Answering the Cain question

For the last couple of months, there’s been a lingering question about Herman Cain and the authenticity of his intentions. Does he really want to be president, or is this campaign little more than an vanity exercise, intended to help Cain sell books, charge more for speeches, and maybe get a media gig?

It would appear the question has been answered. The Cain “campaign” has released this video, featuring chief of staff Mark Block talking directly to the camera, urging supporters to get involved.

For those who can’t watch clips online, you’re missing out. The script isn’t especially important, because Block is generally just saying how great he thinks Herman Cain is (we learn, for example, that Cain will put the “united” back in the “United States of America”). What’s remarkable about the clip, though, is the visuals — bizarre camera work for 40 seconds, followed by several seconds of watching Block smoke a cigarette, followed by 10 seconds of Cain giving the camera a creepy smile.

In all sincerity, there’s no indication that this is a parody or meant to be amusing.

So, Cain’s a laughingstock, right? It would certainly appear that way, except he continues to take steps actual candidates take, including a new 50-state radio campaign, starting today.

As elaborate p.r. stunts go, this one is even bigger than Donald Trump’s silly political flirtation earlier this year.

In the absurd video, Block tells us, “America’s never seen a candidate like Herman Cain.” On this, he and I agree.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.