If this isn't the best and brightest Republican bunch now scrambling for the 2012 presidential nomination, it's at least one of the more entertaining. I haven't been as interested in a slate of candidates in years. Right now we're watching them slowly disintegrate, each candidate in turn committing gaffes or having background that hurts them. Having skeletons in the closet may be a cliché, but is an apt metaphor.
The latest is Herman Cain, who has some bone-rattling sexual harassment charges from 15 years ago coming back to haunt him. As I write this the big news is that an accuser went before the cameras to tell her story of some unwanted groping by Cain.
Cain hasn't helped himself by being evasive at first, even lying outright about his memory of the events.
Cain has been a darling of the tea party for his conservatism, but some of his statements are outrageous. His view that if a person isn't rich it's "his own fault" is totally odd. As if people don't have enough problems to kick themselves over, now Cain says being middle class, and accepting it, is a fault. I can't believe his supporters would let him get away with this backhanded slap, but apparently they have.
I give credit to Herman Cain for being an entrepreneur who made his riches selling pizza. It's hard building a nationwide franchise, but when it's successful and the public supports the brand, it can be a gold mine. Cain was a VP at Burger King when he went off to become the pizza Godfather.
I give credit to Cain for polling number one as a candidate for several weeks. I'm sorry to bring up race, but it's necessary. An African-American polling above the other candidates, all of whom are white, is amazing. Americans are obsessed with race, and for a segment of the population such as white conservatives to have put Cain in such a place seems completely against the grain of everything I've observed about American politics in the past 50 years. That's even discounting the 2008 election of the mixed-race Barack Obama.
Whether Cain's support stays after the latest allegations, though, will tell whether he stays acceptable to his base. Right now that base believes the allegations are cooked up by the liberal media to smear him. They listen to an awful lot of right wing talk radio, where everything against their chosen few is a nasty leftist plot.
A couple of the women who claimed sexual harassment are unnamed (so far), and have signed confidentiality agreements as part of their legal settlement. Cain's latest accuser didn't seek any legal remedies to being groped, as she explained, because she didn't work for the National Restaurant Association where Cain was president. She could have gone to the police, but that was her choice. Most sexual assaults aren't reported, I'm sorry to say. She probably thought it was best to just go on with her life. Her silence may have fed into Cain's delusion that these incidents were minor, and wouldn't come back later to bite him. He might have trivialized them in his mind, or believed that the confidentiality agreements were enough to protect him from having to explain himself. He was wrong on all those things. He is also wrong to try to shut reporters up when they ask him questions about the allegations. He isn't a CEO now. He doesn't command anyone to do anything, especially reporters, who aren't about to lay back and let a big juicy story like this go away.
He may be the godfather, but he's no gangsta, and doesn't intimidate the press.