I had an interesting and unexpected exchange on Twitter today with Washington Post editorial board member Jonathan Capehart. I actually like Jonathan and enjoy reading his work even though we agree on essentially nothing in the physical universe or the spiritual realm beyond. But when I saw a tweet of his promoting his most recent entry at the (hilariously named) PostPartisan blog, I immediately paused.
Why I owe Herman Cain an apology. http://t.co/qsAX20Gxlx
— Jonathan Capehart (@CapehartJ) July 22, 2015
My immediate response was simply, “uh oh.” I well recall Jonathan’s opinions of Herman Cain during the last election and if you’ll allow me to say, they definitely merited an apology. Capehart was not alone in this. The fixation on Cain while he was briefly the frontrunner by the more liberal outlets of the media was one of the stark lessons to be taken from the battle of 2012. The treatment he received, had he been a liberal black man being criticized by conservative media, would have been a cause to set the planet on fire. I couldn’t resist a quick tweet back to him expressing my, shall we say… skepticism over how sincere this apology was going to be.
Why do I not need to click on that link to know this isn't an actual apology? https://t.co/phBNqvy5rB
— Jazz Shaw (@JazzShaw) July 22, 2015
Since I was busy working on another column at the time I might have just forgotten it, but since Jonathan came back advising me to just read it, I decided to give it a go. My expectations were not disappointed in the least and the tone of the article was precisely what my internal voice had predicted, as came clear in the opening volley.
Herman Cain, I’m sorry.
Loyal readers during the 2012 presidential contest may recall that I used the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination as a political pinata. The former Godfather’s Pizza executive could do nothing right. Cain was ill-prepared. He joked about putting an electric fence on the border with Mexico to thwart illegal immigration. He slammed critics with belittling jokes. And he was so unprepared for the intense spotlight on the main stage of American politics that I said his campaign was an insult to my mother.
Four years later, Donald Trump makes Cain’s candidacy seem like a sincere effort at leadership.
After gleefully recounting all of the horrible faults he found in Cain’s candidacy there, Capehart goes on to describe his tax plan as collapsing “faster than a poorly stacked Jenga.” He once again raises Cain’s comment about thoughts “swirling around in my head” when he was overly tired and sat down for an editorial board interview on foreign policy, something he was mocked for mercilessly at the time. The rest of the article is little more than sarcastic attacks on Donald Trump, but in the end that’s what the “apology” amounted to. A shorter version would read, “Sorry, Herman. You were a complete joke but at least you weren’t as bad as Trump.” #SorryNotSorry
I didn’t agree with the 9-9-9 tax plan either, just for the record. And the idea of an electric fence on the southern border was terrible. (Everyone knows that electric fences are too easy to circumvent. We need a 50 foot high titanium wall. With a moat. With sharks. Sharks with freaking lasers.) But even if you didn’t like Cain’s proposals, it was no reason to treat the candidate like your personal pinata.
The reason this is worth bringing up again has less to do with either Capehart or Cain than it does with what we can expect to see between now and next November. There are two standards of coverage for candidates depending which letter you have after your name. Keep in mind the kid glove treatment Hillary Clinton has received even in the midst of one scandal after another and her habit of stonewalling (or literally lassoing) the press. No such gentleness for Carly Fiorina, but fortunately Carly is tough and dishes it out as good as she gets in every interview she can mange to land. The media isn’t seeking out Ben Carson for regular interviews even though he’s still polling in the top five of the GOP field. But when he does show up, you certainly don’t see the bowing and scraping that Barack Obama received in 2008. And can we ever forget Mark Halperin demanding that Ted Cruz dance and sing en espanol to prove how authentically Cubano he is?
The Democrats won’t have to worry about that this time around since all of their candidates with the exception of Clinton are old white men, but the GOP is fielding the most diverse slate in memory. Let’s see how they are treated by the liberal media this cycle, and more to the point… how and if any of the reporters “apologize” to them after the fact. I’m prepared to be shocked if they turn out to be much better at saying “I’m sorry” than Jonathan Capehart was here today. But we can at least say one thing for this crew; they treat all candidates the same regardless of race, gender or religion… as long as they are Republicans or conservatives. And the treatment is disrespectful.