The New York Times reports that Herman Cain was just joking, seriously, about electrocuting illegal border crossers.
Moreover, he chastised Americans for not getting the joke. "America needs to get a sense of humor," he said. Really.
The complete exchange from Meet the Press:
MR. GREGORY: On immigration, you said at an event in Tennessee that you would build an electrified fence on the border that could kill people if they try to cross illegally.
MR. CAIN: That's a joke, David.
MR. GREGORY: It's a joke, so that was...
MR. CAIN: It's a joke. That's a joke.
MR. GREGORY: That's not a serious plan?
MR. CAIN: That's not a serious plan.
MR. GREGORY: OK.
MR. CAIN: No, it's not.
MR. GREGORY: You got a big laugh out of that, but that's not what you'd do.
MR. CAIN: That, that's a joke. that's a joke. I've also said America needs to get a sense of humor. That was a joke, OK?
MR. GREGORY: OK. So that's not serious.
As Jackie Gleason used to say to his wife Alice in the TV series Honeymooners: Hardy Har Har.
Cain is not the only GOP presidential candidate to run afoul of the injunction to speak respectfully you those you wish to win over. Rick Perry, speaking at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, made a "joke about how perfect it was to appoint Jose Cuevas to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission because his name sounds like Jose Cuervo - a brand of tequila", a joke that "fell flat", according to the AP.
Who would have guessed that a joke linking a proud ethnic group with a brand of liquor popular in Mexico and elsewhere in South America would not be well received?
Of course Perry's too easily and erroneously assumed familiarity with those whom he was trying to connect with is far less egregious that Cain's ugly statement and his lame backtrack.
Treating people respectfully that you want to reach is no joke.