Running for President as a Moneymaking Scheme

candidate or conman?

We live in an increasingly shallow and commercial culture, so I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked to learn that some people run for President of the United States specifically in order to enrich themselves rather than because they want to serve our country. To be honest, I’ve often speculated that Obama wanted to be President so he could move up to the investor class, and that he might even prefer to serve only one term and then get on to the business of becoming filthy rich.

Sarah Palin became a celebrity by running for Vice President, after which she resigned her job as governor of Alaska, wrote a couple of books and became a Fox personality. She continued to allow her deluded supporters to believe she intended to run for President in 2012, and then pulled the rug out from under them. Did she do all this just to get rich?

Newt Gingrich’s entire campaign staff resigned in June, reportedly because they felt he was more committed to promoting the books and movies he produces with his wife Calista than to doing the hard work needed to win presidential primaries.

It appears Herman Cain is another example of the largely self-interested, phony presidential candidate, according to an article by Joshua Green at Bloomberg Businessweek.

Green writes that Cain’s occupation over the past fifteen years has been traveling around the country as a “motivational speaker.” He is also promoting his new book, This is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House while he is supposedly running for President–and presumably accepting contributions from supporters. Green writes that Cain recently told an audience in Phoenix, AZ that “My American dream,” he boomed, “was, when I grow up, I want to make me some money!” More from the article:

Cain is making money, alright. Bloomberg News reported on Oct. 17 that his campaign paid more than $65,000 to his personal publishing company to buy copies of his books and pamphlets. In an interview before his address to the Arizona GOP, he told me that he continues to give motivational speeches to corporations at $25,000 a pop even as he campaigns for President. “I’m still doing paid speeches,” he confirmed. “But I have not raised my prices. This economy’s on life support, so I’m very mindful of those companies that would like to have me come and speak. But I’m not gonna take advantage of my newfound popularity just to put more dollars in my pocket.” Even so, Cain estimates that he has earned $250,000 this year through his speeches.

Running for President has been good to him, even if no one is certain that the White House is his most coveted destination. Opponents, reporters, and many of his own aides are skeptical. In June, four of his top staffers in Iowa and New Hampshire quit because, as one of them put it, Cain “wasn’t willing to make the commitment to Iowa necessary to win.” Over the past few months, as his popularity has swelled, he has turned his back on the early primary states he once courted diligently and set off on a national book tour to promote This is Herman Cain! He has a bare-bones staff, a thin calendar, and hasn’t registered his name on the ballot in numerous primary states, although he has registered appearances on the Today show and dozens of others to pitch his book.

Cain claims he’s a serious candidate, even though he isn’t making the slightest effort to compete in the early primaries.

Cain insists he’s serious about becoming President and dismisses any suggestion otherwise. “People who criticize me for our strategy, they don’t know what our strategy is,” he says. Cain claims that he has passed over early primary states to sell books and speak to audiences in places like Tennessee and Ohio because he is running primary and general election strategies at the same time. “I have an unconventional campaign,” he says.

Nevertheless, by pretending to be a candidate, he has certainly raised his own visibility and celebrity, just as Palin did. I always had the impression that Cain was nothing but a cheap huckster; but after reading Green’s article my opinion of him has gotten even lower, if that’s possible. And yet this man is currently the Republican frontrunner. Sometimes I feel as if I don’t fit in this new America at all. What has happened to patriotism and idealism?

I’ve started seeing a few stories suggesting that Cain’s support may have peaked. Jonathan Bernstein at the Plum Line asks if Cain’s fifteen minutes are over.

Last night, Herman Cain made a big splash when he backed into pro-choice language on abortion last night on CNN — apparently by accident — when he said he is personally fully against abortion but doesn’t think that the government should tell women what to do. This is already shaping up as a very big deal. Cain is leading in some polls, so other Republicans may use this slip up to try to take him down, and he’ll have to address it.

In other words, this could mean the end of Cain’s 15 minutes.

Republicans certainly would never nominate anyone who was actually pro-choice, and anti-abortion activists won’t forgive anyone who stumbled this badly on the issue, even if he walks it back back (as I expect he will) and clarifies that he misspoke himself and he’s actually 100% pro-life. So this is at the very least a severe blow to his campaign. Given that he’s not a serious candidate, it gives Republicans a clean shot at bashing him for long enough to finally remove him from the top of the polls. As such, it can be seen as a lucky break for Republicans who know that it’s really not a good idea to have a presidential candidate who can’t manage to put three sentences together on most topics without an embarrassing gaffe.

At the right-wing Boston Herald, Wayne Woodleif writes that is “already deflating” because of another embarrassing gaffe:

The air is gushing out of Herman Cain’s balloon in the Republican presidential race after his rivals battered his beloved 9-9-9 tax plan Tuesday night in Las Vegas and the former pizza mogul, co-leader in recent polls, made a huge gaffe on terrorism in post- and pre- debate interviews.

In the debate, Cain had brushed off CNN moderator Anderson Cooper’s question of why the candidate had told Wolf Blitzer in an earlier interview that he would consider negotiating the release of all the terrorist detainees at Guantanamo for the return of a single American held hostage (a la Israel’s deal with Palestine). “I would never negotiate with terrorists,” Cain answered.

But when Cooper, post-debate, played video from the earlier interview, Cain was caught clearly saying, “I could see myself as president authorizing that kind of transaction.” Once he had all the facts, Cain sang a different song. “I misspoke,” he said. “Things were going so fast” in the interview.

So Cain may soon join Palin as a Fox News Host or perhaps become a more high-profile talk radio host than he was before he “ran for President.” But whatever he chooses to do, he’ll be a lot richer and more famous because pall the free media exposure he received while pretending to be a serious candidate.

Am I the only one who finds that deeply disturbing?