One person’s ignorance is on display, another may be running out of money, one is suddenly popular, and another still gets no love. Is this “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”? No, it’s the Republican presidential campaign.
Sophia Nelson, author of Black Woman Redefined; Dr. Boyce Watkins, professor of finance at Syracuse University and founder of Your Black World Coalition; Robert Traynham, Washington bureau chief for the Comcast Network; and Politico White House correspondent Joe Williams join Roland Martin in this week’s Washington Watch roundtable.
MR. MARTIN: All right, folks. Let’s get right to it.
It’s amazing how in past years, typically, when you’re running for President, foreign policy is a huge, huge issue. Clearly, the Republicans do not care about this when it comes to Herman Cain. He gave an interv- — he gave an interview with “The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,” and his answer on the question of Pres. Obama and Libya was absolutely baffling. Here’s a taste of what he had to say.
INTERVIEWER: So, you agreed with Pres. Obama on Libya, or not?
MR. HERMAN CAIN: Okay, Libya. [Pause.] Pres. Obama supported the uprising. Correct? Pres. Obama called for the removal of Gaddafi. Just want to make sure we’re talking about the same thing before I say, “Yes, I agreed,” or – or, “No, I didn’t agree.”
I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reason. No, that’s – that’s a different one. [Pauses, shifts uncomfortably in his seat.]
See – [unintelligible] – I[‘ve] got to go back. See, uh – [pauses]. [I’ve] got all this stuff twirling around in my head.
Specifically, what are you asking me did I agree or not disagree with Obama?
[END OF VIDEO.]
MR. MARTIN: That wasn’t the whole thing, but I’m sorry. To say, “Well, a lot of things are happening in my brain” – that just made absolutely no sense whatsoever.
MR. ROBERT TRAYNHAM: Let’s remember, let’s remind ourselves this is a man who is running for President because he wanted to sell books. Let’s remember that his campaign schedule has been built around – or, was built around whatever the largest bookselling hubs were. Herman Cain has never been a serious presidential candidate. Herman Cain –
MR. MARTIN: No stops in Tripoli, huh?
MR. TRAYNHAM: — well, Herman –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — Cai- – Herma- — [chuckles] – Herman Cain – I d- — I – I – I – I think I can say this unequivocally – he never thought he would be in the situation – meaning that he would be the number three frontrunner for the Republican nomination. Let’s be very honest about this. The problem is – is that his staff put him in that situation, because they know the f- — they know, fr- — quite frankly, that he’s only running for President in order to sell books.
MR. MARTIN: But why –
MR. TRAYNHAM: That wa- —
MR. MARTIN: — then –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — that was –
MR. MARTIN: — but why, then –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — embarrassing.
MR. MARTIN: — in poll after poll after poll, Robert, he’s sitting at the top? Clearly, there’re other Republicans out there who –
MR. TRAYNHAM: Absolutely.
MR. MARTIN: — are saying, “Hey, this is the guy.”
MR. TRAYNHAM: Absolutely.
MS. SOPHIA NELSON: But, Roland, I – I –
MR. TRAYNHAM: T- — two – two – there’s two reasons why.
MS. NELSON: — but –
MR. TRAYNHAM: There’s two reasons why. One is because the Republicans are not particularly happy with their field, so they’re shifting all over the place. We saw that with Michele Bachmann. We saw that when they tried to bring Chris Christie in the race. We saw –
MR. MARTIN: All right.
MR. TRAYNHAM: — that with Mitch Daniels. The second reason why – you know, Herman Cain reminds me a lot of Ross Perot. He’s a straight-talking individual, and a – more and more Americans out there are saying, “You know what? I’m not sure I agree with everything that he says, but at least I understand what he’s saying.”
MR. MARTIN: Sophia?
MS. NELSON: — no.
MR. MARTIN: Well, we understand that.
MR. TRAYNHAM: Well, that’s different.
MS. NELSON: Okay, two things. I agree with Robert that he’s an accidental candidate. He never thought he’d be at the top of his field. He doesn’t have a serious organization. He didn’t have the funding before the sexual harassment scandal started, ironically. But I think that the bigger issue is how this reflects on Black conservatives, and that’s what I want to talk about. Herman Cain is an embarrassment. He is ill-prepared. He’s ill-tempered. He now has Secret Service protection because he has skirmishes with the media. He’s setting all the wrong examples for what it is to be a serious national candidate in the Republican Party as a Black conservative, and I think he’s going to do irreparable damage in terms of the legacy he’s leaving.
MR. MARTIN: Joe.
MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS: But what about the fact that the Republican Party has shifted so far to the right, that Herman Cain can get traction with this kind of a message? I mean it – to me, it says more about the fact that the Republican Party is – is – is ideolo- — is seeking for an ideologically pure candidate, which they probably will never find, that can also win the general election.
MR. TRAYNHAM: I must remind everyone this is no different from 2007, when we had this very same conversation, but a lot of folks were saying that the Democratic Party was going far to the left. This is what primaries are all about.
MR. MARTIN: Okay. The –
MR. TRAYNHAM: We saw this –
MR. MARTIN: — Democrats did not have a Herman Cain running –
MS. NELSON: No[?] – [crosstalk] —
MR. TRAYNHAM: — no, but –
MR. MARTIN: — in Two Thousand –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — but – but –
MR. MARTIN: — and Eight.
MR. TRAYNHAM: — to his point – but – again, but to his point about the ideological differences, that’s what primaries are all about. 2004, we had the same, exact conversation whether or not Herm- — Howard Dean was too liberal, as opposed to John Kerry. So, to – to make that argument –
MR. MARTIN: Okay.
MR. TRAYNHAM: — is not –
MR. WILLIAMS: But at least –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — is hardly –
MR. WILLIAMS: — with –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — inaccurate.
MR. WILLIAMS: — Howard Dean, you had a politician who had –
MS. NELSON: — yeah, he –
MR. WILLIAMS: — experience.
MS. NELSON: — knew what he –
MR. WILLIAMS: You had –
MS. NELSON: — was talking about.
MR. WILLIAMS: — somebody –
MR. TRAYNHAM: You’re making an –
MR. WILLIAMS: — in a – in a Democratic –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — apple-to-an-orange – you’re – you’re –
MR. WILLIAMS: — not e- — not –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — fir- — first –
MR. WILLIAMS: — necessarily.
MR. TRAYNHAM: — first, you said – first –
MR. WILLIAMS: Not necessarily.
MR. TRAYNHAM: — you said philosophical differences. Now you’re saying experience.
MR. WILLIAMS: Well, no.
MR. TRAYNHAM: Those are two, different things.
MR. WILLIAMS: But – but philosophically, his experience is based almost solely on the fact that he ran a Fortune 500 company –
MR. TRAYNHAM: News flash.
MR. WILLIAMS: And that is –
MR. TRAYNHAM: Herman Cain is not going to be our next Republican nominee. Nor is he –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — going to be the next President.
DR. BOYCE WATKINS: But we know that.
MR. MARTIN: Boyce, go ahead. Boyce – Boyce –
MR. WILLIAMS: But – but the point – but, again, the point is being – that he’s being taken seriously –
MR. MARTIN: Boyce.
MR. WILLIAMS: — by a lot of people.
MS. NELSON: I don’t think he is –
MR. MARTIN: Boyce.
DR. WATKINS: But we – we didn’t –
MS. NELSON: — being taken seriously.
DR. WATKINS: — we – we all know that Cain won’t be the next President, but what we have to do is we can’t disrespect those who support Herman Cain –
MR. TRAYNHAM: Absolutely.
DR. WATKINS: — because the reality is that, even in the Black community, many families have uncles that remind them of Herman Cain.
[CHUCKLING, LAUGHTER, CROSSTALK.]
OFF CAMERA: In the attic? In the attic?
DR. WATKINS: Right. The uncle is hidden in the attic –
MR. MARTIN: [Crosstalk] – Thanksgiving coming up.
DR. WATKINS: — right! Right, right, right, right. And I – and I think to – you know, I can think of members of my own family who really, really like Herman Cain; see him as –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
DR. WATKINS: — a breath of fresh air, because they are Black folks up in the Church who are not comfortable with the liberal agenda.
MR. MARTIN: Now, I’ll tell you what. You talked about a – a – a “breath of fresh air.” Folks thought that was going to be Gov. Rick Perry. Here’s an ad that he released this week that criticized Pres. Barack Obama, bringing back the old “socialist” term.
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: We’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades.
GOV. RICK PERRY: Do you believe that? That’s what our president think’s wrong with America? That Americans are lazy? That’s pathetic. It’s time to clean house in Washington. It’s time for a balanced budget amendment that forces Washington to stop overspending. If Congress balks, cut their pay. Send them home. Obama’s socialist policies are bankrupting America. We must stop him now.
[END OF VIDEO.]
MR. MARTIN: No surprise there. Gov. Rick Perry and Republicans are absolutely lying about what the President said, totally taking it out of context. He was very clear what he was talking about – Americans not being aggressive in going after foreign investment. Now they’re saying, “Oh, he’s calling Americans ‘lazy.’”
