By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
3:17 PM EST, February 15, 2013
After dumping Sarah Palin and Dick Morris, Fox News has hired Scott Brown and now Herman Cain as a contributor.
The first three moves made some sense, especially the two firings. Palin's fling with fame was over, and the sleaze attached to Morris had reached the point where it was seriously hurting the Fox brand.
But the hiring of Cain, which was reported Friday, feels like an act of desperation, a move made in reaction to sinking ratings rather than one done as part of a larger vision.
Talk about ethical baggage with Morris, Cain had to end his presidential run after several women alleged that he had either sexually harassed or had a relationship with them -- and that they had been paid not to talk about it.
OK, Roger Ailes, maybe you keep some of the Tea Party partisans who were angry with you for ditching Shotgun Sarah, but how does anyone on your network talk about family values, fidelity, honesty or integrity with Cain on the payroll? One of the women claimed she had an extramarital affair with Cain for 13 years.
In his own way, Cain is more a red-hot ethical mess than Morris. And the former pizza executive has shown none of the mental dexterity and nimbleness of mind Morris demonstrates when he is on his game.
Admittedly, there were not many of those good days left with Morris, who had become a poster boy for the ravages of dissolution -- talent gone to seed and suet. But, at least, when Morris talked policy or theory, you knew he had once been in the room where big political decisions were made -- and he could follow the arguments, if not lead them, once upon a time. At least you didn't want to laugh out loud because his ideas and sense of American political history sounded like those of a cartoon character -- as Cain's regularly did during the campaign.
In fact, as I write this, I am actually thinking Cain might be the only major party candidate I can think of who had a worse sense of American political history than Palin -- and that's something post-Katie-Couric-interview and "Game Change" that I thought I would never say.
I have held off on making too much of CNN's little ratings surge the last couple of weeks. I don't think it has reached the point where it makes sense yet to talk of momentum.
But I'll tell you this: Jeff Zucker, the new head of CNN, seems to have a vision in the many moves he is making. And it looks like a winning vision.
The hiring of Harman Cain, meanwhile, is a clear indication that's not the case with Roger Ailes, who seems to be losing confidence with each Nielsen dip at Fox News.
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