Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cain Falls Off the Tolerance Wagon

Given the lightning-quick attention span of the 24-hour news media, a few months of electioneering can seem to span eternities. But think back with us now to the heady days of July, when little-known GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain had a sudden change of heart regarding the dangers of Islam after a transformative visit to the ADAMS Center mosque in Northern Virginia.

Before his visit to the ADAMS Center, it is possible that Cain had just never met a Muslim (unlikely) or spent time familiarizing himself with the particulars of the second-largest religion on the planet (substantially more likely). But neither of these possibilities prevented Cain from going on record prior to his July encounter with claims that Islam should not enjoy the same basic Constitutional protections as other faiths in the United States, that "based upon the little knowledge [he has] of the Muslim religion...they have an objective to convert all infidels or kill them,” or that he would never to appoint a Muslim to his cabinet or the federal judiciary.

But all that changed on that day in July, after Cain's visit to the mosque in NoVa. After the visit, Cain's apparent contrition for his earlier comments was deemed genuine by Robert Marro, a trustee at the ADAMS Center, who participated in Cain's tour. Marro claimed Cain's previous anti-Muslim views were based simply on "misinformation," and described a recalcitrant Cain reflecting on his commonalities with the worshipers at the ADAMS Center: “One of the things that he said a number of times: there’s a great deal of common ground between us.”

Cain's campaign also seemed to suggest that the visit had made quite an impression, and Cain subsequently issued a statement describing the congregation at the ADAMS Centers as follows:  
Those in attendance, like most Muslim Americans, are peaceful Muslims and patriotic Americans whose good will is often drowned out by the reprehensible actions of jihadists.
Well, Herman Cain's new-found respect for his Muslim fellow Americans turned out to be short-lived, as the increasingly scandal-plagued former GOP front runner resorted back to a few of his old fear-mongering tricks in a recent interview with GQ:
Devin Gordon: What did you think about the fuss around your comments about Muslims. [Cain said in March that, if elected, he wouldn’t feel “comfortable” appointing a Muslim to his cabinet] Did you think that you were treated fairly in that conversation?

Herman Cain: No, because a lot of people misrepresented what I said. I know that there are peaceful Muslims, and there are extremists. I have nothing against peaceful Muslims. Nothing whatsoever. But I also know that we must be careful of extremists and we must be careful of the tendency by some groups in this country to infuse their beliefs into our laws and our culture.

Devin Gordon: Do you think that there is a greater tendency among the Muslim faith for that kind of extremism?

Herman Cain: That would be a judgment call that I’m probably not qualified to make, because I can’t speak on behalf of the entire Muslim community. I have talked with Muslims that are peaceful Muslims. And I have had one very well known Muslim voice say to me directly that a majority of Muslims share the extremist views.
Chris Heath: A majority?

Herman Cain: Yes, a majority.

Devin Gordon: Do you think he’s right?

Herman Cain: Yes, because that’s his community. That’s his community. I can’t tell you his name, but he is a very prominent voice in the Muslim community, and he said that.

Chris Heath: I just find that hard to believe.

Herman Cain: I find it hard to believe.

Chris Heath: But you’re believing it?

Herman Cain: Yes, because of the respect that I have for this individual. Because when he told me this, he said he wouldn’t want to be quoted or identified as having said that.
Alan Richman: Are you talking about the Muslim community in America? Or the world?

Herman Cain: America. America. 
Color me cynical, but I find it hard to believe as well. 

Are we really to believe that after Herman Cain recognized the error of his ways in uniformly condemning all American Muslims as extremists, a prominent Muslim figure secretly confided in Cain that only most of American Muslims hold extremist views? It seems much more likely that faced with his plummeting poll numbers, mounting sexual harassment allegations, and outrageous foreign policy gaffes, Cain has turned his back on our nation's approximately 2.6 million Muslims Americans with whom he formerly claimed to identify, and has reverted back to his old habits of trying to rally the Republican base with Islamophobic fear-mongering.

It is some small relief that Mr. Cain's time occupying center stage in the comedy of errors that is the 2012 GOP presidential primaries seems to be drawing to a close. And, given his demonstrated willingness to time and again resort to scare tactics that unfairly target the religious traditions of our fellow citizens for cheap political gain, I for one am glad that GOP voters are finally losing their taste for 'Black Walnut.' The scary question is, which GOP presidential hopeful will be the next nutty flavor of the month?  

(big old h/t to TPM on this one)

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