A third former employee says she considered filing a workplace complaint over what she considered aggressive and unwanted behavior by Herman Cain when she worked for the presidential candidate in the 1990s. She says the behavior included a private invitation to his corporate apartment.
It is possible that the story is bogus. The source is anonymous and didn’t think the behavior unwanted and aggressive enough to merit any sort of report. Really, whether the story or true or not isn’t important, politically. Thanks to the way the Cain campaign handled the story of the first two harassment allegations, this new accusation is plausible and that’s enough for me.
These stories should never have gotten this far. That they have is a testament to the utter incompetence of Herman Cain’s campaign team. Mark Block, Cain’s campaign manager, should have known every scrap of information Cain knew about these allegations and had an immediate and decisive response ready to go. Cain’s new communications director J.D. Gordon should have had a press release written and on standby against the eventuality that these allegations would come out at some point. The campaign’s poorly-written and defensive response on Sunday evening was inexcusable. Gordon’s embarrassing appearance on Geraldo Rivera’s show Sunday night should have gotten him fired ten seconds after it was over. The changing stories and new remembered revelations from Cain himself, though understandable, simply won’t fly in a national political campaign. They make a candidate look shifty and dishonest, so that when another accusation comes out (and you must always assume that another accusation will come out), it looks plausible.
Sexual harassment charges are, to my thinking, the most difficult to refute cleanly. Oftentimes they devolve into “he said, she said” situations where only those involved know the truth, if there is any truth to be known at all. Two people can perceive the same situation differently and one person’s harassment is another person’s honest and innocent conversation.
That, however, doesn’t matter. Politicians have been dealing with similar accusations for decades, if not centuries. Any campaign can, with just a little work, study how other campaigns handled charges levied against them and figure out how to do it themselves. It takes homework, but it surely can be done.
What really bothers me, and why after nearly a year of constant and eager support I can’t back Herman Cain’s campaign any longer, is that Brand Management is supposed to be Cain’s strength. That is how he helped build Pillsbury and how he turned Godfather’s Pizza around. I was willing to ignore Cain’s lack of political expertise because, when you get down to it, politics is nothing more than building and managing a personal brand. Cain should have excelled that that, but he hasn’t. I’m baffled by his inability to deliver an uncluttered message when his entire career has revolved around successfully doing that very thing. From his confusing and incomplete defense of the 9-9-9 plan to his continued misstatements on abortion and foreign policy, he has punched hole after hole in his own brand to the point where I don’t see any way it can remain afloat.
That’s a shame because I believe he could have made a fine President. He has all the know-how to untangle the gargantuan knot of regulations, taxes, and bureaucracy that is choking our economy and the temperament to bring America out of her Obama-created doldrums.
Not that the Cain campaign wants or needs my advice, but here’s what I would have said Sunday night.
While Mr. Cain was President of the National Restaurant Association, he was accused of sexual harassment twice. In each case, Mr. Cain stepped aside so that the Association could investigate them fairly and honestly. The NRA decided to settle both cases for relatively small amounts and bound the participants to Non-Disclosure Agreements that prevent anyone involved in the allegations to speak in any detail about them. All we can tell you is that he considered the charges against him baseless. We ask that you respect the privacy of the women involved and the decision of the NRA to keep the cases sealed.
That’s it. No further embellishments. When he hit the National Press Club Monday and reporters shot questions at him, he’d fall back on that very simple statement. He could say it in any other way he wanted, so long as he stuck with only those points. I believe that would have shut the story down almost entirely in a couple days. Instead, Cain freelanced and the story has grew larger and more bothersome until today when, I fear, it overwhelmed his campaign.
Herman Cain has said, over and over, that we should support him because he is a problem-solver. If he can’t solve the problems in his own campaign, how can we believe he’ll solve the far larger problems of Obama-sized government? Regrettably, I can’t.
Category: The 2012 Horse Race