I haven’t done much on the big political story in America this week, mostly because stuff like this is so maddeningly typical.
And my initial reaction to it was that the whole thing is such a perfect example of dumbed-down American politics that I just don’t want to dignify it.
We saw an attempt similar to this in the Lt. Governor’s race in Louisiana, when an out-of-state political consultant working for Billy Nungesser’s campaign started shopping around a flimsy allegation about Jay Dardenne’s supposed sexual infidelity as though that was some sort of stink-bomb that would turn that race, despite the fact that in six subsequent political campaigns Dardenne ran in those allegations had never been worthy of use by other candidates. Dardenne won, and relatively comfortably – and Nungesser’s sex allegations went exactly nowhere, because the public is tired of gotcha political campaigns based on old allegations.
So when the Cain campaign fires back about this controversy decrying those who they think lit it off, I’m very sympathetic. Crap like this is exactly why good people don’t run for political office. Understand this – almost any male in a position of authority is vulnerable to charges of sexual harassment. Deny that if you will, but it’s the truth. Tell your secretary that you like her perfume or that she looks great in her dress or even that she ought to dump that boyfriend she complains about all the time, and you can find yourself on the wrong end of a complaint that could generate this exact firestorm, particularly if 15 years later you decide you want to run for a political office worth having. And you can be sure that your side of the story won’t get told in the media.
Not to mention the fact that these days, if the easily-offended female in question gets herself a hungry enough lawyer and you work for a company or organization well-heeled enough or well-insured enough, the calculation will be made to just pay her to go away rather than to fight the charge. The consideration virtually all of these agreements contains is that she has to shut up about it.
So in the case of this employee at the National Restaurant Association who apparently didn’t like Cain telling her how she was the same height as his wife – and who now has her lawyer going to the NRA and asking to be let out of the confidentiality agreement she took money in exchange for – I’m absolutely inclined to take Cain’s side. The fact is, she needs to keep her mouth shut and if she had any part in the POLITICO piece which started this donnybrook Cain ought to sue her for violating the agreement. He also ought to lean very heavily on the NRA to force her to honor the agreement. Which she won’t, because inevitably ABC News or CNN or somebody will pay her a lot more than she’d have to cough up for violating the agreement in order to get an exclusive. And they won’t, because they’re not going to want to be caught in the middle of this any more than is absolutely necessary and by taking his side that’s precisely what will happen to them.
The exclusive in question, naturally, would all too likely consist of a whiny upper-crust white female complaining that her black boss was over-friendly in a way most people would find not all that offensive in the first place. Hooray for that – it’s about as newsworthy as Bill Clinton becoming a vegan. Still, it’ll be worth enough in ratings and thus marketable enough that she’ll be able to afford the legal wrath of the NRA.
But I didn’t want to write much about this, for two reasons. First, as this thing has rolled out Cain’s camp has handled it about as poorly as it can be handled, and unfortunately that has become the real story (which has lots of consequences in its own right), and second, you hate to take a position on this stuff when there’s so much you don’t know.
And today both of the two reasons I didn’t launch into a long piece about this came to a head.
From the start, I thought the POLITICO piece smacked of a hit job by another GOP campaign. There are folks who ascribe this to “the Left” or the Obama camp, and while I don’t completely discount the possibility of that being the case (Jonathan Martin, the POLITICO reporter who broke this story, is without question a lefty and a happy water-carrier for Obama) I just don’t see the angle. Yes, the Left wants to kill off all the black conservatives politically so as to keep black voters chained to the Democrat Party – without that circumstance continuing there’s no way the Democrats can be viable as a national political party. Cain being a black conservative, it’s inevitable he’s going to get such a cheap shot. And it’s not goofy to see this and harken back to what they did to Clarence Thomas; the similarities are unmistakable.
