Herman Cain is quickly moving up the Republican presidential food chain.
Just weeks ago he was virtually unheard of. Now, after a stellar debate performance, and several headline-grabbing statements, people are beginning to notice the talk show host from Atlanta.
Herman Cain is fiscally conservative, talks a tough talk, speaks truth to power, and has never held an elected office - something many people count as a plus.
His main claim to fame up until this point is that he was CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, and helped turn the failing company around, eventually overseeing the sale of it at a large profit.
But he has one major flaw — his lack of experience. He’s a successful businessman, but that’s it. Much the same as our current president, he hasn’t had the experience it takes to run a country well.
In the midst of the Democratic presidential primary in 2008, Hillary Clinton released an ad, criticizing Barack Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience.
Set to a camera shot panning across two sleeping kids and the sound of a ringing phone in the background, a voice comes in with these words.
“It’s 3 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep. But there’s a phone in the white house and it’s ringing. Something’s happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call, whether it’s someone who already knows the world’s leaders, knows the military — someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world. It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?”
Judging by the results of the primary, voters obviously didn’t want Hillary Clinton answering the phone. But the ad did serve as a valid critique of Barack Obama’s lack of experience in the realm of foreign policy.
And Obama’s lack of experience on any number of levels has been the basis for constant attacks from many conservatives. Obama was simply not prepared to be president, they say; he wasn’t prepared to deal with the issues that come across the president’s desk. Which, I think, is a pretty accurate appraisal.
But Barack Obama wasn’t the only candidate in 2008 facing questions about experience. Sarah Palin, right out of the starting gate, was plagued with questions surrounding her grasp of key issues. Probably the most glaring gap in her knowledge became evident in an interview with Charlie Gibson.
Gibson asked the then-Alaska governor if she agreed with the Bush Doctrine. Stumped, Palin asked for clarification, eventually giving a vague answer lauding Bush for going after Islamic extremists. Charlie Gibson then had to explain to her what the Bush Doctrine was, so she could answer again. It wasn’t a good moment for Palin or for the McCain campaign.
This goes to show that the American public holds its presidential candidates to higher standards than your average Joe, and those higher standards include an elevated grasp of the issues.
Now back to Herman Cain.
In an interview on Foxnews last Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Cain what he thought about Israel. Cain was opinionated, stressing his support of Israel. Wallace next asked the presidential hopeful about his view on the “right of return.”
Cain’s response — “The right of return? The right of return?” — showed he had no idea what Wallace was talking about, forcing Chris Wallace to jump in and clarify what the right of return is.
And, if you’re wondering, the right of return is the thought that Palestinians who, in 1948, were kicked off the land that is now Israel should be able to return. It’s a pretty basic concept in the discussion about Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Herman Cain, who wants to be president and have control of foreign policy decisions, was absolutely clueless about this fundamental concept.
Herman Cain is conservative, he’s fiscally sound, but he’s not experienced. Having knowledge of the business world or having conservative views does not automatically mean someone is qualified to be the president of the United States. More than business savvy is required to be the leader of the free world.
Hillary Clinton posed a question in 2008 that we need to ask ourselves today. Who do we want answering the phone in the White House at 3 a.m.? More to the point, do we want a businessman, who doesn’t understand basic foreign policy issues, to be the one fielding that call?
(Elijah Friedeman, author of The Millennial Perspective, is the grandson of Janis Friedeman, Great Bend. His columns can also be heard on his father, Matt Friedeman’s, radio program on American Family Radio.)