National Catholic Reporter

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WaPo Half Right in Cain

An article in today's Washington Post bears the deadline, "Cain speaks his mind, no matter how impolitic." The article mentions some of Mr. Herman Cain's more unfortunate verbal gaffes over the past few months, as when he said he would not be comfortable having a Muslim in his Cabinet, a statement he has since walked back.

It is true that Mr. Cain's verbal miscues are problematic. No one cares what the CEO of Godfather's Pizza thinks about Muslims really, but people can die when government leaders make outrageous statements that understandably inflame passions abroad.

But, there is a deeper problem with Mr. Cain's prolix nature. He is vapid. Many of his statements are the verbal equivalent of those horrible posters one finds in certain doctors' waiting rooms, the posters that show eagles soaring over the Grand Canyon and, beneath, a single word: "Determination" or "Freedom." Sometimes the photos are also accompanied by really insipid poems or phrases that attempt to amplify the sentiment expressed in the always one-word headline. In Mr. Cain's case, "solutions" and "teamwork" dribble out of him, and with conviction, but he does not explain which solutions, or why certain solutions are better than others, or who will be on his team. His "9-9-9-" tax plan seems to have been designed with the simple slogan in mind, more than any attempt to achieve a fair and just tax code.

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Mr. Cain's personal story is a compelling one and I am sure that he has a certain kind of competence at running a pizza business although, as an Italian friend noted, he turned the company around through marketing and not, unfortunately, by producing really good pizza. But, you only have to watch him for five minutes to recognize that the complex weighing of human values, the need to balance freedom with justice, or justice with security, these complexities have never kept him up at night nor troubled him for long. Complexity of mind is a requirement for the high office of the presidency.

N.B. I have no idea why the WaPo gives a different headline to its online article from the one that was in my paper this morning.

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