"How important is it to have a black candidate in the Republican party?" a British reporter asks Herman Cain in this video captured by Dave Weigel.
"Am I black?" Cain responds, chuckling and drawing a few laughs from the reporter. "Oh, you're talking about me?"
Cain goes on to give a thoughtful answer. He talks about how he's witnessed racism before, and what's important about his candidacy is not the fact that he's black but that he's a conservative and a patriot. That's what Republicans care about the most, he says.
Yes, Herman Cain is the only black Republican candidate, and the best orator. But what really makes him unique is his ability to crack a joke with ease. You have to see him in action to really appreciate it.
Cain's sense of humor has unfortunately been lost on some humorless bloggers. "Herman Cain's Immigration Plan: A Great Wall of China and an Alligator-Filled Moat," a blogger at Mother Jones breathlessly reports. But watch the video of Cain's remarks on immigration, and it's abundantly clear that Cain is joking about the alligator-filled moat: "On this side of the fence, I’ll have that moat that President Obama talked about. And I would put those alligators in that moat!"
"EXCLUSIVE: Herman Cain Pledges Not To Sign Any Bill Longer Than Three Pages," writes another blogger at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Well, no, Cain didn't say that. He pledged only to sign "small bills," and the "three pages" remark was an exaggeration that drew some laughs when he said it. When he was asked if he'd be comfortable appointing an openly gay person to his cabinet, Cain replied that he would be. "Because they're not going to try to put sharia law in our laws," he added, chuckling.
Perhaps Cain's jokes are lost on some people because he has made some genuinely outlandish and outrageous remarks, such as his comments about requiring Muslims to provide more proof than others than they're faithful to the U.S. Constitution.
But Cain's sense of humor is a rare and underestimated asset. As Ronald Reagan showed, quips can go a long way in endearing a politician to voters. And out of the entire Republican field of declared and undeclared candidates, Cain is really the only candidate who can get audiences to laugh. (For a cringe-inducing example of attempted humor by a GOP candidate, see this.)
This isn't a partsan problem, of course. Obama's no comedian himself. And there really aren't any funny men or women in the rest of the Democratic party (unless you're into Anthony Weiner's shtick, which he can't really pull off any more after being publicly neutered). Out of the Republican party, the only two humorous pols that come to mind are Mitch Daniels, known for his dry wit and self deprecation, and Chris Christie, known for his sarcasm. Am I missing anyone?