But while it’s absolutely Obama’s modus operandi to clear the field of political opponents – go back to his campaign for state senate in Illinois, where he managed to get his opponent’s qualifying petition successfully challenged and thus knock her out of the race, and his campaign for the U.S. Senate where he managed to bury his Republican opponent by somehow getting his divorce records unsealed to include an allegation about going to sex clubs, and you’ll find lots of evidence of dirty tricks – the timing of this doesn’t look right. The Obama people don’t hit you early, they hit you late so you and your party don’t have time to recover before Election Day. Maybe it’s different with Cain, since he’s a black conservative and as such he’s a virus which has to be eradicated before it metastasizes. Obama’s entire 2012 campaign is based on calling his opponents racists; how does that strategy hold water when the GOP runs a black guy who actually has a lot more in common socially with most American blacks than Obama does?
So it’s possible this could have come from the Left. Cain’s up in the polls, he’s finally beginning to raise some money, and after two weeks of one gaffe after another he’s actually gaining steam, and they finally start getting scared enough about him that they decide it’s time to dirty him up some.
Still, if the Obama people actually believe this crap about how anybody who doesn’t vote for him are racists you’d expect them to be more than happy with Cain as the GOP nominee – because all the racist Republicans will stay home in larger numbers than they did when McCain was running four years ago and Obama waltzes into a second term. Now, I don’t think the Obamites believe that stuff for a minute; they’re the most cynical political hacks this country has seen since Nixon was in office. Which is why I still think they would wait until the Republicans coalesced around Cain as the nominee, or at least until he’d won some primaries and his departure or implosion would severely impact the Republican race.
Nah. This came from within the GOP. Cain’s people point to Rick Perry. This came from a release the Cain campaign put out tonight…
A Forbes Magazine column by Richard Miniter reported on Nov. 2 links Governor Rick Perry’s political campaign to the spread of malicious allegations this week against Republican presidential frontrunner Herman Cain.
“Cain Says Perry Camp Behind Sex Harassment Leak” by Richard Miniter
“The American people deserve better than these underhanded tactics by the Perry campaign. And Rick Perry owes Mr. Cain’s family an apology. A desperate candidate is trying to steal the Republican nomination away from Mr. Cain,” said Mark Block, Chief of Staff to the Herman Cain presidential campaign. “Since Politico released an attack story based on anonymous accusers, which was almost certainly provided to them by the Rick Perry campaign, Mr. Cain has taken the honorable path – he has been upfront and honest with the American people.”
Meanwhile, Cain supporters showed an increased commitment to Mr. Cain by providing him a second consecutive record-breaking fundraising day on Tuesday, Nov. 1, surpassing Monday’s new record.
Block said, “The American people – and Herman Cain’s family – deserve better than these types of deceitful attacks by politicians. It’s precisely this political mentality of infighting by politicians that is keeping America from solving the problems of job creation and border security. Fortunately, Herman Cain is no politician – he’s a problem solver. Even amongst these attacks we’re redoubling our efforts and not allowing these distracters to take us off course. This swelling of public support will help Herman continue spreading his message of real leadership and real problem solving across the country.“
Perry’s campaign has recently faced sinking poll numbers and has consistently placed behind Herman Cain in the rankings in recent weeks.
Is the Cain camp’s charge legitimate? Maybe it is. You could make the argument that since Perry is looking at Cain’s rise in the polls, which is almost completely at Perry’s expense since the latter’s peak in August and subsequent fall, Perry has the most to gain from gut-shotting the Cain campaign. And there is a more specific basis for it. We’ll turn this part over to Hot Air…
The next debate’s going to be amazing.
There, beside rusting rail lines, is the home of OnMessage Inc., a Republican-leaning consulting firm recently hired to bolster Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign.
