Herman Cain's Florida Tour Gaffes: Was Media Criticism "Over the Top"?

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Herman Cain, the presidential contender who loves to shout the number "nine," took a whirlwind tour through Florida last week, visiting Sweetwater, Miami, Coral Springs, West Palm, and Palm Beach. While he was down in Miami, he bent to Spanglophone tastes by shouting "nueve, nueve, nueve" instead.

But what lit up reporters across the country was when Cain stumbled after a reporter asked him his opinion on the "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy regarding Cuban immigration. Our sister paper to the south called him out for his ignorance of Cuban issues, and so did... pretty much everyone else.

Now the highfalutin journalist types at the Columbia Journalism Review are saying maybe that gaffe got too much media attention.

Blogger Brian E. Crowley says that Florida media did a pretty good job of covering Cain's multistop tour but that "media outside the state often took the easy way out."

That meant quoting Cain's bumbling on "wet-foot" (which a few of us hadn't heard of either), or the time he asked, "How do you say 'delicious' in Cuban?" As Crowley shows, this was repeated over and over:

Los Angeles Times:

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain again failed to demonstrate command of a foreign policy topic Wednesday as he courted Cuban conservatives in southern Florida.

Asked by Miami Herald reporter Marc Caputo what he thinks of the "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy that allows Cubans who reach U.S. soil to stay, Cain was stumped.

New York:

At this point, it's barely even noteworthy that Herman Cain has absolutely no familiarity with or understanding of anything related to foreign policy. Nevertheless, in the interest of Informing the Public (of Hilarious Things), here is what happened yesterday in South Florida: Cain suggested that "Cuban" is a language, appeared to have no idea what the "wet foot, dry foot" policy is...

Et cetera.

"In fact, the campaign media missed an opportunity to explore and explain a unique immigration policy that is aimed at a single country, an issue that remains important to a significant bloc of Florida voters," writes Crowley. "Outside of the immigrant population of South Florida few people would know, understand, or care about the 'wet-foot, dry-foot' policy."

Thoughtfully and even-handedly informing the public about an interesting issue while sidestepping raucus political pigeonholing?

Now that just sounds un-American.

Stefan Kamph is a New Times staff writer.
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