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“Is Herman Cain ready for prime time?”

“Is Herman Cain ready for prime time?”

That’s the question David Mark at Politico’s Arena forum asks, with this explanation:

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain’s shifting responses to allegations of sexual harassment dating to his time as president of the National Restaurant Association have left his campaign reeling.

Has Cain’s campaign done itself politically mortal harm by not delivering a clear and consistent response to the original POLITICO story? Or might this episode actually help Cain by creating sympathy among conservatives over investigative reporting by “liberal media”?

As you know, although I have been critical of Politico’s news operations, I joined Politico’s Arena so that my voice could be heard there.  Here is my answer at Politico:

There is no question that Cain fumbled the initial handling of the story. He lacks the communications team needed to deal with the type of scrutiny some presidential candidates receive.

That said, the way in which POLITICO rolled out the story, structured for a Monday morning news frenzy with vague allegations seemingly intended to smoke out the story rather than report it, and teams of reporters ready to appear on every cable show that would have them, transformed the story into an attempt to take down a candidate not report. POLITICO seemed just a bit too joyful.

That POLITICO’s coverage now focuses on the inconsistencies from the Cain campaign in the opening hours, rather than on the facts some of which POLITICO apparently refuses to disclose, feeds into a narrative that is helpful for Cain: He is the target of a mainstream media that scrutinizes the lives of conservative candidates with joyful abandon yet steers clear of similar inquiry into the life and associations of Barack Obama.

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Comments

Charles Curran | November 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I wouldn’t hold my breath untill you hear back from those folks.

If Politico is trying to smear Cain, he must be doing something right – we are known as much by our enemies as we are our friends. At the very least, it means Politico sees him as a threat to Obama.

Based on the information that has come out, why is this even an issue? It appears that this is an accusation of “sexual” harrassment having no real sexual component. Apparently there was no sexual contact of any kind; just perhaps some gestures and comments that were NOT “overtly” sexual, but which made two women “uncomfortable” back in the 90s. OK, so out of perhaps a couple thousand women Cain worked with over the last 40 years, two of them bristled over some momentary gesture or remark?

Seriously, in a sane society, stuff like this wouldn’t even be actionable.

Compare what Cain is being accused of with what LBJ did to his young, female staff in the WH. Or compare it to what Teddy K and Chris Dodd were doing to D.C. waitresses.

The way Politico trumpeted this story is a shame, but the bigger scandal, IMO, is the utter lack of perspective and discretion being applied to the allegations themselves. Just because someone labels something “sexual harassment” is not reason for everyone to go all Chicken Little over it.

Prof Jacobson, your response is the reason why I prefer to read your wisdom rather than the commonness of a typical Charles Krauthammer.

What sets you apart from the pack of pundits is that you are not an enabler of bad journo-listic reporting.

And I tip very well for excellent service.

Is this your personal Occupy Politico protest? 😛
(I keed)

We become unwitting carries of this latest virus of doubt and deception which the Left is trying to inject into the Conservative blogosphere when we become engaged with the (non) details and Cain’s response of this so-called case.

Politico’s story is conveniently timed when Cain is polling well.

The Propaganda Machine has just fired its first shot from a diversionary flank.

Solyndra? The Economy? OWS + WH connection?

Cowboy Curtis | November 1, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I like the guy (though I’d prefer Perry’s flat tax greatly over 9-9-9), but Cain’s problem doesn’t lie with his communications team, but with himself. Pretty much everyone else in the race has had to deal with these sorts of blowups and hit jobs many times over, so that its almost second nature. Cain never has. He has no political experience to work with, so he’s learning all of this on the fly, and it shows. A lot.

Theoretically, that’s an attractive trait. But real life, its a massive liability. The game of running for president is played on the toughest field on earth, and like it or not, experience matters. Probably even more than talent.

    With due respect…but Perry’s ‘…almost-second-nature-dealin’-with-blowups…’ hasn’t been apparent on stage and in the press.

    Any talk of ‘experience’ should always be in the context/contrast to B.O’s ‘experience’. And by ‘political experience’ do you mean ‘stage experience’? Because stage experience does not necessarily translate into managerial/executive experience.

    We are all falling into the perfect trap when we start assessing our candidates under their (the Left Media Complex) terms.

      Aridog in reply to Aucturian. | November 1, 2011 at 3:52 pm

      Amen to that.

      Cowboy Curtis in reply to Aucturian. | November 1, 2011 at 4:03 pm

      Perry’s done fine with blow-ups/hit pieces (see the rock story), his debate performance is what is lacking.

      I think a lot of people here fundamentally misunderstand who the Republican nominee will be running against. Obama is not the opponent, and in and of himself, is the least of our nominee’s concerns. The entire media, educational, entertainement, and bureaucratic establishment will be all in on this one. They have fully invested not only their hopes and ambitions in Obama, but lent him every bit of their credibility. A voter repudiation of him, and the very likely robust economic recover that will follow not long after, will cripple their ambitions and power for years. They will be all in because, frankly, they really don’t have any other choice.

      It makes no difference what Obama lacks or how he screws up, because the press will never compare our guy and theirs on anything remotely like fair terms. Forget past presidents and how unfair it all is- none of that matters. The rules of the game are what they are, and if they ever do change, it damn sure won’t be during this election cycle. Every reporter, liberal blogger, and activist group will spend every waking hour trying to figure out how to take our guy down. No lie will be off limits, no story too absurd not to print, if it might ding him up. Our candidate, more than any previous election, will have to tap-dance through contrived political minefields every single day. It will be like nothing any of us has ever seen, and there will simply be no substitute for political experience. Everyone like’s Cain’s shooting from the hip and learning it on the fly, but those aren’t virtues in practice. And its likely to end badly.

