Herman Cain: Nein, Nein, Nein!

While the Weinering of Herman Cain continues apace, the electorate is still trying to figure out what he stands for – aside from “nine-nine-nine” and not being Mitt Romney. Since the President of the United States has more control over foreign policy than domestic affairs, one is naturally curious about his stance when it comes to the question of war and peace – and yet his self-professed ignorance on the subject has simply added to the suspicion that the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza isn’t quite ready for prime time.

In reality, however, Cain does indeed have some very strong views when it comes to America’s overseas commitments: he just doesn’t want to call too much attention to them, for reasons that should become obvious as we explore his publicly available writings on the subject.

Thanks to the Daily Caller, which has compiled the foreign policy related aspects of columns written by Cain over the years, we can get a glimpse inside the mind of Herman Cain, the warmonger. This characterization is confirmed by his comment that the “war on terrorism” is a conflict that “will be fought forever.” Not even George W. Bush, nor even the most wigged-out neocon, was willing to concede that: according to the most pessimistic scenarios, the conflict was projected as taking place over an entire generation. This is considerably less than forever – but you have to give Cain points for his honesty, if nothing else.

In that same column, Cain promotes the views of Pastor Rod Parsley, an evangelical nut-job who not only teaches Islam is an “anti-Christ religion” based on “deception,” and that the prophet Mohammed was a “demon spirit,” but also claims “America was founded in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed.” That’s not in my copy of the Constitution, however, and I don’t see any reference to it anywhere in the Declaration of Independence. During the 2008 campaign, John McCain was forced to disassociate himself from Pastor Parsley and his extremist views: “I believe that even though he endorsed me, and I didn’t endorse him, the fact is that I repudiate such talk, and I reject his endorsement.”

Cain’s militantly anti-Muslim views, which recall the rhetoric we found in mass-murderer Anders Breivik’s manifesto, are well-known. Less well-known, however, is his belief that “World War III” has already started. In a July 26, 2006 column, the would-be occupier of the Oval Office takes his cue from fellow presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who was bloviating about the “World War III” meme at the time. According to Cain, however, this world war is a little bit different:

“In WW III, our enemy is the irreconcilable terrorist wing of a religion – Islam – and a handful of nations that harbor terrorists and fund their activities. Those nations include Iran, Syria, Venezuela and North Korea.

I’m sure Hugo Chavez will be very surprised to learn he’s been lording it over a Muslim country rather than a staunchly Catholic one – and I can only imagine the look on Kim Jong Il’s face when he he hears the muezzin’s call to prayer ring out over the streets of Pyongyang.

All of which raises the question: is Cain just plain stupid? Based on this kind of muddled thinking, unthinkingly committed to print, our answer must be an unequivocal yes.

This is not necessarily a deal-breaker in a Republican presidential primary: after all, look at Rick Perry, and his doppelganger, George W. Bush. Indeed, ignorance in a candidate is a strength as far as the neocons are concerned: all the better to ensnare him (or her) in a web woven by ambitious advisers. Hiding a candidate’s stupidity from the general electorate is not an impossible job, given the right public relations team and the passive complicity of key media outlets, but there is a limit – as Perry is discovering.

Cain’s level of idiocy, however, has so far been successfully masked by two factors: his impeccable delivery, worthy of a Hollywood actor, and his endearing personality. These are characteristics we might find desirable in a television talk show host – one wonders if Fox has already offered him a contract – but one likes to think Americans demand more of their chief executive. Or maybe they don’t….

Comparisons with Reagan, however, don’t do the Gipper justice. Whatever his shortcomings, at least Reagan showed some evidence of both knowledge and conviction. Cain’s public pronouncements are a series of slogans strung together somewhat haphazardly on a thin string of sheer verbal momentum. Derived from the air itself, in this case the somewhat turbulent and bellicose air of a remarkably unsettled Republican presidential primary campaign, these slogans reflect the lowest common denominator of whatever Cain perceives to be a popular trend. Over-the-top religious hatred directed at Muslims – check! Mindless support for two failed wars that are bankrupting us – check! Ominous references to traitors within – check!

