Herman Cain’s asinine campaign to become president of the United States is now toast. Not just toast – burnt toast. He officially flamed out Saturday on the heels – or, shall we say, high heels – of yet another woman accusing him of sexual misconduct.
The latest of five female accusers, Ginger White, claimed she and Cain had a 13-year affair and produced telephone bills and text messages proving that she and Cain had been in constant communication, sometimes at 4 a.m. Moreover, she said, Cain had lavished her with money and gifts and flew her to cities across the country where they rendezvoused at posh hotels.
“It wasn’t a love affair. It was a sexual affair, as hard as that is for me to say and as hard as it is for people to hear it,” White said in an interview with MSNBC.
Cain fought back against Sharon Bialek, the first woman to go public with allegations of sexual harassment. Cain supporters tried to contain the damage by asserting it was simply a case of “he said, she said.” But a second woman Karen Kraushaar, came forward and before it was over, the total was five women and counting. “He said, she said,” quickly became he said, she said, she said, she said, she said and she said.
After the initial story was published by Politico, Cain vehemently denied the two allegations of sexual harassment; he also subsequently denied two more charges and the assertion of a long-term extramarital affair with an Atlanta woman. But much of the public remained skeptical, remembering New York Congressman Anthony Weiner’s week-long denial last summer and later confession that he had used his twitter account to send a nude photo to a woman who was not his wife.
Sex scandals are nothing new to politicians, including Weiner, President Bill Clinton, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey, United States Senators Gary Hart, Bob Packwood, David Vitter and John Edwards, and Congressman Gary Condit.
A recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 46 percent of those interviewed said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who had an extramarital affair in the past, compared to 49 percent who said it wouldn’t matter and 2 percent who said they would be more likely to vote for the flawed candidate. A majority of Republicans – 57 percent – said they would be less inclined to vote for an unfaithful candidate.
While slightly more than half of the public expressed forgiveness toward infidelity, the problem becomes magnified for conservative candidates campaigning on family values and morality. And that goes double for someone such as Cain, an ordained minister.
Although it was White, the lone Black accuser, who sealed Cain’s political fate, Cain’s quixotic campaign had been fading for weeks, largely because his explanations became less believable by voters and his failure, in some cases, to directly deny the specific charges.
Politico broke the story on Oct. 30 that at least two females who were employed by the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, a period when Cain was president, had filed sexual harassment claims against him. In an appearance at the National Press Club on Halloween, Cain said he was “unaware of any settlement” with the women.
Later that day, however, he said he recalled one complaint in which a woman was given the equivalent of three months’ salary. The following day, he said on CNN that the payout had been “somewhere in the vicinity of three to six months.” The New York Times subsequently reported that the two women were awarded a year’s salary after filing complaints against Cain.
In a Republican presidential field known for flip-flopping, Cain proved he can switch positions with the best of them. On CNN, he said that in the case of rape, a woman should make the decision about whether to have an abortion. But in an interview on CBS, he took a contrary position, objecting to abortion in all cases, including rape, incest or when the life of the mother is threatened.
Cain ran an unorthodox campaign to win the Republican nomination for president. When his competitors were crisscrossing Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina – the first states to hold Republican primaries or caucuses – Cain was promoting his new book in Alabama, Tennessee, Illinois, Texas and Indiana. In the week leading up to his withdrawal, Cain campaigned in Ohio, which has next to the last primary in the nation.
In addition to having a third-rate political operation, Caine simply wasn’t ready for prime time. He was a male Sarah Palin. In debates, his 9-9-9 tax plan seemed to be his answer to every question. He blamed the media, Democrats and Republicans for his various missteps. He pointed fingers everywhere except where they belonged – at himself.
Even when his camp tried to blunt the sexual harassment charges by presenting his wife, Gloria, for a television interview, Cain overshadowed the story line by inviting himself to an editorial board meeting in Wisconsin – another state that does not vote early – and showing appalling ignorance about Libya, which was prominent in the news at the time.
At an editorial board meeting at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Cain was asked a simple question: Do you agree or disagree with President Obama on Libya?
A videotape of the interview shows Cain, leaning back in his chair, staring at the ceiling and asking whether Obama had supported the removal of Moammar Gaddafi. After saying he disagreed with Obama, he said, “Um, nope that’s a different one.” Looking at the ceiling again, he said, “I gotta go back, see, got all this stuff twirling around in my head.”
Evidently stuff was twirling around in Cain’s head during his visit to a Cuban restaurant in Miami. When asked how he liked his snack, Cain asked, “How do you say ‘delicious’ in Cuban?” Of course, Cubans speak Spanish. There is no such language as Cuban.
Ironically, the candidate who sought to minimize the impact of racial discrimination in the U.S. said he was disliked by Democrats and the media because he was an “authentic” Black candidate. Cain said African-Americans were brain-washed into voting for Democrats. He predicted that he would receive one-third of the Black vote, proving that if Cain isn’t brainwashed, he’s brain-dead.
What Cain failed to realize was that conservatives weren’t so much interested in supporting him as they were ABM – Anybody But Mitt. First, there was flirting by Donald Trump and, to a less extent, Sarah Palin. After the rapid rise and fall of Michelle Bachman, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Cain, Newt Gingrich, who has so much baggage that even Southwest Airlines charges him a baggage fee, is the flavor of the month. And much of Gingrich’s rise has been at the expense of Cain, who will probably endorse him.
A month ago, a poll by the Des Moines Register showed Cain was favored by 23 percent of Republicans in Iowa. By the time the darling of the Tea Party exited the contest, his support had fallen to only 8 percent.
Similarly, support for the Tea Party has also taken a nose dive.
A Pew Research Center for the People and the Press poll taken last month shows that since the 2010 midterm elections, the Tea Party has not only lost support nationally, but in the 60 congressional districts represented by members of the House Tea Party Caucus.
More Americans (27 percent) say they disagree with the Tea Party movement than agree (20 percent). A year ago, amid large GOP gains, 27 percent agreed and 22 percent disagreed. According to Pew, support for the Tea Party ran high in Tea Party districts throughout 2010. Now, however, 25 percent of the voters in those districts agree with the Tea Party and 23 percent disagree.
The Republican Party has also taken a beating in those districts, according to the poll. As recently as March, voters in Tea Party districts favored Republicans over Democrats by a margin of 55 percent to 40 percent. Today, Democrats have almost pulled even in those districts, with the GOP enjoying a slight 41 percent to 39 percent edge over Democrats.
Cain may have gotten out of the race at just the right time.
It was hard to take Cain seriously. His ever-present fedora hat made Herman Cain, the presidential candidate, look like Big Daddy Kane, the rapper. And some say his political journey was all about promoting the Herman Cain brand, which was non-existent before he entered the presidential race last May. He sold many books while pretending to be a serious presidential candidate. Getting out now, before he embarrassed himself in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina allows him to exit the stage without facing certain defeat at the polls. Closing one door at this time opens up other doors for yet more books, high-paying speeches and perhaps a network show on Fox.
That’s not as asinine as you may think. Eliot Spitzer had a short-lived program on CNN and far more women have implicated Cain than the former New York governor. If that happens, it might not be the last time we hear Cain’s trademark, “Awwww, Shucky Ducky Now!”