Bob Franken

King Features Column

(As usual, the arrangement with the syndicator means this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)


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Let’s honor the recent passing of Andy Rooney by asking the question his way: Have you ever wondered why halting something is called a MORatorium? Is an increase a LESSatorium?

Whatever. It’s time for a Herman Cain moratorium, time to impose some Herm limits.

He doesn’t want to talk anymore about the accusations of sexual heavy-handedness, but they must be cleared up. Right now, the controversy is stuck in the “he said, they said” netherworld, with no real way to get at the ugly truth, no matter what it is.

Sending his wife, Gloria, out from seclusion to the friendly confines of Fox News to declare that she believes her husband because “he would have to have a split personality to do the things that were said” just isn’t going to cut it. We need to know. Somehow.

Waterboarding is presumably out of the question, even though Cain was one of the Republican candidates at the most recent debate who endorsed it as an acceptable “enhanced interrogation technique.”

Even as Cain rises to the top in the polls as a contender, we still need to put him on pause. He’s only the latest concoction of the Republican flavor-of-the-month club; meanwhile, Mitt Romney plods along, serving up plain vanilla.

So, it won’t be easy to take a Cain break. With all his basso-bizzaro bluster, his oversimplifications, inaccuracies and outright stumbles, he is a gift that keeps on giving. He’s similar to Sarah Palin, another “candidate” from whom some of us pundits decided it was time to take a hiatus a few months ago.

To be sure, the two offer some contrasts. He’s a candidate; she decided to get off the bus. He has that voice like a fine wine. She should be fined for her whine.

But there are fundamental similarities: Each panders to the far right, and both are a gaffe-a-minute. They share an exquisite talent for self-promotion and an innate understanding of how bad publicity is actually good and is easily deflected as a “witch hunt” (Cain) by pencil necks in the “lamestream media” (Palin).

However, no one plays that game better than Newt Gingrich. He has taken every opportunity to show scorn for journalists, knowing full well that Republicans have as much contempt for us as they do for Barack Obama.

So Newt is news. Again. He is, after all, someone who is rising from the ashes reversing his seeming consumption by the fires of his own incendiary rhetoric and self-indulgence.

Gingrich must take particular delight in watching Rick Perry’s flameout, considering how some of his top aides had bailed on him to join the new Perry crusade that is now a continuing exercise in the downward spiral of continuous damage control.

Some in the GOP are wary of Newt Gingrich, who has a seriously checkered past and an inflated self-image that often comes across as arrogance. But while they lose sleep over his notorious lack of discipline, they yawn at Romney’s excess of it. It’s tough for them to find inspiration in insipidness.

Let’s be honest: No matter how red the meat Romney throws at the base, it still seems like bland tea party finger sandwiches. Mitt is a warm glove who leaves so many cold.

The fact is, we probably need a fresh face, a campaign newbie to overcover. We need another Donald Trump. Or candidate Kim Kardashian. She wouldn’t have to stay in the race long — no more than 72 days. Of course, Andy Rooney would have had no idea who the Kardashians are. That probably explains why he was on the air for so long. And why we’ll really miss him.

© 2011 Bob Franken

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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