The “traitors within” theme is repeatedly sounded throughout the body of Cain’s foreign policy oeuvre. After pointing to the danger of the Venezuelan-North Korean-Iranian axis of evil, he darkly warns “The terrorists wage their warfare and disrupt western civilization from within target countries, rather than by attacks from without.” Alone among the candidates, Cain is alerting us to the dangers of Venezuelan terrorism, although I’m sure Rick Santorum will want to get in on the act.

In “The Propaganda War,” written in the summer of 2006, Cain equated “liberal” opposition to the Iraq war as tantamount to treason:

“The liberals’ propaganda machine has become the press operation of the Islamic terrorists who plot to destroy America, her military and western civilization. This is not President Bush’s war, or Israel’s war, or a small problem the Middle East will just have to work out for itself. This is a global war we must wage against those who want to destroy our way of life.

“American liberals are fighting the war against our great nation with words instead of bullets. Left unchallenged, their words can be just as lethal.”

The idea that “American liberals” didn’t support the Iraq war, many of them, at least in the beginning, is just the first of Cain’s delusions that leap out at the reader of this drivel. He may not know who George Packer is, but surely he’s familiar with Hillary Clinton. Or am I assuming too much?

The irony is that, just a few months before Cain published his screed, William F. Buckley, Jr. declared that “One cannot doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed,” and urged upon our policymakers the importance of “acknowledg[ing] in the inner councils of state that it [the war] has failed, so that we should look for opportunities to cope with that failure.” Was Buckley part of the “liberal propaganda machine”? Was his syndicated column a cog in “the press operation of the Islamic terrorists who plot to destroy America, her military and western civilization”?

These are questions Cain supporters, most of whom claim to be conservatives, ought to be asking themselves.

Another question that needs to be asked is: what’s behind Cain’s rise in the polls? How is it that someone so obviously unqualified for the job of President could garner enough support to become a factor in the race for the White House? The answer is that they don’t call conservative Republicans “the stupid party” for nothing, and this generation of conservative activists and ideologues sets a record for the depths of its ignorance.

The conservative movement of today is a Bizarro World version of the historical doctrine of the American right, which up until the 1950s was anti-imperialist as well as anti-government. It was interventionist liberals, from the time of FDR to the Truman era, who invented the smear term “isolationist” to describe conservatives opposed to foreign adventurism. Today, our Bizarro “conservatives” hurl that epithet knowing neither its pedigree nor its real meaning, and, although they swear by the Constitution, they ignore the Foundersadvice when it comes to going abroad in search of monsters to destroy.

Yes, Cain is as dumb as a brick, but he is merely a reflection of a thoroughly degenerated “conservatism,” one that whines about the growth of government power while recognizing no limit on that power when it comes to making war. The fake “conservatives” of today are explicitly anti-intellectual ideologues, ready-made apologists for a demagogue who speaks in slogans of no more than three syllables – especially one who simultaneously inoculates them against the toxic charge of “racism” while permitting them to indulge in the latest fashion in hate-mongering: Muslim-bashing.

The scandal over the accusations of sexual harassment during his time as head of the Restaurant Association, while surely an orchestrated smear campaign engineered by the Romneyites, is nevertheless telling insofar as it gives us the measure of the man under fire. His first response to the charges was a flat out lie: he denied even knowing about any such accusations. It was only later, when pressed, that he admitted that yes, there had been a financial settlment made – although even here, he only admitted to one such settlement, when there are apparently two women involved. How much longer it will take to drag the whole truth out of him remains to be seen, but what this incident tells us about Cain is clear: he’s a liar, and, more than that, he lies easily, while staring straight into the camera.

It also underscores, once again, the fact that he’s just not that smart. If indeed he was faced with untrue accusations of sexual harassment, and was forced either by lawyers or an insurance company to settle anyway, the smart thing to do would have been to come out with the whole story. It would have been fodder for his adoring followers, who could console themselves with the narrative that their hero was a victim of political correctness and liberal legal theory run amok. As it is, he will face real questions about his integrity.


I’m pleased to announce that the publisher of my book An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000) has made a Kindle edition available. You can purchase it here.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].