One of the firm’s partners, Curt Anderson, worked on Cain’s losing 2004 U.S. Senate campaign. Cain thinks he’s the hired political gun who leaked details to Politico, a Washington trade publication, of alleged “sexually suggestive behavior” Cain is said to have exhibited towards two women while he ran the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. That story set off a media frenzy which has quickly put Cain’s campaign on the defense…
“I told my wife about this in 1999 and I’ve got nothing to hide,” Cain told me Wednesday. “When I sat down with my general campaign consultant Curt Anderson in a private room in our campaign offices in 2003 we discussed opposition research on me. It was a typical campaign conversation. I told him that there was only one case, one set of charges, one woman while I was at the National Restaurant Association. Those charges were baseless, but I thought he needed to know about them. I don’t recall anyone else being in the room when I told him.”…
Aside from knowing about the alleged sexual harassment accusations, Cain campaign officials point to the timing of Anderson’s hiring by Perry as evidence of his involvement. The campaign announced Anderson’s role on October 24, just a week before Politico broke the story.
Anderson denied the accusation to Politico, saying he first heard of the harassment charges on Sunday night when the story broke. Over to you, Rick Perry.
Anderson’s denial is interesting. He said that he considers Cain to be of the highest moral character and gave a very classy statement about all this stuff, but he also said that he first heard of these allegations when POLITICO broke the story. It goes like this…
“I never heard about this story until I read about it in Politico,” Anderson said in a statement. “I have nothing but good things to say about Herman Cain. I’m not going to bad-mouth Herman Cain to anyone, on or off the record. I think he is a guy of great leadership and integrity.”
Which means that, if Anderson is telling the truth, Cain is BS’ing the American people about the allegations being discussed in 2004 when he ran for the Senate. Why should anybody believe Anderson? I dunno – except that you’ve got to ask this question: if Cain told Anderson “hey, there’s this chick who claimed I sexually harrassed her 10 years ago and while it was a groundless charge the NRA decided to pay her to make her go away, and that could resurface” and yet when he decided to run for president seven years later he didn’t give his team a heads-up that this was out there, then what the hell kind of Charlie Foxtrot presidential campaign is he running?
As an aside, our Louisiana readers might find this one interesting – OnMessage happens to be the firm that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s former chief of staff Timmy Teepell has moved on to now that he’s not going to be running Jindal’s legislative agenda and other duties. There has been word for some time that Teepell was going to be doing work for Perry’s campaign, and now that he’s working for Anderson it’s almost a no-brainer to expect that’ll be the case.
Why should you care about Anderson’s statement? Well, if Anderson was the source of the original POLITICO piece, the lack of journalistic ethics involved in running a denial from him they absolutely knew was a crock is staggering even by modern standards. That would show some major-league bravado/willingness to roll the dice on that website’s part. You’re welcome to consider that one however you want; I can say I’d be a bit surprised to see them go so far out on a limb. I really don’t think Anderson was the source of POLITICO’s story.
In any event, it doesn’t quite make a lot of sense that Cain would have divulged this to Anderson in 2004 and been so unprepared for it to resurface now. As I said above, you’ve got to figure that when you enter a crowded presidential primary you’re going to get the full rectal exam even if your campaign doesn’t actually pick up a head of steam. Instead, these guys were flat-footed about all this and gave a response to it that actually fanned the flames rather than dousing them. Assuming that Cain’s allegation that he told Anderson about all this in 2004 is true, that is. Or even if it’s not true, the incident still happened and Cain was there; if you’re going to run for president and your name isn’t Barack Hussein Obama, whatever you’ve done is going to come out. You’ve got to be prepared to deal with it.
Let’s remember, this isn’t exactly a rape allegation. This is a charge which essentially boils down to saying something that made somebody uncomfortable. Almost anybody who deals with people all day will eventually rub someone the wrong way or say something that could arguably make somebody uncomfortable. Particularly if you’re running a trade group in Washington and you’ve got a bunch of employees who were hired because their daddy knows somebody and they needed a gig that looks good on a resume their first year out of Princeton.
