has the Tea Party already lost? – The Week (mbcalyn.wordpress.com)
- Perry’s gaffe: mindless opposition to government (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Rick Perry’s “Niggerhead” Problem Is A Sign Of Moral Failing ” CAFFEINATED POLITICS (mbcalyn.wordpress.com)