. . . than I originally thought! The quote I used in my original post on the controversy came from his appearance on Fox News Sunday — and it did not reflect well on Cain, though it struck me as a comment that his most ardent backers might plausibly defend as a simple misunderstanding of the original story as it appeared in the Washington Post, or merely a poor choice of words:
There “isn’t a more vile, negative word than the N-word, and for him to leave it there as long as he did, until before, I hear, they finally painted over it, is just plain insensitive to a lot of black people in this country,” said Cain, who is running against Perry and a group of others for the Republican presidential nomination.
The irksome part of that quote — which also happens to contain just enough ambiguity to allow his spokespersons and supporters just enough room to slither through — comes where Cain asserts that for Perry to “leave it there as long as he did” was insensitive to blacks. On one hand, a person could take umbrage at the fact that Cain seems to imply that the word had been left there for a long time. On the other hand, one of his defenders could fall back on the fact that Cain doesn’t specify the actual length of time, and that he believes that any amount of time is too long, but that he didn’t mean to imply that Perry had willfully basked in the presence of the epithet; that Cain’s comments were really directed at the offensiveness of the word itself and not at Perry’s lax response in covering it up.
But, now . . . now, I’ve found another quote from Herman Cain on the issue, and there’s no doubt he was using the situation as an opportunity to wield the racial grievance cudgel against Rick Perry, and it is a deeply unfair attack that simply cannot be justified.
AMANPOUR: … And it’s been — it’s been painted over. But the report raises questions about whether this rock, this stone, with that word on it, was still on display even quite recently in the last several years. What is your reaction to that?
CAIN: My reaction is that is very insensitive…. And since Governor Perry has been going there for years to hunt, I think that it shows a lack of sensitivity for a long time of not taking that word off of that rock and renaming the place. It’s just basically a case of insensitivity.
AMANPOUR: It was painted over.
CAIN: Yes. It was painted over. But how long ago was it painted over? So I’m still saying that it is a sign of insensitivity.
Inexcusable, Mr. Cain. That’s flat-out, race-hustling, grievance-mongering demagoguery and no conservative ought to countenance such a dishonest attack, let alone support it through campaign donations, online activism, precinct walking, or any other means.
It may not spell the end of Herman Cain’s long-shot bid for the nomination, but it damn well ought to. This is not what conservatives do — let alone to one another. Any person who dares call himself a conservative ought to be embarrassed at having taken this tack in pursuit of the GOP nomination, and no doubt many are embarrassed on Mr. Cain’s behalf right now, whether or not they choose to directly address it.
D.G. Meyers at Contentions draws a wonderful analogy from Perry’s predicament to The Catcher in the Rye‘s Holden Caulfield:
. . . the phoniness-sniffing hero, sees “F–k you” written on a wall and tries to rub it out with his hand. It won’t come off. “If you had a million years to do it in,” he says in resignation, “you couldn’t rub out even half the ‘F–k you’ signs in the world.” All Holden succeeded in doing was to earn a reputation for “profanity” and “obscenity.”
Also at Contentions, Seth Mandel illustrates the utter shabbiness of the “journalism” at work here.
The list of such “racially tinged tactics” that the Post provides us with has exactly one item on it. In 1990, Perry ran for agriculture commissioner, and his campaign ran an ad that showed his opponent with Jesse Jackson. That’s it. The Post follows up by getting some quotes from people who think showing Jesse Jackson on TV is kind of racist.
As for other examples of Perry’s “complicated” record on race, the Post has two: “Black lawmakers have been particularly troubled by Perry’s recent embrace of the Tea Party movement, elements of which they regard as racially antagonistic, and by his championing of states’ rights and his call for Texas to consider seceding if federal policies didn’t change.”
And for all of this, we can thank both Herman Cain and Mitt Romney for granting it the veneer of legitimacy that will keep the story going for at least another news cycle. And as soon as Jennifer Rubin bestirs herself from melancholy following Chris Christie’s final rebuff of beseeching fundraisers, financiers, activists and journalists, we can expect she’ll hop right back on the Romney bandwagon and continue on with her furtive reasoning as to why this all may reflect poorly on the Texas governor. Because, you know, “these questions are out there and they need to be addressed.“