In other words, it’s not precisely the-crime-that-dare-not-speak-its-name. It’s a big, fat nothing. There’s no reason to be evasive about something as weak as this.
Unless there’s a pattern of behavior which makes Cain out to be a masher.
And today, it started to look like maybe that might be the case.
Because Anderson wasn’t the only guy involved in all this. There’s another guy named Chris Wilson, who is a pollster working for the Perry campaign – Wilson is another guy the Cain campaign is using as evidence that Perry is behind this business. And Wilson has essentially supported the original accuser. It’s actually more likely he might have been the source of the sexual harassment business than Anderson…
The finger-pointing came after a former pollster at the restaurant association said he witnessed Cain sexually harassing a woman at a Virginia restaurant.
Chris Wilson, who worked for the NRA when Cain served as chairman of the trade association from 1996 to 1999, told Oklahoma City’s KTOK radio that he was “around a couple of times” when the sexual harassment happened.
Wilson — who according to Politico is a Perry supporter and a pollster for a super PAC that supports Perry’s White House bid — also said “so many people were aware of what took place” and warned that if the alleged victim discussed the allegations, “I think it’ll be the end of his campaign.”
Who knows whether Wilson is offering an objective take here. He might well be running a line for Perry; it’s in his interest to do so if he’s essentially in Perry’s camp. Take that for what you will. Take also the fact that Wilson has denied having anything to do with the POLITICO piece for what you will.
And Erick Erickson at RedState.com has Perry himself on audio categorically denying that his campaign was the source of all this.
But it’s not just Wilson. We have a second accuser, whose story is vacuous at this point, and a third…
A third woman considered filing a workplace complaint against Herman Cain over what she deemed aggressive and unwanted behavior when she and Cain, now a Republican presidential candidate, worked together during the late 1990s, the woman told The Associated Press on Wednesday. She said the behavior included a private invitation to his corporate apartment.
The woman said he made sexually suggestive remarks or gestures about the same time that two co-workers had settled separate harassment complaints against Cain, who was then the head of the National Restaurant Association.
The woman was located and approached by the AP as part of its investigation into harassment complaints against Cain that were disclosed in recent days and have thrown his presidential campaign into turmoil. She spoke only on condition of anonymity, saying she feared losing her current job and the possibility of damage to her reputation.
The long and short of this third accuser’s statement is that Cain once told her she was hot and that he invited her to his corporate apartment. In what context that invitation might have been made we don’t have the details of. Believe it or not there are ways that can be done which are perfectly innocent even if the guy has already said she looks good.
And then we have radio host Steve Deace, who has a syndicated conservative talk show out of Iowa and has had lots of in-person contact with Cain that he says would corroborate some of this stuff…
A conservative Iowa radio host, who on Wednesday became the latest person to accuse Herman Cain of acting inappropriately toward women, declined to offer specifics about the presidential candidate’s behavior but suggested that Cain was “compromised in his private life.”
Steve Deace, who hosts a syndicated two-hour radio program in Iowa, said that two of his female staff members were subjected to “inappropriate and awkward” comments by Cain. But he refused to identify them or elaborate on the seriousness of the allegations.
After his show on Wednesday night, Deace held an impromptu press conference outside his Des Moines studio while his two female staff members rushed out of the building, escorted by two men who attempted to keep reporters away.
One of the women was identified to ABC News by an independent source as a victim of the behavior Deace mentioned. Both of the women repeatedly refused to comment on anything related to the controversy.
Deace, an influential conservative figure in the state, declined to say whether he had the women’s consent before going public with the allegations, but added, “As a staff we are very tight and we are very close and we share everything with one another.”
“To bring up any further evidence or to add any more specifics really puts the burden on our staff and not really where the burden of proof for the American people belongs which is with the guy running for President of the United States,” Deace said.
The radio host also refused to say whether Cain’s behavior constituted sexual harassment, an allegation that has surfaced separately against the presidential candidate in connection with his work at the National Restaurant Association during the late 1990′s.
