The Herman Cain Meltdown

The hits keep on coming for the businessman and onetime GOP front-runner, who seems determined to go down in flames

cainmouth.banner.jpg

The Herman Cain implosion is under way.

Once the Republican front-runner, Cain now seems to be self-destructing before our very eyes. Beset on all sides and sinking in the polls, he's not content to go out with a whimper. Instead, his campaign has become a spectacular series of blunders.

The latest: While trying to fend off criticism of his recent foreign policy gaffes on Thursday, Cain mounted a spirited defense of ignorance and even illiteracy.

"Who knows every detail of every country on the planet? Nobody!" Cain told reporters following him on the campaign trail in New Hampshire. And: "We need a leader, not a reader!" 

That line's unfortunate echo of the buffoonish president from The Simpsons Movie seemed telling. All along, Cain has been a sort of cartoon version of a presidential candidate, entertaining, silly, and preposterously exaggerated.

Meanwhile Thursday, Cain abruptly canceled a planned interview with New Hampshire's most important conservative editorial page, the Manchester Union Leader. It appeared to be a belated, and narrowly targeted, attempt to prevent the candidate from facing further questioning and doing further self-damage. But it only served to invite criticism from another quarter, and it certainly didn't prevent Cain from making more inadvisable remarks (see above).

The implosion's beginning can be traced to another newspaper editorial-board interview, with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, on Monday. That's when Cain got tripped up by a simple, open-ended question on Libya -- you know, the site of the last major U.S. military intervention. His helpless fumbling gave Rick Perry's "oops" some serious competition in the brain-freeze sweepstakes.

Then, on Wednesday, Cain made a pilgrimage to Miami's Little Havana, without apparently bothering to do any homework on Cuba: He professed ignorance of the U.S.'s "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, called a query about Obama's Cuba policy a "gotcha question" and inquired with apparent seriousness, "How do you say 'delicious' in Cuban?"

At this point, stories about Cain aren't even mentioning the sexual harassment accusations he spent weeks trying to fend off. That's ancient history. Heck, compared to all these random countries people keep asking him about, Cain might like to be talking about the allegations again -- at least that's something he has some practice answering questions about.

Though the harassment scandal isn't the source of his present difficulties, it seems likely that it's at the root of Cain's unraveling. The revelations about accusations of sexual harassment against Cain from four different women clearly set him off-balance and planted a seed of doubt in voters' minds.

His erstwhile supporters might have wanted to tiptoe discreetly off his sinking ship. But Cain, it seems, would rather chase them off with sirens blaring.

Image credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

Presented by

Molly Ball is a staff writer covering national politics at The Atlantic.

Saving the Bees

Honeybees contribute more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy. A short documentary considers how desperate beekeepers are trying to keep their hives alive.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Politics

Just In