Presidential Candidates

Herman Cain and Ron Paul

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Presidential Candidates

Special thank you to:

Dr. Andrea Simpson, Dr. Ernest McGowen and

Dr. Paul J. Achter at University of Richmond.

Unethitcal politicking: simple speech

If one can consider politicking as an activity that is moved by political reasons, and unethical as something that lacks moral principles; we end up with an important concept when these two words meet.

Herman Cain /AP photo

In politicking, the activity that is going to be considered here is Herman Cain’s speech. He has been giving his different perspectives on important issues that are crucial in American elections, and that help the electorate define the candidate that represents most their interests.

They have, however, found a difficulty in the case of Herman Cain as he has been providing inconsistent and very confusing statements. The answers he can give on one particular topic can vary, and sometimes, even be offensive.
This can be due to the simplicity factor that domains his public speech; he makes things simple, he defends himself in short sentences that make the entire question a big muddle next to his short answer, and he persistently considers “choice” as his major argument.

Interestingly, or consequently, sometimes he even gets lost in his short answers and does not respond to what he has been asked in a clear way. He can let go a sentence and then try to construct some unclear background to support it. The simplicity mentioned can be seen in direct answers we have been hearing from him, many times following the “your choice, not the government’s” argument.

Here on foreign policy:

More on foreign policy:

On Muslims:

On homosexuality:

On abortion:

These fragments can be interpreted just as they are, but also if one tries to understand the subject further, or if one of the listeners is affected by the economic crisis, or is homosexual, or is a Muslim, or is from Uzbekistan, or is a Palestenian can feel uncomfortable with declarations from someone who is in the race to run for president. The risk of reducing things to general concepts or to simplify them is that the reflection of the complexity that defines the reality we live in today can be harmuflly undermined.

The example on how he can get into trouble by providing a short answer, and not making things easy to understand when he tries to explain, can be reflected on his abortion position (last clip).

So as seen in the clip the response is unclear, is Herman Cain “pro-life” or “pro-choice”?

Many people do share the same take on political matters as does the former CEO and find in him a businessman, a leader that needs to push the country’s recent situation into a different direction.

Maybe this post refers more to a lack of seriousness more than a lack of morality, but they do converge at one point; that is when you are running for the most important political position you can reach in a democracy, like the one the United States breathes upon.

Trying to work the ethics out

Herman Cain speaks at a press conference in Arizona. Photograph: Eric Thayer/Getty Images

The sexual harassments accusations that have targeted Herman Cain have turned into an interesting question on ethics. On one hand, we have the unethical behavior of someone; and on the other, we have the important coverage of such, and the different points of view it can have depending on the previous conception one had of that someone. Perspectives that can be considered unethical when focusing in particular aspects, more than the entire story, to get the right argument one is looking for.

The report here involves someone who is running for president, and who has been promoting himself as a businessman more than a politician, with a simple tax plan, and a clear foreign policy. This has been promoted in a particular way filled with contradictions and serious paltering indulgences which have made the campaign hard to follow, or at the least, confusing.

Cain’s defense on the serious accusations has been diverse, it has gone from denying the existence of such accusations, to slightly remembering something, to accusing Politico.com, who published the story first, and also to accusing the Republicans of trying to take him down from his leading poll position. He also said that the media was acting unethical and was not following the Journalist Code of Conduct.

 From the media, the reactions have also been diverse and shown how much the perception of Herman Cain have oriented different thoughts. Even though sexual harassment is something to take seriously,  these different thoughts demonstrate how they can take the case as they need it to take it in order to get to the point they want to get. For example, we’ve got Ana Marie Cox (the Guardian), who wrote in relation to the speech Cain had given in the press conference in Arizona, and the fact that he gave a questionable self-confidence image with the words he used:

But the conference may prove damaging to Cain. Not because he seemed guilty or because he kind of backwardly admitted that more accusations could be coming (they’re false, too!), but because this conference was the first sustained look America has gotten at an unscripted Cain. And it turns out he’s kind of a prick!

