This time of year, cartoonist Charles Schultz used to present a recurring theme in his Peanuts© comic strip. Lucy (van Pelt) would offer to hold a football for Charlie Brown, and as he ran towards her for the kick-off she would yank the ball away. Charlie Brown always ended up falling on his back. Year after year, Lucy reassured her hapless friend that this time would be different, but invariably, it wasn’t.
Another Lucy from my childhood, this time Lucille Ball in her role as Lucy Ricardo, was constantly searching for ways to enhance her finances. In one episode, she planned to benefit from a ‘double your money back if not satisfied’ offer, buying first dozens and then thousands of cans of beans only to return them. The episode culminates when, after a hard day’s work of buying and returning cans, she hungrily opens one and discovers that they actually are the best beans she has ever eaten. Her conscience demands honesty, thwarting her dreams of riches.
Two Lucy’s; two prototypes. Though sometimes foolish and greedy, Lucy Ricardo has a moral core. Schultz’s Lucy may make for a funny comic strip, but truth is not a virtue in her life. Unfortunately for Herman Cain, America is sick of playing Charlie Brown to politicians.
I watched the Cain news conference with a heavy heart. Separate from his presidential aspirations, our country needs to see articulate businessmen who are upright in both their personal and business lives. We need to see more African American leaders who succeed through hard work rather than climbing upwards through demagoguery and manipulation.
It hurt to see Mr. Cain declare that he unequivocally refuted the sexual harassment accusations because he assumed that his statement would be enough. He presumed an America which no longer exists. He was talking as Lucy Ricardo while this country’s citizens view politicians as Lucy van Pelt. We have been lied to too many times. By running for president, he became a professional comrade of Anthony Wiener, John Edwards, Bill Clinton and numerous other politicians who stared directly at the camera and falsely proclaimed their innocence.
Whether or not Herman Cain would make a good president, I am willing to consider him innocent of these allegations until proven guilty. I despise the ease with which one person can ruin another’s reputation in today’s culture and am convinced that the adage, “where there’s smoke there’s fire,” is false. However, asking to be considered as a candidate for president demands being in touch with today’s world. Sadly, that means understanding that the very act of running for office renders one’s honor and character suspect. In some areas of business your word may still be your bond; in politics skepticism reigns supreme.