I recently read a NYTimes article recounting Herman Cain’s recent mystifying comments about Obama’s handling of Libya. The following part caught my eye:
J. D. Gordon, Mr. Cain’s spokesman and national security adviser, said the candidate had not been at his sharpest in Milwaukee because of a lack of sleep amid a long day of traveling.
“We were all going on four hours sleep, so he was tired,” Mr. Gordon said in a telephone interview. “When he got the Libya question, it took him a while to get his bearings on it, but he got the answer right.”
The Yankees should sign Mr. Gordon as a pitcher, for how much desperate spin he can generate. But that aside, I find this refreshing. The reality television show that is the GOP Presidential Nominee race may actually be lurching our nation, in a roundabout fashion, towards a more reasonable expectation of our national political figures.
From what I can tell, Cain and Rick Perry have committed so many mystifying public gaffes and startling changes of direction that they are starting to own them. Rather than apologize, they dismiss their behavior as inconsequential to their qualifications for the Presidency. This tactic is parroted by their campaigns and their media cheerleaders.
This forces their critics to hone in on what we should be talking about, which is the merits of their ideas and other ways to measure qualifications. In races past, a candidate’s ability to be consistent seemed to matter as much, or more, than his underlying qualifications to do the job. In races past, candidates were usually too afraid to admit they had ever been wrong about anything. In order to be President, you had to be a granite pillar of immutably correct opinions. As Stephen Colbert put it, George W. Bush believed on Wednesday what he believed on Monday, no matter what happened on Tuesday.
Cain and Perry are blowing these benchmarks out of the water. The harder conservatives rub their eyes and try to see someone besides Mitt Romney as a viable president, the farther they go to absolve clowns like Perry and Cain of their gaffes and reversals. Which in turn drops both gaffe-making, and previously advocating for positions now deemed to be incorrect (known outside the Beltway as “admitting your mistakes”), down the list of hazardous materials to a candidacy. What rises up the list may be (oh god please may it be) the merits of one’s ideas.