Things we have learned today about Herman Cain’s candidacy for president:
– It is quite plausible that Herman Cain harassed no one; clearly, not everyone accused of sexual harassment is guilty of that charge, and in the presumed absence of a smoking gun, we will never know for certain what transpired roughly 15 years ago. Even settlement payments don’t establish evidence of guilt.
– However, it is much less plausible that five-figure financial payments were made to each of the two women involved, as Politico reports, and that Cain, as CEO of the National Restaurant Association, knew nothing about such settlements, as he claims. That discrepancy could come back to haunt Cain, given that Politico claims to have seen documentation of the payments.
– This is not a case of character assassination or unfair treatment by liberal media. Any candidate for national office with such allegations in his or her past should expect them to become public at some point and should be ready to deal with them. It’s just a fact of life in modern politics.
– Politico reports that it had been attempting to get a response from Cain and his staff for 10 days before publishing its story. Yet despite that long time to prepare, Cain’s campaign has badly botched its reaction. It shows no sign of having crafted a strategy for how to deal quickly and forthrightly with the allegations, and that failure has compounded the damage.
(Case in point: The botched interview that Cain’s communications director gave to Geraldo Rivera Sunday night. Among other things, you don’t offer an initial national response to such charges via a telephone hookup featuring a relatively low-level staffer with no story to tell. You put the candidate himself on air and have him deal with it directly.)
– A campaign operation is always useful as an illustration of the type of White House a candidate would run if elected. Whatever you think of Barack Obama’s politics, he put together a highly professional, disciplined and effective ‘08 campaign that managed to defeat the vaunted Clinton political machine. Conversely, the impulsive nature of the John McCain campaign, from the decision to make Sarah Palin his running mate to his announcement that he was suspending his campaign during the ‘08 financial crisis, also reflected the candidate’s leadership style.
– Throughout his campaign, Cain has acknowledged that he is not a trained politician and does not have ready answers to many questions. Time and again, he has said that if elected, he would rely on a CEO’s style of leadership, which is to surround himself with good, competent, experienced people and take their advice on complex issues.
On foreign policy, for example, Cain has said that a president doesn’t need “to have extensive foreign policy experience if you know how to make sure you’re working on the right problems, establishing the right priorities, surround yourself with the right people, which would allow you to put together the plans necessary to solve the problem.”
– Cain, as a candidate, has not surrounded himself with good, competent experienced people. He has not demonstrated the ability to establish the right priorities or work on the right problems. Quite the contrary, as this example demonstrates, he has surrounded himself with rank amateurs who don’t know how to put together and operate a strong campaign organization.
The mishandling of the sexual harassment crisis isn’t even the most recent example of that failure. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports today that Cain’s chief of staff and deputy chief of staff may have used tax-deductible donations from a Wisconsin nonprofit that they ran to help finance Cain’s early campaign, which would be a violation of both tax laws and campaign finance laws. (Among other problems, tax-deductible donations cannot be used for political purposes.)
If true — and the documentation is extensive — it’s a mistake no serious candidate should ever make.
– In the end, even if you judge him by the leadership style that he himself has advocated, Cain has proved himself unqualified for the office that he seeks. He doesn’t know what he’s doing, and he clearly doesn’t hire people who know what they’re doing.
– Jay Bookman