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Richard Roeper: Cain didn’t have what it takes to become president

Updated: January 6, 2012 8:12AM

When he kept the sunglasses on, you knew he was gone.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in Atlanta, Herman Cain and his wife, Gloria, stepped off a giant bus with a giant photo of Herman Cain. The crowd included some who were in Colonial costumes and some who waved signs that said “Cain 2012” and “OMG” (as in “Obama Must Go”). There was a blues band and a barbecue.

It almost looked like a party.

But then Cain took the stage and kept those dark-tinted shades on, so you couldn’t get a read on him, just like a shark at the final table of the World Series of Poker.

Cain had made such a mark as a maverick. How could you not embrace his straight-talking, let’s-cut-the-crap political ascension? But when it came time to bow out of the race, he was as wishy-washy and predictable as a Washington lifer.

It was I-I-I, me-me-me, the nation’s great, the media sucks, I-I-I, me-me-me, I’m not a quitter, I quit.

The Cain train goes down the drain

Even in this age of perpetual media cycles, nobody makes a big positive announcement on a weekend. Friday afternoon, holidays, Saturdays — that’s when you announce you’re bowing out of the race, or you have a problem and you’re seeking treatment, or you’re splitting from your spouse. Nobody plans a run for a president and says, “Let’s announce it at noon Sunday, when a half-dozen NFL games are kicking off!”

So when Sarah Palin told us she was quitting as Alaska governor, she did it the Friday of a July 4th weekend. And when Herman Cain told us he was “suspending” his campaign, he did it on a Saturday.

Do I care if Cain had a longtime affair with Ginger White? Not in the least. Whether it’s Bill Clinton’s dalliances, Newt Gingrich’s marital follies or Anthony Weiner’s cell phone shenanigans, as long as nobody is breaking the law, abusing their position or hurting another individual, if he can be an effective leader, what he does with his private life is of no concern. (I know: It can be argued that in some of the cases I just mentioned, there WAS abuse of power. Not debating that.)

If Cain sexually harassed women, that’s more than a problem; that makes him a first-class scumbag. But we don’t know that he did, and we’ll never know if he did.

Cain said the allegations against him were “false and unproven,” the media should be faulted, his message was getting drowned out, and he didn’t want to see his family suffer any more. It was the quintessential laundry list of excuses politicians use when they’re stepping down.

(The Pokemon reference? Not the first time Cain has invoked it, but we’ll give him points for, um, creativity there.)

If Cain’s version of events is true, then Ginger White is a lunatic. According to Cain, he’s been friends with her for a dozen years, and he’s given her money because he has a soft heart — and her response to this is to go public with a story of a 13-year affair, knowing it would do great harm to Cain’s family and would most likely signal the end of his presidential ambitions? Really? If so, then White is heartless and crazy.

Yet if 9-9-9 would truly set us on the road to recovery, if Cain were really the man to lead our nation in war and peace, if he can “restore our greatness,” as the Republicans like to say (never seeming to realize they’re insulting the country they so dearly love by acknowledging that one man can supposedly do so much damage to it), who gives a flying bleep about whether he had an affair with Ginger White?

Reality check. Herman Cain was never going to win the nomination, and it wasn’t because of a vast left-wing conspiracy or a concentrated media campaign. He was a breath of fresh air on the debate stage and in the early stages of the campaign trail, but it was becoming crystal clear he wasn’t equipped to become the next president.

That GOP stage is still crowded, but on Inauguration Day 2013, the man taking the oath will be named Barack, Newt or Mitt.

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