WASHINGTON -- Bob Schieffer and Herman Cain sparred over the candidate's "smoking man" ad on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday. Schieffer bluntly challenged Cain on the message of the ad, saying near the start of their discussion (in an unusual break from Schieffer's usual interviewing style) that he was expressing a personal opinion based on his own battle with smoking-related cancer.
The ad in question features Cain's campaign manager, Mark Block, encouraging supporters to donate time and energy to the campaign. Then Block, in a moment apparently transported from 1977, randomly puffs on a cigarette.
Schieffer accused Cain, a cancer survivor himself, of glorifying smoking and argued that as a frontrunner he needed to begin taking more responsibility for raising the level of dialogue. Schieffer effectively demanded that Cain take the ad down, but Cain noted that it had never been aired on TV and that the diffuse nature of the Internet made erasing it impossible.
Cain stopped short of apologizing for the ad, alternately saying that critics read too much into it and that it was an expression of Cain's belief that individuals should be free to make their own choices. He added that he has never smoked himself and that Block doesn't smoke around him.
Schieffer did extract one concession from the candidate, asking that he let viewers know that smoking is not something to admire. Cain complied. "Smoking is not a cool thing to do," he avowed.
Later, on NBC's "Meet The Press," Tom Brokaw challenged Cain as well. The 9-9-9 plan, Brokaw said, may refer to the nine months a person with lung cancer has left to live.