We have the economist Thomas Sowell  (National Review Online) transmiting something else that favors the presidential candidate:

It is probably not racism, as such, that motivates these attacks on Herman Cain. The motivation is far more likely to be politics, but politics makes a prominent black conservative such as Clarence Thomas or Herman Cain far more dangerous to the Democrats than an equally prominent white conservative.”

To follow this last paragraph, here is a video of an interview of Herman Cain on the Sean Hannity Show, which gets into deeper arguments on the accusations and the intentions of such with a clear perception similar to the previous one.

The approach that considers the behavior of a reporting unethical is highly influenced by the ideology and the previous perception one might have on some issue or person. When reporting on bad behavior that can be clearly perceived. In this case, it’s clear that not reporting on something like this in a context of presidential elections would be, in general, the unethical take of the media.

Behind Herman Cain

Herman Cain. AP/Jim Cole

Herman Cain is getting noticed and the media is consuming itself by publishing his stories. These not only relate to Cain’s unexpected rise, but to some serious accusations: sexual harassments from two women from when he was working for the National Restaurant Association, and from accepting thousands of dollars for his campaign from a tax-exempt organization, behavior that violates federal election and campaign laws.

Mr. Cain has been showing one side of himself;  his past as a former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, as a cancer survivor, and now as someone who comes up with easy plans like his tax-plan: 9-9-9. After the release of his ad campaign on Youtube he has reminded us to research details from his other side. The video has had a big success: it has been viewed more than a million times and it has also yelled the attention of the media with its provocative ending; the protagonist, Mark Block, is filmed smoking a cigarette. He has also infuriated many who consider the advertisement a bad joke for its relation to cancer, as mentioned, disease that Cain himself had to fight.

The video provides us with an interesting fact: Mark Block is Cain’s campaign advisor and director of Friends of Herman, furthermore he was a Tea Party activist and he ran the state chapter Americans for Prosperity (AFP), founded by the Koch brothers. All of which, gives us some feedback on where Cain’s campaign may be leading to.

The question “Why is Mark Block smoking?,” has one answer for Cain: “That’s who he is.” If we can say thank you to this campaign we should, as we now know who Herman Cain really is. Apart from the essential information given that Block is Block and he’s a smoker, we know why they decided to show him as such.

Tobacco has been part of Cain’s career as a lobbyist in Washington D.C., city to which he is not an outsider but an insider. When working as a CEO of the National Restaurant Association (NRA), he aligned with some strong tobacco lobbies, like R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris.  They wanted “to stop restaurant smoking bans, spoke against lowering blood-alcohol limits as a way to prevent drunken driving, fought an increase in the minimum wage and opposed a patients’ bill of right- all in keeping with the interests of the industry he represented,“ says Sheryl Gay Stolber in The New York Times.

This information provided comes from the University of California online archive of tobacco industry documents, which Think Progress went through first and spread the word on the connections.  It’s been proved that the NRA relied heavily on R.J. Reynolds for money and the exchange money-support was very high. He made the RNA turn into an influential trade group positioning it 15th on the Fortune’s magazine “Power 25.” He saw in lobbying a big dynamic that suited his interests and built a nationwide grass-roots program to get local restaurant owners to lobby in Washington. He called this “BITE Back,” (Better Impact the Elected).

 It should not come to our surprise why smoking is aloud in his ad. It’s hard to believe in coincidences when you see that Mark Block was the director of, the mentioned, Americans for Prosperity in Wisconsin, an organization that was deep into anti-tobacco laws and lobbied next to the big companies in this industry, it’s through this organization that Cain and Block met.