      Picking the nominee best suited to fight the opponent you actually will be facing is not letting the enemy pick your nominee. Its called playing to win. Policy only matters if you win.

        Left Coast Red in reply to Cowboy Curtis. | November 1, 2011 at 7:34 pm

        I’ve been a Cain fan since before the campaign actually launched. That said, I think I’m getting off the Cain train. Just saw him take questions on Bret Baier’s ‘Center Seat’ segment. It was genuinely painful to watch. Regardless that it doesn’t answer the question asked, he rolls out his boilerplate answer regarding that particular issue. How would he have stopped/reacted to domestic terrorism by the Iranians? Defensive Aegis cruisers off their coast to shoot down their nuke missiles. And on, and on, and on….same thing, regardless of issue. I think the reason I don’t get 9-9-9, is because HE doesn’t — at least not well enough to meaningfully answer questions about it.

      Owen J in reply to Aucturian. | November 1, 2011 at 7:57 pm

      There appears (to me) to be an implied disconnect between the first sentence and other two. The first sentence is partly true (regarding Perry’s performance on the stage of the recent debates). The others are certainly true.

      Taken together, that would add up to an endorsement of Perry, but the tone of the first sentence would seem to imply the opposite.

I’ll second what Cowboy Curtis said. Cain seems frequently to talk without thinking very thoroughly, e.g., his position on abortion, his answer about the right of return to Israel, his apparent pride in not being concerned about knowing the names of foreign heads of state. I, too, like Herman Cain. I doubt that there’s any substance to the claims of sexual harassment (I know from personal experience how easy it is for a woman to fabricate a claim and for her employer to take it seriously not only in the absence of evidence but in the presence of evidence that the accuser lied). I will vote for Herman Cain if he is the Republican nominee for President. But his habit of shooting from the lip raises concerns in my mind about his likelihood of success as a Presidential candidate.

Yeah – too bad Cain wasn’t like CLINTON – with a nice prepared non-denial denial and a full blown strategy to combat any inquiry into his known weakness.

Too bad Cain doesn’t have a ‘destroy the women in question’ team set up like Clinton.

Gee – would he be ready for Prime Time then, Politico?

    Owen J in reply to Rose. | November 1, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    I actually think it’s too bad Cain isn’t like Palin, who knows how to handle these things better.

[…] on the other hand, is definitely damaged by this story.  They come off like a bunch of liberal Washington insiders looking to take down a conservative candidate, offering no credible sources to their obvious hit piece. That said, the way in which POLITICO […]

Republicans confuse me – we complain about how all the political insiders have screwed things up, how they’ve used and abused us but when someone with values runs, someone we can identify with, someone who is not a career politician, we all get flustered because he’s not the glib lying slick politician we’ve always had. If being slick at twisting to deflect every question is what we want – how come we’re not running Karl Rove?

    Owen J in reply to katiejane. | November 1, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    There’s no confusion. Being a nice honest charming guy is not the same thing as being competent.

    Cain has a lot of good qualities, but he has not yet demonstrated that he has the qualities necessary to be a good president.

    That Cain appears to be in difficulties because he is not “good liar” and a “slick politician” is a common refrain, and may relieve some frustration, but if seriously indulged in, it is also naive and self-defeating.

    Comparing Cain’s demonstrated political skills to Palin’s is instructive in this regard.

As I’ve said before, the Democrat attack machine is being warmed up for the campaign season ahead. They cannot win from facts since all the facts are against them so fabrication is the liberals tool of choice.

Hopefully, it will only increase the will of those who support Mr. Cain. How refreshing it is to have a non-politician in the presidential contender line up.

March On!

[…] awarded to William Jacobson, holder of the John Adams Chair for Legal Insurrection, for this skilled evisceration of Politico, specifically, and the Winston Smith Media, in general: There is no question that […]

2nd Ammendment Mother | November 1, 2011 at 2:34 pm

It occurs to me that Politico might have picked the wrong scandal. Back during Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill – the subject of suing for sexual harassment was shiny and new. That someone would put their personal life “out there” in public view had to mean that the charges were very serious and egregious. Since then, the public has seen far too many people abuse the charge with vague claims that were openly a pursuit of financial gain or revenge. Add to that the fact that it’s pretty likely, that the average citizen knows someone who has been the victim of a frivolous lawsuit along with the media’s “ho hum” attitude towards John Edwards and Bill Clinton’s peccadilloes. Therefore, we start out pretty skeptical of claims like these.

Nothing worse than the morning news, kids gettign ready for school – and on comes the Clinton coverage – semen on the dress, phone sex… and the questions asked at press conferences with foreign leaders.

Clinton knew how to lie – and lie and lie.

Cain’s problem is – he doesn’t. So Politico will rape him.

The question is a fair one, although Politico clearly has no interest in that.

As I’ve commented previously, Cain is an accidental frontrunner. His campaign never anticipated or prepared for these sorts of issues. As an influence candidate, he has not been running to win.

Cain’s problem is the nature of his campaign and whether or not he really is a serious candidate or an influence candidate. What we have been observing are the symptoms of this problem (which goes beyond this attack).

It is possible that Cain might be able to use this attack — if it is as baseless at it appears to be — to transform his campaign into a serious run.

Or he may not.

The fact is that we don’t yet know what sort of candidate Cain is because he has not been running as a serious candidate. In a preverse way, Politico’s attack may be helping us find out.

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