Commentary Magazine


Herman Cain’s Smoking Ad

It’s amazing that a simple shot of a man puffing on a cigarette can turn an otherwise boring political ad into a viral sensation:

The video is brilliant in that it’s tricked a whole lot of people to sit through 40 seconds of happy platitudes about Herman Cain before getting to the scandalous part. Meanwhile, the media is reading all sorts of underlying meanings into the video. “When he headed the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s, Cain lobbied against smoking bans in restaurants,” writes the Hotline in its post on the video. “A web ad from the Tea Party favorite’s team serves as a reminder that Cain used to lead a lobbying group that fought tobacco rules,” reports The Atlantic.

These reporters are thinking too hard. The video isn’t trying to make a political statement about cigarettes (it’s not making a social commentary on it either, though the fascination with it does say something about society). It’s a simple gimmick to get attention for the video while trying to send this message about Cain: he’s a “maverick” who doesn’t follow the typical rules of politics. Whereas candidate Obama was sneaking cigarettes in the dead of night in 2008, Herman Cain is pushing his smoking chief of staff out in front of a video camera in 2011. You can’t get more un-Washington-like than that.