Why is it that Americans are uncomfortable when somebody finally tells us the truth about how we sometimes behave?
MS. NELSON: Oh, that’s human –
OFF CAMERA: Because –
MS. NELSON: — nature. Humans are uncomfortable when you tell us the truth about how we act. None of us likes to be checked, so that’s not a surprise.
MR. TRAYNHAM: Well, also, too – but to Sophia’s point, it’s the antithesis of what a President should be in mo- — many Americans’ minds. Americans, I believe, think that, “You know what? Our President should be our cheerleader-in-chief. Our President should be bringing us up as opposed to pushing us down.” And so anytime you hear –
MR. MARTIN: How ‘bout real –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — hold on.
MR. MARTIN: — talk?
MR. TRAYNHAM: Hold on. And so, anytime you –
MR. MARTIN: Let’s stop lying –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — hear – hold on.
MR. MARTIN: — to ourselves.
MR. TRAYNHAM: Hold on. So, anytime you hear a President say anything negative like that – and let me give you a –
MS. NELSON: [Crosstalk] –
MR. TRAYNHAM: — prime example. When – when – when – when Bill Clinton said, “You know what? Americans are in a funk,” a lot of people got upset with him. When Ronald Reagan said, “You know what? Americans, we really need to wake up and smell the coffee,” a lot of people got upset with him.
MR. MARTIN: Well, guess what?
MR. TRAYNHAM: It’s the antithesis –
MR. MARTIN: Those Americans who are upset ‘bout that need to shut the hell up and realize they’re being honest. Why is it –
MS. NELSON: [Chuckles.]
MR. MARTIN: — this makes no sense to me – when we are so delusional as Americans, that we don’t like it when there’s –
MS. NELSON: Amen, Roland.
MR. MARTIN: — honesty. I think part of our problem as we walk around so arrogant as “we’re the best in the world,” “we’re God’s country” – when you look at our m- — reading scores, our math scores, our science scores, lack of –
OFF CAMERA: Falling behind.
MR. MARTIN: — engineers – nobody wants to own up to it, and I think Americans need to stop this crap of “how dare you call us lazy!” He said we were lazy to think that people are just going to come here and just invest in companies. We don’t have to work for it. We don’t have to sell it.
MS. NELSON: That’s right.
MR. MARTIN: It’s the same Americans who say, “We don’t need to compete in the global world. They all want to come here.” Well, guess what? The money’s going to China. Money’s going to Asia. It’s going to Africa, and we’re sitting here being arrogant, saying, “Hey, we” – “we’re” – “we’re” – “we’re the best in the world.”
MS. NELSON: And no community’s getting hit harder than the African-American and the brown community in terms of lack of next-generation technology jobs, tech transfer. You know, they just did a special Silicon Valley and the VC capital that was done on “Black In America,” and so you have a situation where I think you’re absolutely right. And the President’s absolutely right to call us out on this, because no community’s getting hit harder in that lack of access than –
MR. MARTIN: Boyce.
MS. NELSON: — we are.
DR. WATKINS: [Crosstalk] – if we don’t – two things that – i- — if our country hits a downfall, two things that are going to destroy us are, one, very arrogant, sloppy foreign policy where we are causing untold, countless tragedies all around the world and creating armies of people who want to see us destroyed because of that arrogance that you referred to. Number two is this relentless commitment to unregulated, undisciplined capitalism, which ultimately – and I can speak to this as a finance professor. That’s all we teach – is Capitalism 101. Capitalism is very powerful, but if you do not regulate it carefully, then it ultimately destroys your society because you create an imbalanced wealth distribution, like we’re creating in the United States.
And the problem with the Republican argument and Perry’s conversation is this sort of belief that if you don’t believe in hardcore, unregulated capitalism, oh, you must be a “socialist.”
MR. MARTIN: I sat there, and I watched the last Republican debate, where nearly every candidate refused to hold the banks accountable when it came to the economic crisis. They all attacked F- — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Ron Paul and – and John Huntsman were the only two who had anything to say about the banks’ role in all of this, and the whole argument was, “We should free up regulation.” And I’m going, “Wow. That really got us in the present situation that we’re in.”
MR. WILLIAMS: Yeah, we tried that. It failed. The new standard has to be – has to be come up with. Occupy Wall Street is trying to push that conversation.
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MR. WILLIAMS: They’re pushing that conversation not only on the left, but also the right has to acknowledge that they do have a point.