\by Jordan Weissmann · April 12, 2019
Herman Cain speaking during the final day of the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
In a refreshingly sane turn of events, Herman Cain is now expected to pull himself from consideration for the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors thanks to opposition from Republican lawmakers, according to ABC News. Donald Trump announced last week that he intended to nominate the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and failed presidential candidate for a seat at the central bank. But the idea has been received poorly on Capitol Hill, where four different GOP senators—Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota—have now announced that they would not vote to confirm him, effectively dooming Cain’s candidacy before it was ever made official.
Cain’s brief and abortive Fed bid seems to have been done in by a number of factors, all of which were readily foreseeable from the moment he emerged as a contender. Romney, who briefly faced off against Cain in 2012, focused on the former restaurant exec’s glaring lack of qualifications for the job and close political relationship to Trump (he campaigned for the president in 2016 and runs a political action committee dedicated to re-electing him). “I don’t think Herman Cain will be on the board of the Federal Reserve,” the freshman senator said earlier this week. “It’s important that the board be comprised of people who are academics, economists, and not people who are highly partisan.” (On Thursday, Romney was even more dismissive, joking with reporters that “if Herman Cain were on the Fed, you’d know the interest rate would soon be 9-9-9.”) Cramer said that he was comfortable with Cain’s resume, but the sexual harassment allegations that capsized his presidential campaign more than seven years ago were a deal breaker. “His showmanship doesn’t bother me, his business experience I think is great, simplifying the tax code is fine by me, but character still does matter,” Cramer said.
These are all perfectly good reasons to vote against Cain, a proto-Trumpian political novelty figure who was in fact utterly ill-suited for the Fed. He had no substantive experience with monetary policy and gave every indication that he would serve as a partisan lackey for the president if placed on the board. Cain spent most of his life as a vocal inflation hawk and gold bug, but after word of his potential candidacy emerged, he told reporters he would push the central bank to worry less about inflation, echoing Trump’s own line.
But this leaves open an obvious question: If Republicans are willing to oppose Cain on both policy and character grounds, why not Trump’s other nominee, conservative economics commentator Stephen Moore? After all, Moore is toting almost all of the same baggage. He does not have an economics Ph.D. and has admitted that he is “not an expert” on monetary policy. Similar to Cain, he has swung from worrying about hyperinflation and endorsing the gold standard during the Obama years to criticizing the Fed for raising interest rates too quickly and raving about imaginary deflation once Trump entered office, a switch that can only be reasonably explained by his partisan leanings and transparent desire for hard-money policies that will slow the economy when Democrats are in power and soft-money policies that will juice it when Republicans run Washington. He is also, fundamentally, an operative: He ran the conservative Club for Growth in the early 2000s, which was dedicated to electing politicians who would cut taxes and regulations. He also advised Trump on economics, wrote a book hailing his policies, and has earned a paycheck lately by defending Trump as a TV talking head. He has his own tabloid-worthy character issues too: Moore owes more than $75,000 in back taxes and was held in contempt of court after failing to pay more than $300,000 in alimony and child support to his ex-wife. According to court records, the man also talked about having a mistress in front of his own children.
Sure, Moore hasn’t been accused of groping women. But if qualifications and character both count at all these days, his nomination should sink too.
Donald Trump Economics Federal Reserve Republicans
Slate · by Jordan Weissmann · April 12, 2019