Raising Cain

September 29, 2011

I broke the ice with Cain by remarking that we were both born in the same year (he is 193 days younger than me) and both took our first degree in mathematics. I asked him about the ballistics work he’d done for the Navy. Lotta differential equations? Oh, yeah.
ODEs or PDEs? Mostly O’s—which is the right answer in ballistics. I recall thinking: Smart cookie. I doubt mathematical ability is directly relevant to a president’s tasks, but a guy who can do advanced math is a guy who can pursue chains of deductive reasoning for minutes at a time—rare in human beings. 

Then we got on to politics, where I recall Cain’s answers as thoughtful but not striking. He’s worked on the striking-ness since then, pushing his “999” plan: a nine percent corporate income tax, a nine percent personal income tax, and a nine percent sales tax, all to replace the current umpteen-thousand-page tax code. It sounds gimmicky, and the power of Congress to corrupt and complicate the tax code cannot be underestimated. Still, it’s not a bad formula, and it’s the kind of thing that sticks in people’s minds.

The great talents of the black race are in presentation, mimicry, and verbal skill. They excel as salesmen, persuaders, seducers, actors, and preachers. The downside of all that is the empty-suit phenomenon—the black artist who bowls you over into accepting him, then delivers…nothing. Any race can produce an empty suit, but this is a zone where blacks dominate. As we have learned.

It’s hard to stick Cain with that charge, though. His business accomplishments are real. He took charge of a fast-food chain and made it profitable. Then he did it all over again. He’s worked at banking, lobbying, and punditry, too—all with fair success. Not an empty suit, not at all.

The real charge against Cain is his political innocence. A colleague of mine:

It isn’t that Cain lacks the stature to be president, but he lacks the kind of experience the office requires.…[A] successful president must know how to build coalitions, apply pressure to friends and foes alike, deal with a hostile press, appoint officials who won’t embarrass the administration, handle ego and turf battles among his advisers and cabinet members, and know when to spend and when to husband political capital. And all of that is before he begins to deal with other nations.

Well, yes. Installed in the White House, a President Cain could find himself buffaloed by the Washington establishment—the bureaucrats, lobbyists, congresscritters, and government careerists. How would he know whether some general, some staffer, some GS-15, some Treasury number-cruncher, some State Department China Desk wonk, was telling him the truth? George W. Bush at least had his dad. But then, who does Barack Obama have?

Herman Cain has been winning straw polls. Straw polls—yeah, yeah. Sarah Palin has called him “flavor of the week.” The man himself has been heard grumbling that the national press doesn’t take him seriously.

Hey, Herm: I take you seriously. Any friend of ODEs is a friend of mine. Go, Herman, go! Just do a little work on that immigration C-minus, please.


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