Herman Cain would make a great president of the United States. He is my candidate, and he has a good chance of becoming the candidate of the Republican Party.
Cain’s only weakness is political inexperience, and that leads to mistakes in his campaign, but it is not a disqualification for the office. In fact, in the eyes of most voters, it is more a blessing than a curse.
Based on my 30 years in public life, I see three qualifications for public office and for the office of president. These three qualifications have nothing to do with “electability.” Citizens, unlike professional campaign consultants, ask other questions before asking if a candidate is electable. Voters want to know what kind of leader he would be in the White House, and if he can’t or won’t lead us out of our current mess, then “electability” is irrelevant.
The three most essential qualifications for president are the same three qualifications used for selecting appointees in the Reagan administration in 1981. The Reagan White House wanted every appointee to meet three tests called the “three C’s”: character, competence and commitment. Herman Cain passes all three with flying colors, whereas Romney and Perry … not so much.
By all the evidence, Cain’s character is stellar in every respect. He is truthful, honest, loyal, hardworking and forthright. He keeps his promises, and scandal has never touched him.
By commitment, the Reagan team meant commitment to a set of core conservative principles and a conservative policy agenda, and there had to be a history of both words and deeds to back it up. Cain is a proven conservative who has that kind of commitment in abundance.
Competence is, of course, essential, and our nation cannot afford a Republican version of Obama – an inexperienced and incompetent leader driven only by ideological zeal. But competence as a leader and manager is not synonymous with prior government experience. In fact, a good argument can be made that the more government experience a candidate has had, the LESS qualified he is to be president at a time when we need a radical change in direction for government.
No successful presidential candidate sits down in the Oval Office on Jan. 20 fully prepared to deal with a hundred different policy challenges, foreign and domestic. Probably the best prepared president in our lifetime by the standards of political science was Richard Nixon – a former congressman, U.S. senator and vice president – and we know how that turned out. What we want in a president is not an encyclopedic knowledge of the world of government but the ability to select good advisers and to make good judgments on sound principles.
Herman Cain’s inexperience in politics does indeed create problems for his campaign, but this is not a disqualification for office. His inexperience presents difficulties in the campaign, but every campaign has some obstacles to overcome. Voters know there is a difference between managing a campaign and managing the government.
For example, his relative inexperience leads to mistakes in dealing with the media, mistakes that flow from his lack of a healthy cynicism about the media. Cain does not yet fully understand that when a reporter asks a question of a political candidate, especially a reporter from the mainstream media, it is not the same thing as a businessman being asked a question by a business-page reporter or a football star being asked a question by a sports writer. In political reporting, the purpose of a question is NOT to get information useful to voters – it is to spring a “gotcha” trap that will make headlines, sell papers and probably be useful to opponents.
Cain has made mistakes in answering questions about abortion, Guantanamo and his 9-9-9 plan. Thus, he has had to “walk back” some of his answers and give a more complete statement of his true position. No doubt he will learn these lessons and become more adept at handling the media.
The news media have a candidate, and it is not Herman Cain. The media’s candidate is Barack Obama. Most voters now understand this.
Yes, Cain will be attacked viciously by the left, but those attacks will only fortify his standing among ordinary folks.
Yes, he has a lot to learn about foreign policy, but there is plenty of time to do that. He brings the right values and the right perspective to that job, and we can trust his judgment when he has been fully briefed on any crisis situation. He will not go to Egypt and praise the Muslim Brotherhood, and he will not go the United Nations and apologize for American power and American exceptionalism.
Cain’s 9-9-9 plan is not perfect; it can be improved – but it moves the debate in the right direction, and it shows he is serious about his free-enterprise principles.
Herman Cain is electable precisely for the reasons many pundits dismiss him: He is not a professional politician. That’s a good thing. He is instead a professional manager of strong character and conservative values, and that is exactly what the voters want in 2012.