Faking It

Imagine that you were like me – someone who basically doesn’t get basketball, doesn’t enjoy watching it, doesn’t follow it – and suddenly decided you wanted to be the Commissioner of the NBA. You’re facing a job interview conducted by a bunch of people who live and breathe the game.

Imagine further that you share my blinding intelligence, quick wit, strong work ethic, and basic humility. When someone asks you a basic question – Was the introduction of three-point shooting a good idea, or not? – what are you going to sound like?

You’re going to sound, I suspect, as if you had a bunch of half-understood stuff you’d recently tried to memorize twirling around in your head. That is, you’re going to sound a lot like this:

The highlight is when Cain says “I do not agree with the way he [Obama] handled it for the following reason …” and then can’t remember the reason. His basic principle is disagreement with Obama; the rest is lost in the fog.

Cain, like Palin, is adequately smart. But neither of them, at base, gives a rat’s ass about lots of stuff policy wonks find compellingly interesting. There’s a substantial group of voters who identify with their cheerful ignorance. Fortunately, that group remains a minority. The elitist view that the President ought to know something still has most of the votes.

Footnote Two weeks ago, when Cain seemed a plausible nominee but not a plausible President, I didn’t see any point in criticizing him. Now that Cain seems likely to split the anti-Romney vote with Newt, I’m eager to see him go down in flames.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.