Archie Bland: How an idiot could still end up in the White House

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There is, of course, nothing to stop total idiots trying to be leader of the free world, but you'd think there'd be some sort of winnowing process that would stop them reaching the last six.

The amazing video of Herman Cain that did the rounds yesterday, in which he cheerily burrowed his way to a stratum of stupidity not explored in American politics since Alaska's own Sarah Palin explained that one of her foreign policy qualifications was living quite close to Russia, was an unfortunate reminder that this is not the case. Herman Cain is not just stupid: he's stupid and HE DOESN'T CARE IF YOU KNOW IT. I don't care if he made a fortune from Godfather's Pizza. He's brazenly thick.

This is why, when asked for his views on Libya, he doesn't mind asking his interlocutor to clarify things for him. You'd think he'd have at least tried to style it out. "OK, Libya," he begins, after an agonising pause, twitching a bit, flicking his tongue out with the unnerving air of a hungry and ill-informed lizard. "President Obama supported the uprising, correct? President Obama called for the removal of Gaddafi. Just want to make sure we're talking about the same thing." He goes on like that for a bit, but it doesn't get any better.

Cain does say one sensible thing in the interview, when he gives his view that presidents don't have to be experts in everything. He's absolutely right: they can rely on advisors of the highest order. But there ought to be a basic qualifying level of not being a total ignoramus. It's a bit like driving. You don't have to understand how a carburettor works, but you do have to know which pedal's the brake and which one's the accelerator. You have to be engaged enough to learn. Herman, you feel, might easily end up trying to fly the car off a bridge.

It's sort of incredible, this. You could naively assume that even those candidates for high office lacking book smarts are at least possessed of some sort of animalistic cunning. It gets said a lot about George W. Bush. Reader, do not be fooled! Random, inexplicable things happen all the time. Stupid people can definitely get to the top. And if Karl Rove gets behind them, they can stay there!

Everyone says Herman Cain is only really in it for a shot at a Fox News gig, and it's true that he probably won't be president. But what if Mitt Romney gets knocked over by a political bus? And what happens then if unemployment keeps going up? Imagine it: President Cain. Applying the rules of suburban fast food delivery to international affairs. Bringing the people of Libya an extra-large invasion feast, when all they wanted was a side order of air support.

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