I am not an idiot, but I play one on TV

Herman Cain was on The Daily Show a couple of night ago and once again made a fool of himself. He was once the head of a major corporation so that means that he cannot be a total idiot. Holding such a job requires one to be somewhat savvy and numerate and literate. So why is it that he now comes across as a grinning doofus? Has he realized that this shtick plays well with the Republican party and is his ticket to media fame in the twilight of his life?

Watch his response to the question of why it is that polls show that the percentage of African-Americans who support Mitt Romney is the incredible figure of 0%. Can he really be that stupid?

(This clip appeared on August 29, 2012. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post.)


  1. Sunny says

    He was once the head of a major corporation so that means that he cannot be a total idiot.


    I wouldn’t be so sure.

  2. 'Tis Himself says

    Actually most telephone polling is done between 6pm and 9pm just because many people are not at home during normal working hours.

  3. baal says

    I laughed when I saw this poll result. There is probably a couple of influences getting it down to 0% but I don’t doubt that the ‘real’ number is probably very close to that. The racial dog whistles from the other candidates in the primaries and even from Mitt lately have made it into the media generally. That has an impact.

  4. says

    I saw that show, and am now convinced that Cain is a Poe that he, himself, has created to get fame and connections through the use of Republican party resources. Brilliant, actually.

  5. Robert says

    Delurking just to say I can not believe a figure like that without seeing more information about the poll…

    First of all, when they say 0% do they mean 0 out of N, or did they simply round down a number less than 1%?

    I’m guessing this is from a general population poll with a low amount of samples, and thus an even lower amount of African Americans polled, possibly even with other factors at play which would bias against those last few republican African Americans being polled.

  6. Mano Singham says

    You can see the raw poll numbers here. The full sample size was 1000 people and the number of blacks was 12%, so about 120. The 0% response means that not even one person of that 120 said they would vote for Romney.

  7. HP says

    He was once the head of a major corporation so that means that he cannot be a total idiot.

    Sez the blogger from academia.

    Seriously, Mano, I’ve spent my entire adult life working for major corporations — 25 years now. CEOs are ambitious to be sure, aggressive and quick to react, but no one employed in the private sector has ever accused one of being less than a total idiot.

    Once, within a five-year period, I worked for seven different corporations without ever getting up from my desk. Each merger, bankruptcy, or hostile acquisition was due to executive incompetence. Morons, failing upward, tangled in their golden parachutes as they drift into irrelevancy.

    The one thing all of us cubicle farmers are sure of is that the folks in charge are incompetent.

  8. says

    You’re not the first person in the know who has said such a thing.

    We only think that CEO’s must ALL be reasonably competent because we really really want the world to make sense.

    But it don’t.


  9. lpetrich says

    I think that they have to be competent at *something* to get to where they were, though I think that that something is skill at organizational politics.

  10. jamessweet says

    A good estimate for the “real” number would be 3-5%, based on a combination of other polls and McCain’s numbers from 2008.

    This is, nonetheless, hilarious.

  11. jamessweet says

    Yeah, it’s a fluke for sure… but 1) it’s still a hilarious fluke, and 2) in order for such a fluke to occur, the numbers have to be pretty close to zero to begin with. As I said in a previous comment, a more realistic estimate would be in the 3-5% range. In other words, many times more African-American believe in Bigfoot than in Romney.

  12. says

    Holding such a job requires one to be somewhat savvy and numerate and literate

    No, it doesn’t. It requires the good fortune to have a few top-tier managers underneath oneself, and the good sense (or being too drunk/high) not to interfere with them. Business-people want us to believe that it’s super-hard to do what they do, in order to justify the eyeball-popping bling that they sometimes make, but if you think about it it’s a leadership/decision-making process pretty much like any other. You just have to be smart enough to let heirarchy take over (which is not very smart, really). The really great business leaders are the ones who are that smart plus inventive. Running a pizza company is a matter of torturing your top-tier managers with stuff like “Quality is very important!” and then watching the bottom line to make sure that the money you’re taking in is more than the money you’re putting out, and closing the occasional establishment that is obviously losing money.

  13. says

    PS – I was the CEO of a software company employing 35 people at its peak, for 4 years. I don’t know if that qualifies me to know what I’m talking about. 🙂

  14. says

    I think the important point to remember about all large-scale leadership is that high-level decisions need to be made, while critical decisions are an emergent phenomenon that comes up from the chain of command or through observation of reality. If you’re the CEO probably half the decisions you’ll make are go/no-go/modify decisions that came up to you through your own organization (especially if you are a control freak and like to really manage details, in which case the decisions that come up are a constant torrent) “Leadership” in that case is a matter of making reasonably obvious choices on go/no-go stuff and occasionally doing research and thinking and modifying the parameters placed before you. The strategic stuff is where a leader has to really think, and mostly that’s a combination of knowing your market and knowing your competition, which pretty neatly defines the problem for you.

    The only things that take skill are if you’re trying to be a break-out genius and redefine a market, or create a new one. In that case you look at your competition and your opportunities and you make a wild ass guess. Because you’ll usually be able to fix things later if your guess was not utterly, insanely stupid. The great strategic blunders are often fatal but take so long to recover that a leader can stumble along (making more) for quite some time.

    I wrote that in general terms because it applies to commercial enterprise as well as the military art (and probably more but those other fields are outside my area of expertise)

  15. pipenta says

    My old man was a management consultant. In third grade, we were all asked to get up and tell the class what our fathers did for work. I was jealous of the kid whose dad was an eye surgeon. Well, who wouldn’t be? The kid brought a pickled human eye to class in a jar. The only thing he could have brought in that would have awed us more would have been a brain.

    When my turn came, I stood up and recited the words management consultant, but really had no idea what it meant. And that night, at dinner, I asked my dad to explain it to me. He told me the sorts of things he did, the sorts of problems he solved. I told him it all sounded to me like what the executives (I would have called them bosses back then. I was in third grade.) were supposed to do. And if he was doing all that stuff, what were they doing? Why did they need to hire him?

    He laughed, and it wasn’t a warm laugh. He said, “Honey, they are so busy competing with each other and maneuvering for position to see who gets the corner office with the windows that they haven’t the time to run their own company. And even if they took the time, they wouldn’t dirty themselves to actually go down to the factory floor to talk to the people who are actually doing the work. More often than not, executives have no idea how their companies run.”

  16. Jared A says

    “The great strategic blunders are often fatal but take so long to recover that a leader can stumble along (making more) for quite some time.”

    Like fighting a land war in Asia?

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