“I would say it’s inappropriate and it’s awkward that’s what I would say,” Deace told reporters on Wednesday night.
Now, there are people who say that Deace is a has-been who’s looking for a way to be relevant again. I have no idea if that’s true. What I do know is that (1) he is absolutely not a Herman Cain guy and there is some reason, legitimate or not, why he dislikes him so much, and (2) something happened at Deace’s studio which came off wrong. There is this, from a POLITICO piece in which Deace trashes Cain…
“Like awkward/inappropriate things he’s said to two females on my staff, that the fact the guy’s wife is never around…that’s almost always a warning flag to me,” Deace wrote. “But I chose to leave that stuff out [of the opinion piece] and make it about his record and not the personal stuff.”
Pressed about what exactly Cain said to the employees of his show, Deace responded by describing how he himself treats his staff.
“Many a man has been done in by the inability to control his urges,” Deace wrote. “I am no different and just as vulnerable as any other man, which is why I put safeguards around me and hold myself accountable to my wife and other men in my life. Especially since I have very talented employees that happen to be women. I go out of my way to treat them like my sisters. For example, I wouldn’t tell them or any other woman I am not married to nor related to how pretty she is.”
You can take that last line and say this is all ridiculous, Cain is getting beat up on because he’s giving compliments to women and all of this is a high-tech lynching like what Thomas got, only this time it’s about internecine GOP warfare rather than ideology or race. And that’s a defensible position, even though it might not be right.
But it’s undeniable that this is beginning to look like there’s a pattern of behavior here.
Here’s something you probably haven’t heard. There is word on the street that Cain’s former communications director Ellen Carmichael, a Louisiana native who has been a contributor on the Hayride a few times in the past and who is a friend of mine but whom I haven’t caught up with outside of official business – Ellen hooked up with Jay Dardenne’s campaign for Lt. Governor here in Louisiana the last month before Election Day and has now just started as the press secretary for Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) – left the Cain campaign with a cash settlement and a non-disclosure agreement a month ago.
I hate to bring Ellen into this and she gets my apology for it, but it’s worth mentioning in light of everything else because she’s the kind of super-cool gal guys feel enough at ease around that they might say inappropriate stuff even a normal female would get uncomfortable hearing, particularly if it was all the time. In other words, I could ask Ellen what she thinks about all of this – and she’d say she signed an NDA as a result, so she’s got nothing to say one way or the other beyond the fact that she thinks the world of Cain. And there we are. Whether that moves this story along or not, I don’t know. But I’m not the only one who finds the circumstances of Ellen’s departure fascinating in the context of all this even though she’s off limits as a source of information about it.
Again, this isn’t grand larceny or embezzlement or bestiality. It might come down to a bunch of off-color comments, and because it might, Cain’s campaign could well have presented this stuff as an extension of his previous (absolutely spot-on) comment that America needs to recover its sense of humor. Or he could present himself as some sort of Bobby Knight of American politics; he’s a jerk to work for but who cares so long as he wins. Cain might even say all of this is proof of what a bunch of ninnies this country is when you can’t tell a joke or compliment a female employee or invite one to have an adult beverage – like you’d do with a male employee, which the feminists tell us shouldn’t be an exclusive treatment – away from the crowd without subjecting yourself to a future firestorm of some kind. And if he were to take that issue on he might very well win. What’s more, he might be doing America a favor; this country has become entirely too litigious and entirely too wrapped up in things like political correctness which are a direct outgrowth of things like the allegations against Cain (at least, as they’ve been presented so far).
That’s not just me talking. It just so happens that Rasmussen has a poll this week in which 79 percent of the respondents say political correctness is a serious problem.
