The Herman Cain sexual harassment story has dropped its Stage One launch rocket – which, let us recall, consisted of a story about two anonymous people who settled vague complaints about fifteen-year-old events no one is able, or willing, to discuss in detail – and entered Stage Two, in which the narrative is now largely about Cain’s response, and the responses to Cain’s response. The original allegations of accusations are dropping away into the blue skies of the stratosphere. If the original sources of the story are never identified, and never say a word on the record, it would scarcely make a difference.
This is not to excuse the shoddy way Cain and his camp have handled the situation. Cain’s chief of staff Mark Block (aka “The Smoking Man”) tried floating allegations that Rick Perry’s campaign was the source of the sexual harassment story, because Curt Anderson worked for a polling firm employed by the Perry camp. Anderson also worked on Cain’s failed 2004 Senate bid, and is said to have discussed one of the sexual harassment claims with him at the time.
Anderson denied that he was the source of the Politico story, and this morning Block had to walk back his allegations. No matter how this story got started, that’s a disaster, pure and simple. It makes the Cain campaign look desperate, and it also makes people wonder how Cain could possibly have been blindsided by something he knew was a potential problem almost eight years ago.
Meanwhile, everyone’s jumping into the bubbling Jacuzzi of bloody water surrounding the Cain campaign. Salacious details about one of the original accusers poured from new anonymous sources, weaving a sordid tale of a woman jumping into a taxi with Cain after a boozy corporate dinner, and waking up in his bed. It was reported by Pajamas Media this morning… and then essentially retracted through “corrections” at the end of the day.
The Associated Press whipped up a fresh batch of sand and fog, bringing us the story of a nameless woman who never even bothered to file a complaint against Cain, but would now like the world to know that she was seriously considering it, because that ruffian told her she was pretty:
She worked for the National Restaurant Association when he was its head. She told The Associated Press that Cain made sexually suggestive remarks or gestures about the same time that two co-workers had settled separate harassment complaints against him.
The employee described situations in which she said Cain told her he had confided to colleagues how attractive she was and invited her to his corporate apartment outside work. She spoke on condition of anonymity, saying she feared retaliation.
Steve Deace, a conservative radio host long critical of Cain, regaled Politico with the bombshell accusation that Cain is “awkward” and often appears without his wife standing by:
Deace, who penned an opinion piece critical of Cain earlier this month, told POLITICO in an email that Cain said “awkward” and “inappropriate” things to the staff at his station.
“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.
See? It doesn’t matter what Cain actually said. Just know that it was the kind of thing Steve Deace wouldn’t say.
ABC News reports on a press conference Deace held, in which his two female staff members were “escorted by two men who attempted to keep reporters away”… but “one of the women was identified to ABC News by an independent source as a victim of the behavior Deace mentioned.”
We’ll never know what, exactly, she was a “victim” of. As Deace explained, “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.”
We have scandal launch separation, Stage Two boosters now firing at full power.
The fatal mistake for Cain and his aides at this point would be complaining about the “unfairness” of it all. Of course it’s unfair. That’s why it was imperative for Cain to have a comprehensive and efficient defense strategy mapped out long in advance, instead of trying to wing it. There are no “referees” to blow the whistle on false starts and unsportsmanlike conduct toward Republican candidates. More to the point, the referees hate them. It will never again matter how this story got started, now that it has reached Stage Two.
We still don’t know much about the original allegations, although various parties are straining at their legal non-disclosure bits. If there turns out to be substance behind them, Cain never should have run for President in the first place. No Republican can count on a non-disclosure agreement to keep scandals from being disclosed. At best, such agreements might suppress some details, but that doesn’t keep the story from rolling forward, as it would with a Democrat. Did Herman Cain really need a painful lesson in how all this works?
At this point, assuming there aren’t campaign-ending details packed in those National Restaurant Association complaints, Cain’s best bet is to waive all the non-disclosure protection he can, and get this over with before the story reaches Stage Three and achieves orbit. That’s when the story becomes all about media coverage of the story. The media gets to talk about its favorite subject – itself – and the original “scandal” becomes largely superfluous to the ongoing narrative.
We’re almost there. Today the Media Research Center offered an astonishing comparison of the saturation coverage given to the Cain scandals by the major networks, compared to their virtual ignorance of the Clinton scandals (which actually involved people with names):
Over a period of just three and a half days, NBC, CBS and ABC have developed an insatiable hunger for the Herman Cain sexual harassment story, devoting an incredible 50 stories to the allegations since Monday morning. In contrast, over a similar period these networks mostly ignored far more substantial and serious scandals relating to Bill Clinton.
This pattern continued on Wednesday night and into Thursday as the evening newscasts and morning shows highlighted the story 19 times. On Good Morning America, Brian Ross offered innuendo and slung gossip, recounting, “But behind the scenes, several of the campaigns are still urging reporters to continue to dig, George, saying, there’s more to be found in the private life of Herman Cain.”
Without offering facts, Ross described Cain’s time as head of the National Restaurant Association: “It fits with the kind of culture we were told that existed there, with young women who had been, sort of, lobbyists for the restaurant association, working with various states. They were the new ones, the young ones. And they say that’s where Cain often socialized.”
There was a “culture.” The media was “told” it existed. The same reporters who would have dedicated themselves wholly and entirely to digging up the identities of the original Cain accusers – and destroying them as either lunatics, gold-diggers, or racists if he was a Democrat – are instead content to write an epic fantasy about Herman Cain’s days as alpha male of the National Restaurant Association wolf pack.
The participation of the actual Herman Cain is no longer necessary to keep this rocket flying. It’s pretty much running on automatic pilot now. That’s why Cain needs to act aggressively and put a pile of hard facts on the table, if he wants to regain control of the narrative.