 Once you’ve traced what are Cain’s biggest ideals; lower taxes, less government regulation and spending, and you connected them to organizations such as Americans for Prosperity (AFP) founded by the billionaire Koch brothers, then you know what every step in his campaign means. Except, of course, of the accusations on sexual harassment. You also know whose interests he is trying to represent in order to reach his goal and have a safe base of wealthy supporters. He also shows us, how his business mentality is his power engine for this competition for presidency.

To see a general overview of Herman Cain’s finances and contributors click here. To follow the latest news on the presidential candidates click here.

Albert Pollard

Photo via Albert Pollard's website

Albert Pollard- Money and Politics

Click on the link for the audio.

A conversation with Prof Reingard Nethersole on the ANC

Photo by Reuters.

Since South Africa established its democratic system at the end of the Apartheid in 1994, the African National Congress has been the governing party. Though its constitution defines the country as a multiparty system it has to experience the real significance of that concept.

This past month, the news[1] has been covering how the tensions in the ruling party have been growing and are threatening its union. This made me wonder about the origin of these tensions as well how they will affect the future of the ANC.

To get some answers and information from a direct source, I got in touch with Professor Reingard Nethersole, she’s been a professor at University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg for most of her life and feels very attached to the country. Her knowledge on the topic I was interested was overwhelming and the detailed feedback she was able to give me was indeed very interesting.

There are many reasons for the dominance in politics of the African National Congress, and the existing tensions within the party. Besides its historical legitimacy, Nethersole said the ANC as a liberalization movement duting Apartheid was more popular than the Pan African Congress, which structured itself during the late 60s and early 70s, after the Malcolm X and the Black Consciousness Movement in the United States, PAC was rather exclusive in comparison to the ANC, which has always been multiracial and far better organized.”

Herman Giliomee[2], a former political science professor at the University of Cape Town and a former president of the South African Institute of Race Relations, cited a study focusing on industrialized countries that suggested three criteria’s for identifying a dominant party. They are: 1) electoral dominance for a prolonged and uninterrupted period; 2) dominance in the formation of governance; and 3) dominance in determining the public agenda

Nethersole said another, the desire to influence society by ganing access to institutions as the judiciary:

What’s interesting is how the ANC is trying to infiltrate, for instance, in the Constitutional Court, an institution that quite rightly has always been independent.” she said. “During its early days judges did sympathize with the ANC but they were very consciously depriving themselves of taking part of any political party.”

She said President Zuma has tried to influence the courts. by trying place a friend  in a vacant seat of the Constitutional Court. He didn’t manage to do so, as he was heavily criticized by members of his party and members of the judiciary. He finally chose someone that did not  satisfy the critics for considering him inexperienced, but were satisfied by his conservatism.

Western Cape (capital Cape Town) ruled by the Democratic Alliance (DA)

This  raises the question of how the opposition might expose the government and to gain votes. In South Africa, though, the opposition is not very strong. There are some exceptions such as in the Western Cape Province where the Democratic Alliance (DA) won in the 2009 general elections. Nethersole said “the ANC would very much like to have”, this area as it’s very important in wine production and in tourism.

South Africa is fractured racially and while the DA is considered a white party, with a majority of its members and politicians white, this is not a problem as much of what they accomplish (e.g. education) is being copied or emulated in other regions.

There is obvious tension and infighting  in the African National Congress; as when President Mbeki was boosted before the end of his presidential term. He and his supporters, formed the Congress of People, known as COPE, which Reingard  Nethersole pointed out was related to “cope” as for the English term “coping”. This party did actually perform as a strong opposition contender when running in the 2009 general elections, and was the second party most voted, but now they are dealing with some internal fighting .

Fighting within ANC continues for several reasons said Nethersole.

President Zuma and Julius Malema face rising tensions in the ANC.

 The African National Congress Youth League has a really important supporting role to the general ANC, and what we have seen now is how the leader of the ANC’s Youth league, Julius Malema, is provoking many insiders by making infamitory remarks in public that do not benefit the party. Netehersole calls him a “fire brand”, but said his support is vital for President Zuma to be reelected president of the ANC. So even though, many criticize Malema and want Zuma to be more strict with him, he is not for  fear of losing support of the entire Youth League.

