Herman Cain's latest political ad is not a fluke. The short advertisement has left many viewers and media outlets perplexed, with most of them walking away discussing the bizarre close-up of Cain's cigarette-smoking chief of staff, Mark Block, rather than Cain's actual political prowess.
Although this particular video did not feature the former Godfather's Pizza CEO's popular rendition of Imagine, it has nonetheless become a viral sensation.
What the hell was that? wrote Salon's Steve Kornacki, who noted that Block seems uncomfortable in front of the camera. Meanwhile, The Washington Post's Alexandria Petri called the unusual 56-second-spot brilliant.
It's horrifying. It's magnificent. It's the kind of ad you could only make if you were not taking this seriously, Petri wrote.
While some have said the peculiar ad can be chalked up to Cain's inexperience -- after all, for all his private sector success he has never held an elected office -- it is far from his first foray into the world of political advertisements.
In fact, the Mark Block campaign video may be the most conventional one to ever come out of the mind of the mustachioed GOP candidate.
'He Carried Yellow Flowers'
For instance, one ad released in late August called He Carried Yellow Flowers starts with what appears to be a scene depicting life on the frontier during the 19th century. Celebrating a time when a man was a man, the video's protagonist -- a conservative, of course -- is insulted by a group of rag-tag liberals for carrying colorful flowers for his sweetheart, who admonish him by saying, I bet you're as yellow as those flowers right there!
Why does it always have to be about color? asks the stern protagonist. What are you guys, liberals?
The scene then breaks and the protagonist, now out of character, looks into the camera and discusses how being an actor and reading things from a script doesn't make him a tough guy. He adds that looking cool and reading lines off a teleprompter does not make a community organizer a real leader -- an obvious jab at President Barack Obama.
But Herman Cain is a real leader, he says. Let's get real for a change, people. Take a real look at Herman Cain. I think you'll like what you see.
Cain was a spokesperson for a right-wing group called America's PAC that spent at least $1 million to run advertisements on radio stations in black communities during the 2004 general election and 2006 midterm election. The New York Sun reported that one ad focusing on abortion suggested Democrats wanted to kill black babies.
A similar ad that reportedly features Cain voice over is more disturbing than humorous. The radio advertisement seems to imitate a conversation between two African American men, with one of them -- the Herman Cain voice over -- throwing out various reasons why the other speaker would not vote Republican.
The ad becomes astonishingly inappropriate when abortion rights are brought up.
If you make a little mistake with one of your 'hos,' you'll want to dispose of that problem tout suite, no questions asked, the man with Cain's voice says.
That's too cold. I don't snuff out my own seed, the other replies.
Maybe you do have a reason to vote Republican, the first man concludes.
In 2004, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon who represents Georgia, told The Associated Press that the ads were repugnant and filled with outright lies formulated to discourage African-Americans from showing up at the polls.
These people know that the African-American vote is not going to go to the Republicans. The whole idea is to confuse people and raise doubts in their minds, Lewis said.
Cain, however, believes there is nothing offensive about the radio spots. While appearing on Fox News as a spokesperson for America's PAC in 2006, Cain defended the ads, saying the general concept of having ads that give people the facts that tell people the truth -- and sometimes, the truth hurts.