Not ready for prime time

When  “Saturday Night Live” first started, it’s performers were called the “not ready for prime time players.”  There is a certain irony in that description, as they were clearly ready for it.  That was my first introduction to the phrase, which is now being used to describe Herman Cain and his presidential campaign, which is truly “not ready for primetime.”

Why do I think that?  Is it his pride at not being able to name leaders of made up countries?  His poorly conceived economic plan?  His bizzarre schedule that includes book signings in Alabama but few stops in Iowa?  His campaign commercial that features his  “Chief of Staff” smoking?  His go to response of “they are attacking me!” whenever someone questions him?  All of the above?

As someone who grew up in the era of Bill Clinton rather than Jack Kennedy, sexual harassment is not something you dismiss. These are serious allegations against someone who considers themselves to be a serious person, but only when they want to be one.  When asked about border security, an important issue to a lot of people, Herman Cain said he would put an electrified fence along the border that would have a sign attached “this can kill you.”  That’s your plan?  He then clarified that he was joking.  My mom uses the same tactic when she says something stupid. It works no better for her than for him.

When faced with allegations that he harassed two women while at the National Restaurant Association, Mr. Cain’s answer was to ask the reporter “has anyone ever accused you of sexual harassment?”  I suspect the answer would have been no but it doesn’t matter.  Jonathan Martin is not running for president, Herman Cain is.  These questions are not due to a liberal, media establishment attacking someone because of their beliefs, they are part of the due diligence media outlets engage in while covering a credible presidential campaign.

(Question for the class:  When will we all tire of candidates blaming the media for asking tough questions? )

As someone who has worked in campaigns for a long time, the idea of doing things differently is very appealing. We are in a new world and using the new tools offered by social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is exciting.  Anything that gets more people interested in the system is good to me.  There are a few things that need to still be part of a campaign — a solid policy platform, an honest dialogue and an ability to not be annoyed by people who ask honest and decent questions.  These are not just “politics as usual” but part of the process to get to know a candidate enough to determine if they deserve your vote.

Any candidate who does not understand that will never be ready for primetime.

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