The Cain Train Wreck: Why Now? Why Not Last Month?
The Cain Train is a smoking wreck.
It seems the ‘affair’ allegations have finally and completely derailed the Cain Train. But why? Why? Why has it taken so long?
When Cain unveiled his “Nein, Nein, Nein” Plan, I thought anyone with a functioning brain (or reasonable fraction thereof) would see it was horrendously regressive and would be the death knell for our weak economy. A few did, but even when figures were released from multiple candidates and think-tanks which proved the obvious, Cain bobbed and weaved and came back with a “9-0-9″ alternative.
When Cain proved his mettle on foreign policy and world events — like expressing his concerns about China striving to become a nuclear power (which it has been since the 1960s), or sharing his belief that Israel would welcome back displaced Palestinians (in precise opposition to Israel’s stated position), or not being able to answer a simple question, whether he agreed with Obama’s actions in Libya, I thought his gross incompetence would spell the end. But no!
Next, Cain proved himself utterly incapable of articulating a position on abortion, one of the most crucial social issues for conservatives. His position apparently boiled down to, “abortion should be illegal, but a personal decision.” Did the Right blow up? Nope, that Cain Train chugged along.
Cain declared himself the “brother from another mother” of the Koch brothers. Probably not harmful in the primary, but definitely something to be whipped out during the general election. Nobody cared.
As the Cain Train stayed inexplicably on the tracks, multiple women came forward (or not) with allegations of sexual harassment. Of course, the Right declared these to be liberals making up lies. A crack in the track showed, when Cain simply couldn’t figure out how to respond to the allegations. He had three different stories over the course of two days . . . Yet he’d been aware the story was going to break more than a week ahead of time, and hadn’t gotten in front of it. His competence finally was called into question, with Judson Phillips asking, “If he can’t run a campaign, how can he run the country?”
The sex harassment allegations, or more likely “Hormone” Cain’s hamfisted mismanagement of the story, led to the beginning of his slide. He’d already fallen to third place by the time the affair came to light. But he was holding in the teen percentages.
Today, Rasmussen Reports released a poll of 1,000 likely Republican voters. Newt Gingrich has vaulted to a distant first with 38% to Romney’s 17% . . . while Cain now ties for third with Ron Paul at 8%.
Barbara Risman of CNN asks why the affair seems to stick, while the sex harassment claims did not. In her opinion, Cain’s likely donors — older men, and the boss in the office, who may occasionally pat a female employee on the behind — saw themselves in Cain’s actions; while in an affair, they saw something they could reject him over.
It is Risman’s contention that the harassment allegations should carry more weight with voters than the affair. The affair, after all, was consensual; harassment, by definition, is not.
I propose a different reason. Two, in fact.
It is very easy to decry an accuser as a liar. Even in the case of women who’d received $35,000 and $45,000 payoffs more than a decade ago, Cain supporters declared these women to be liberals telling lies to damage Cain . . . or at best, women who lied to make a quick buck from his former employer.
How easy is it to say that a woman who claims to have had a 13-year affair with a man, and can prove long-term contact through cell phone records and financial records, and who was unknown at all to the man’s wife, is making it up? Not so easy.
So, the affair is not so easy to write off as lies. That’s point one.
Most men, and I’m sure most women, have been guilty of an inappropriate bit of humor, a compliment which is misinterpreted, or even asking a co-worker out on a date. Inappropriate? Absolutely. But does the man or woman making the inappropriate comment think, “I’m going to pressure this person into having sex with me”? Sometimes, sure, and that’s worthy of termination. No doubt!
Does the “inappropriate but innocent” behavior make the uninterested recipient uncomfortable? In many cases, yes. It shouldn’t happen; but that doesn’t make it malicious or predatory. Just stupid.
When harassment is just stupid, it’s often a matter of failing to draw the line between personal and professional. If it’s an isolated incident, most people can move on and forget about it. And since many of us have experienced being on one end or the other of such an exchange, we can see how it might happen. A momentary lapse of good judgment. A temporary temptation. Or possibly even just wholly inappropriate, but innocent flirting intended only to serve the flirter’s ego.
Am I suggesting that Cain’s approaches were innocent flirting? I don’t know, I wasn’t there. In at least two cases, his employer felt they had enough merit to be worth substantial payoffs to the complainants, suggesting that they consisted of more than a single misunderstood compliment.
But, people make mistakes, and some people grow up and learn from their errors. I think many people gave Cain a pass simply because these allegations stem from the 1990s, and appear to be lapses of judgment. “Anyone can make a mistake,” they may say, “you know, assuming any of it is true. Which it probably isn’t, he said it’s not, right?”
What of the affair? Other than logistics — How do you carry on a 13-year affair without your wife finding out? Especially when giving her money? — the affair stands out because of its length. Cain terminated it only a few months before he announced his candidacy, and remained in contact with Ms. White up until the story broke.
This isn’t a lapse of judgment. It’s not a momentary temptation, or an act of opportunity. It’s not a matter of being on the road and lonely, and meeting someone in the hotel bar. It takes planning and effort to maintain a 13-year affair, and to lie to your spouse, violating your oath to her, for more than a decade.
This, I think, is why his fundraising and poll numbers have tanked. Not because, as Risman suggests, the leering old rich men who supported him couldn’t see themselves in this affair the way they could see themselves groping a disinterested, objectified employee . . . but because a mistake can be forgiven, but someone who can’t even be honest with his wife, his life partner, and who will plot and lie for years in that most intimate of relationships, simply can’t be trusted.
Cain, quite simply, appears to be a liar. Not someone who lied a long time ago, but someone who was still lying up until Ginger White went to the press.
I’m truly sorry to see how the Cain Trainwreck came to be. Not because I pity Cain’s wife, though I do. Her humiliation must be immense.
No, I’m sorry because of what the Trainwreck says about our electorate. Cain showed himself to be an incompetent, bumbling buffoon of a candidate, with no concept of the economy, foreign policy, domestic policy, or anything other than “9-9-9″ and hokey rhyming slogans, and he still soared ahead to the top of the polls . . . because all too many American voters, addicted to contrived-reality TV and other idiocy, can’t be bothered to understand things like “issues”. They’re just looking for the next Snooki.
The Cain Trainwreck is a symptom. The disease may be terminal. Can we cure ourselves before it’s too late?