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Never Look Back: Herman Cain And Il Duce

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We're living through an interesting juncture in history. On one hand, there's the amazing bottom-up Occupy Movement, and no one knows quite where and how far it will go. Then, there's the field of Republican neo-Know-Nothing [1], nativist candidates with each one tripping over the other to be more divorced from facts, history and reality. The strutting, co*k-of-the-walk Herman Cain is currently the most interesting of this pack.

For a week now, Cain has been denying the obvious, that as leader of the National Restaurant Association he "sexually harassed" -- ie, hit on -- three women who worked under him who were offended by the attention and wanted nothing to do with him. Now, a fourth woman [2] has gone public with a story of Cain's intimate groping in a car. Despite all his vague and contradictory dismissals, his prurient assertiveness was persistent and obnoxious enough that the Restaurant Association felt it had to pay a total of $80,000 to two women -- who are now legally silenced from telling their side of the story.

Herman Cain never looking back by Unknown

Instead of adhering to what seems his usual instinct of waving off questions as politically-correct, liberal nonsense, in this case Cain has followed the more traditional route of denial and cover-up, which as we've all learned only makes the press hungrier.

At this point, Cain and his Campaign Manager Mark Block -- he of the bizarre You Tube smoke-break commercial [3] -- have decided to drop the cover-up and, instead, have declared it's time to move on "to the real issues impacting this country." That is, issues like Cain's famous "9-9-9 plan," which has been shown to be corporate-friendly and to increase taxes for the poor, and his lethally-electrified fence along the Mexican border, a program that was serious, then a joke, then serious again.

As far as any pain and suffering he may have caused his three silenced women accusers, at least one of whom is married, his new tack is: Never look back. The past is what it is, and it's more important for the nation that he look to the future.

Cain knows the polls suggest his right-wing, Tea-Party base doesn't give a damn about sexual harassment charges, or at least they don't give the charges much credence and see them as a liberal conspiracy to smear the man -- a "high tech lynching," to slip Clarence Thomas' famous race card from the bottom of the deck.

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The more interesting reason for his never-look-back approach is the character quality he exhibits that makes the tactic workable, and that is the very palpable and insouciant sense of imperiousness he exhibits. He's a guy used to giving orders, very unlike President Obama, who may be smart as a whip and a good speech-maker, but who is personally short in radiating an aura of dictatorial power. With Cain, you feel he'd be quite comfortable giving a strong-man speech from an ornate palace balcony -- a speech absent of any truth or facts, but heavy on what the great leader has decided for his people.

This aloof, imperious quality in Cain made me recall an analogous incident in the life of one of history's most beloved imperious politicians, Benito Mussolini, who also took a "Never look back" approach to his past actions and their consequences. In Mussolini's case, he meant "Never look back" both figuratively and literally.

So pardon a little side trip into history. It's hopefully an instructive encounter between an amazing and under-appreciated American hero and a notoriously imperious personality.

Historical Interlude: Smedley Butler and Benito Mussolini

Smedley Butler [4] was raised in West Chester, Pennsylvania, as a Quaker. His father was a US congressman there who helped his 16-year-old son Smedley join the US Marines. As a very green second lieutenant, young Smedley served at the end of the initial phase of the Spanish American War in the hills around Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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Butler went on to the Philippines, where he had a Filipino carve a large Marine globe, anchor and eagle emblem into his skinny chest. He went on to serve in China, Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti and Europe in WWI. Over his 33-year career, he earned two Congressional Medals of Honor and reached the top rank in the Marine Corp of two-star, Major General. He was a classic soldier's soldier.

His Quaker upbringing may explain the amazing loyalty he was shown throughout his career from men in the enlisted ranks and for his ability to use wit, non-violence and arbitration to accomplish his missions. It also explains why he ran afoul of stuffed-shirt political types and at the end of his career wrote a pamphlet called "War Is a Racket" [5] about how in Central America he had been "a gangster for the Brown Brothers Bank." He wrote: "I could have taught Al Capone a thing or two." The pamphlet ends with: "To Hell with War!"

Butler was a very colorful and entertaining public speaker who used obscenities and didn't mince words; if he felt someone needed to be raked over the coals, he was unafraid to do it. When he was the commander at Quantico Marine base, he introduced Secretary of the Navy Charles Francis Adams, a man he did not like, to some of his officers by saying, "Gentlemen, I want you to meet the Secretary of the goddamn Navy."

Smedley Butler, Benito Mussolin and Cornelius Venderbilt Jr. by Unknown

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I'm a 68-year-old American who served in Vietnam as a naive 19-year-old kid. From that moment on, I've been studying and re-thinking what US counter-insurgency war means. I live outside of Philadelphia, where I'm a writer, photographer and (more...)

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