Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain appeared on a couple of morning shows yesterday, and was asked about Rick Perry hosting events at a Texas hunting camp called “Niggerhead.” The name was painted “in block letters across a large, flat rock standing upright at its gated entrance.” Cain said on Fox News, for Perry “to leave it there as long as he did … is just plain insensitive to a lot of black people in this country.”
That was yesterday. Today, Cain has decided he’s done with the issue altogether.
“All I said was the mere fact that that word was there was ‘insensitive.'” Cain told reporters outside his meeting with Donald Trump Monday. “That’s not playing the race card. I am not attacking Gov. Perry. Some people in the media want to attack him. I’m done with that issue!”
“I really don’t care about that word,” Cain said. “They painted over it. End of story! I accept Gov. Perry’s response on that.”
So, what happened over the last 24 hours? The right went after Cain pretty aggressively, and he quickly folded rather than take the criticism.
Common sense might suggest conservatives would be outraged by Perry, but that’s not what’s happened. As Dan Amira explained, “To understand why, you have to consider that there are two things Republicans hate more than anything. One is being accused of racism, which has happened with increasing frequency since President Obama became president, and, if you ask Republicans, is never, ever justified. Two is unfair treatment by the allegedly biased mainstream media. So among Republicans, the widespread response to the Post story was not, ‘wow, Rick Perry messed up.’ It was, ‘the liberal media is smearing another Republican as a racist!'”
And so Cain — the only Republican presidential candidate to criticize Perry over this, by the way — immediately felt the brunt of the right’s frustrations. Cain may have been offended by the name, but his party has a message for him: “Keep that offense to yourself.”
Indeed, the pushback was not at all subtle. Cain took heat from Rush Limbaugh, Erick Erickson, and The Daily Caller, among many others.
Cain, then, apparently felt like he had no choice but to reverse course. In the eyes of the GOP base, he’s the one who made a mistake.