That attitude among the public extends, I theorize, to things like sexual harassment. Talk to any guy, and almost all of them will tell you they’re completely beleagured as to how to handle the more vexatious or litigious (or apparently litigious, and they’re not all that hard to spot) females in the workplace – and because of that they walk on eggshells around them. And then talk to any female, and as many of them as not will express disgust at the members of their sex who take advantage of the victim status so easily afforded to women in the workplace to cry foul on trivial matters rather than the real, live, legitimate stuff that does go on. And the sexual harassment issue is a big piece of political correctness – between that and race, folks of different backgrounds are being prevented from interacting in an honest way at the office, where our economy desperately needs less BS and more productivity if we’re going to stay as the top dog internationally.
This thing could be a great opportunity for a transformational moment, and Cain’s campaign could well have led the way to a discussion that would greatly benefit the country. It’s somewhat analogous to the opportunity Obama had early in 2008 when the nation found out he’d spent 20 years in a church led by an anti-American charlatan who regularly trashed white people and bastardized the country’s history as a key element of his ministry. Naturally, Obama mucked that moment by throwing his “typical white person” grandmother under the bus, though he got away with that thanks to the media’s happy acquiescence in the faux racial-healing propaganda offensive. But a presidential candidate who isn’t a typical white person and whose qualifications as a candidate include a demonstrated ability to generate achievement in large organizations and who then points to old allegations of an arguably minor import as a reason why we’re killing ourselves with intolerance toward each other in our daily dealings would be perfectly placed to capitalize on it. And in doing so, said candidate would cement himself as a uniter on the national scene.
Cain blew that by handling this thing incompetently. He didn’t get out front with a response to this, despite the fact that he had the opportunity to say these allegations were picayune and ridiculous and a perfect example of why this country needs to get a lot tougher – or that he’s a guy who sometimes says the wrong thing but it’s never interfered with his ability to make good things happen for the company or organization he was in charge of. He could have presented his response to these things in either of those ways and it would have been completely consistent with his image as the kick-ass businessman who’s setting the political world (and all its hacks and spin doctors) on its ear.
But he didn’t do that. Instead, after a few days of vacillating, Cain’s camp decided they’d hang all this on Perry and demand that the Texas governor apologize.
Is Perry guilty? If so, sure – it’s a shitty thing for him to have done. And there would undoubtedly be folks who would gripe that he’s guilty of practicing the kind of gutter politics Americans have grown to hate, assuming that his camp did leak this to Jonathan Martin at POLITICO. On the other hand, politics ain’t beanbag, and if Cain has a pattern of inappropriate – or even incompetent – dealings with female staffers or business acquaintances, then ultimately somebody was going to make it an electoral issue. And if Perry didn’t do it then Romney would, or Obama would. Better for Cain, and the GOP, that it would happen now than later.
I’m not sold that this is Perry, mind you. I think it’s just as likely that Mitt Romney would see persistent strength in the polls from Cain, particularly in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida, and decide the situation is serious enough to pull the trigger on the sex-harassment business. Whoever did this, it sucks – I agree with that. But if it’s out there it needs to be dealt with in the primary, because Obama would absolutely put it out there in the general.
Perry shouldn’t apologize, even if he’s responsible, but neither should he hit Cain on it. The smart play is to let Cain work on unraveling it himself. In fact, all of the GOP candidates should stay away from this thing, and it they comment on it at all it should be to say what a great guy Herman is and while they’ve got no idea what actually happened they hope he can sort it out so we can all talk about the real issues in this race.
At the end of the day, unless some of these allegations are fleshed out into something the public can digest and make a judgement on what kind of behavior Cain actually practiced with the supposed victims of his conduct, the reaction to all this is likely going to depend on your response to the image Cain has presented in the campaign to date. Either way, we’ll have this thing to kick around for a while. And despite the fact that so far it hasn’t hurt Cain, it inevitably will if he can’t come up with some narrative that exonerates him or at least gives the American people something to process beyond another low-brow political scandal involving another fast-talking candidate – whether that’s an accurate way to describe this mess or not.