Unfortunately, We Now Have to Take Herman Cain Seriously

When a candidate from the party you dislike has no chance at all of being successful, it's hard to get too worked up about him or her. Yes, Rick Santorum is repellent, but how mad can you get at him? It's not as though he'll have the power to affect millions of lives anytime soon. But once the oddball longshot candidate starts getting some juice, exploring just what a jerk he or she is begins to seem more urgent.

Which brings us to Herman Cain. Though still a novelty candidate, Cain is now running second to Mitt Romney in most polls. Which means that while we may not have to take his candidacy seriously as something that might result in him becoming president, we do need to take seriously his effect on our national debate.

A couple of weeks ago, I went after Cain for saying that if the Affordable Care Act had been in force when he had cancer, he'd be dead, since instead of doctors making decisions on his care it would have been done on "the government's timetable." Depending on what was in Cain's mind, it was either a despicable lie, or a statement of mind-boggling ignorance. But now Stephanie Mencimer offers some interesting details about Cain's cancer treatment. While he discusses his cancer at length in his book, there's no mention of an insurance company, and though he's 65, Cain refuses to disclose whether he's on Medicare:

Instead, in his book, he lays out all the ways his privileged status impacted his care. For instance, when Cain was first diagnosed with cancer of the colon and liver and a 30 percent chance of survival, he was told that he should go to a specialized cancer center rather than a hospital, namely the M.D. Anderson cancer center in Houston. Not everyone who wants to go to such a top-flight facility gets to go there, however. Plenty of people with private insurance have died waiting for an insurance company functionary to approve such treatment. It can take weeks to get into Anderson, and it requires traveling at short notice, which can only add to the costs. So Cain called his friend T. Boone Pickens, the oil magnate, who used to be on the board of the center and was a big donor to the cancer center. Pickens made a call and Cain was in...

After Cain had his surgery in Houston to resection his colon and remove most of his liver, he spent a couple of weeks in the hospital recuperating. He was able to go home a week early because, although he was still weak, one of the companies on whose board he sits dispatched its private plane to fly him back to Atlanta so "we did not have to endure the stress of commercial travel." (Cain notes that he doesn't ID the company because "some jackass might want to make an issue out of it.")

I'm sure that if you asked Herman Cain, he'd say we have "the best health-care system in the world." And for guys like him, we do. If you can call up your buddy T. Boone Pickens to get you to the front of the line to get into one of the world's top cancer treatment centers, the health-care system is working great for you. The free market is working its magic. That Herman Cain thinks rich people like him won't be able to do this once the Affordable Care Act is implemented makes him a fool. That he thinks the system as it is now is preferable to one in which everyone actually has access to care makes him, well, something else entirely.