Monday, October 31, 2011


I find the Herman Cain harassment story plausible -- I'd find it plausible in the case of just about any male politician or CEO, narcissists that they are. But I suspect it's not going to be a death blow to his campaign, and I'm not sure it's even going to cost him his lead in the polls.

During Herman Cain's tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain, ultimately leaving their jobs at the trade group, multiple sources confirm to POLITICO.

The women complained of sexually suggestive behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, the sources said, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association....

Let's start with the fact that a lot of right-wingers probably don't believe there's any such thing as sexual harassment, or don't think it's any big deal. Let's proceed from there to the fact that Cain is a candidate a lot of people like rather than merely support, a "hope" candidate for his fans, which means that they want this to go away, the way Bill Clinton fans wanted his sex scandals to go away. (Also, Cain fans see him as a bulwark against rampant liberalism, just as Clinton supporters saw Bill, naively or otherwise, as the guy standing between us and an ever-more-radical conservatism.)

And the race factor plays in Cain's favor, because right-wingers have always enjoyed feeling self-righteous about Clarence Thomas's confirmation hearings, and they see an analogy here. On cue, here's Roger L. Simon at Pajamas Media with a column titled "Politico and Cain: Return of the High Tech Lynching." And Ann Coulter -- who repeatedly called the young black men wrongly convicted in the Central Park Jogger case "savages" and who wrote a column in the early days of the financial crisis titled "They Gave Your Mortgage to a Less Qualified Minority" -- is defending Cain by arguing that "liberals are terrified of Herman Cain -- he is a strong, conservative black man."

This kind of scandal can be managed, unless the evidence comes to light and is so undeniable (as in the case of John Edwards) that nobody wants to defend the man at the center of the story. Wingers will abandon Cain if really bad stuff is proven -- perhaps if the women themselves come forward.

On the other hand, Coulter is saying that what's alleged isn't really harassment -- "it isn't touching, it isn't groping, it's 'Ooooh, you said something and we thought it was inappropriate.'" Watch her roll her eyes as she says this (at about 1:29 in the clip below):

That's likely to be to the winger reaction to this. Which is why this won't sink Cain. Hey, it's not as if he did something nice for undocumented-immigrant college students, or refused to back a border fence. Those are serious character flaws! Those can sink a campaign! Wingnuttia will probably say this isn't in the same league.

I say all this with one caveat: Cain has to worry about Cain. He probably won't have the sense to come up with one response and stick with it. He'll probably deny the charges, then half-admit them, then deny them again, then half-deny them, and so on and so on. This story could disappear quickly if nothing new comes out, the way the McCain infidelity-with-a-lobbyist story disappeared in 2008 -- but Cain, being Cain, may very well keep it alive by struggling (as he often does) to keep his story straight. But even so, I think his loss of standing in the polls won't be as great as Perry's has been.


c u n d gulag said...

A hint of victimization is always good for Conservatives.

And, if he can sell it that these women were Leftist Liberal Hairy Armpitted Lesbians, then it's a win!

Clarence Thomas is revered.

Steve M. said...

And, if he can sell it that these women were Leftist Liberal Hairy Armpitted Lesbians, then it's a win!

You're right -- I didn't think of that.

Breitbart will probably do that for him.

Tom Hilton said...

I suspect it's not going to be a death blow to his campaign, and I'm not sure it's even going to cost him his lead in the polls.

Depends on whether they were white. As Soonergrunt said over at Balloon Juice, if Anita Hill had been white people today would be saying "Clarence who?"

Steve M. said...

I think what gulag says above is relevant here: If the women come forward and are white, but they can be painted as white and liberal (or, even worse, as -- ick! -- feminists), he can win in wingnuts' eyes.

I'm sticking with my theory that right-wing racism has a carve-out for any black person who meets all the litmus tests.

Kathy said...

Watch her roll her eyes as she says this (at about 1:29 in the clip below):

Sorry, can't do it - I just had breakfast, and I don't want to lose it.

Honestly, I don't think the women coming forward will do any good - no matter who they are - unless the real powers in the Republican party decide now is a good time to get rid of Cain.

c u n d gulag said...

Cain's staff is probably working on some Hillary and Rosie O'Donnell jokes right now.

And look for Rush to bring out his lame FemiNazi's garbage again.

Steve M. said...

I can't figure out who "the real powers in the Republican party" are these days. Rove and his crowd, who obviously want Cain to go away and prefer Romney (but would really rather have Mitch Daniels or Chris Christie in there)? Or the insurgent crazies and their ATM, the Koch family?

Kathy said...

Yeah, it's hard to tell. I may be leaning too much on the old paradigm of electability.

the bewilderness said...

The standard response from the right or left is to investigate the women and find a way to blame them for what the men did. The media participates with vigor.
If Cain dismisses and denies and then someone who was with the restaurant association confirms there will be a story and possibly long term consequences. Otherwise it will be ignored.

merlallen said...

they always prop up their candidate with "the liberals are terrified of whoever" When we are actually laughing at them. Does that line work with frightwingers or something?

merlallen said...

I don't remember the "left" ever blaming the victim.