Nethersole also points out Trade Unions and the Communist Party, as  historically part of the ANC, pressure Zuma on what policies to take on. The unions disrupt the agenda of the ruling party but because of the strenght of their constituency to the party they must be kept happy. The unions would rather have more social policies in the wage syste, said Nethersole, and are not satisfied with the more liberal ones that have been promoted by Zuma.

South Africa not only has to overcome the tensions that have always existed in their political culture, but also curruption within those parties. There’s an added plus, which is globalization. The interconection of the countries and their dependency on trade make many countries go one way or another.

All these are reasons to think that the dominant party in this country is being threatened, and that the possibility of a slowly rising bipartidism is likely, more so than the multiparty system that the constitution establishes.


[1] (a) Cowell, Alan. “A.N.C. Official Convicted of Hate Speech.” New York Times. 12 Sept. 2011. Web. 05 Oct. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/13/world/africa/13southafrica.html?_r=3&ref=africa&gt;.

(b) “Julius Malema’s Hearing Cuts to the Heart of the ANC’s Internal Conflict.” | The Guardian. 01 Sept. 2011. Web. 06 Oct. 2011. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/sep/01/julius-malema-disciplinary-anc-conflict?INTCMP=SRCH&gt;.

[2] Giliomee, Herman, and Marc F. Plattener. “Chp10 South Africa’s Emerging Dominant-party Regime.” Dermocratization in Africa. Ed. Larry Diamond. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1999. 140-54. Print.

Fact Checking: Herman Cain

I’ve been following the Republican candidate for Presidency Herman Cain from Georgia. He’s a former Grandfather Pizza CEO, he considers himself a conservative,  and a true believer in the Bible and the Constitution.

It all started with a blogger asking Herman Cain: “Would you be comfortable appointing a Muslim either in your cabinet or as a Federal Judge?” His answer was negative. The clip I’ve decided to take the fact from, is the following one:

So as you see, in this CBS interview, Mr. Cain defends his negative answer by giving the reporter some evidence referring to two cases one in Oklahoma and one in New Jersey (a different take from what he said to the blogger). The Oklahoma example is the one I’ve decided I’m going to check.

We can hear the candidate say “In Oklahoma in 2008 they had a ballot initiative,” he’s correct with where it took place, but not when. He is referring to the 2010 State Question number 755, Legislative Referendum number 355, which turned out passing an amendment on Nov. 2, known as “Safe our State Amendment.” He also says that the ballot initiative “basically said that Sharia Law could not be considered in Oklahoma courts.” This is partly true, as what it does is: it bans International laws from being accepted in Oklahoma courts, and though it does mention the prohibition of Sharia law specifically, it does have a wider range of prohibition.

“Then, the local organization for CAIR, Council on American-Islamic Relations, asked for an injunction to keep the law from being implemented. The will of the people was 70 percent. They still did not want to recognize the will of the people. They got the injunction to not implement the law. That’s what I’m talking about. There are instances around the country.” In order to clarify the facts that he mentions; the plaintiff was considered as “Safe our State Amendment,” and its treatment of Sharia Law was seen as a violation of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The decision of the Court was to temporary restrain the order (this ruling is now on appeal):

“While the Court recognizes the importance of the will of the voters being carried out, the Court finds that any harm that would result from a slight delay in certifying the election results is minimal in comparison to the irreparable injury that occurs when an individual suffers the loss of his constitutional rights.Vicky Miles-LaGrange, Chief United States District Judge

PolitiFact clarifies what happened in both places mentioned by Herman Cain, and on New Jersey it says “There was a New Jersey case in which a judge considered Islamic law when he denied a request for a restraining order.”

The threat that Mr. Cain is talking about, of Sharia Law being imposed is an exageration, he should feel protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.