Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Political update for November, 2011

Oh, Herman.

One thing about being a political independent is that you don’t get absolute knowledge about whether accusations about political figures are true or not.  Yesterday, I watched Chris Matthews on his show, almost giddy about the press conference held by someone accusing Herman Cain of unwanted sexual advances, while feigning impartiality, and listened to Mark Levin on the radio dissect every sentence she uttered at her press conference, while feigning . . . impartiality. Well, there’s a shocker. Partisans taking their own team’s side.

I can’t know for sure if she is telling the truth, but, unlike the accuser of the Duke Lacrosse players, or Tawana Brawley, this one feels true. And though conservatives are arguing for Cain in the media, privately, some pretty conservative people have told me that it looks like it may be true to them too. I’ve always laughed at the common phrase – “Well, if he’s faking it, he’s the best actor in the world.” That’s just wrong, in my view. People are often good liars, and we learn from our infancy how to do it effectively by trial and error. Of course, most little kids are terrible at it, but, then again, they still believe in Santa Claus. But, very quickly, some people become exceptionally good at it, just as some don’t. I’ve known many people who lied as easily as they breathed, with complete confidence, and others who just goofed up every time, stuttering and stepping on their own confabulations. Maybe it’s a talent like anything else, partly nature and partly nurture.

Before this came out, I was enjoying my early prediction that Cain might just have a shot, particularly if it came down to him and Romney. He has personality. He can be charming. He is running a different type of campaign, and I do appreciate that, because it does make it interesting. But, now he blew it for the both of us. His big chance and my big chance for bragging rights until 2016.

I read an article by Michael Barone, in my opinion one of the most sane political commentators, just this morning about Cain. But, he was confused how Cain could be running a campaign that violated every rule, and still be at the top. He even wrote about going to Cain’s Iowa headquarters one day recently and no one was there. That is astonishing. Some other candidates practically live in Iowa now. Not Cain. It doesn’t seem to matter much either, according to the polls. I don’t think the so-called pundits really understand what he is doing. He’s marketing like a businessman, not running like a politician.  9-9-9 is no different than Charmin being “squeezably soft” or “Where’s the beef.”  It’s not even important if it makes sense or not. What’s important is that we remember the schtick and associate it with him. And, we do. Can you think of another economic plan that has a name?  I do. Reaganomics aka supply side economics, or as George H. W. Bush called it, voodoo economics. But, Reagan won twice. He was so well marketed to us, that he lives on in political memories in a half-mythological state, even among liberals to some degree.

On a panel of pundits earlier this week, I saw an all-star team predicting that Cain wasn’t even serious about running. That he knew he couldn’t win. They just don’t get it. People are sick of the usual rot and they are enjoying something just a little different. They affirmatively like that he is breaking the “rules.”

I was watching a presentation he was giving the day after the story broke last week. He ended it by singing an old Negro spiritual to the audience. It’s not that he sings so well, but, I’d like to hear any of the other candidates try that. Yes, Bill Clinton played the sax and we’ve had to suffer through seeing Obama and Bush dancing, but this was different. It was a news event.

Actually, I was and am still predicting that Romney would win the nomination eventually, when this story broke, but obviously, the better Cain polled, the more experience he got at presidential campaigning, the better he was likely to do. I did believe that if he could get into a one on one with Romney after the initial primaries (and it wouldn’t matter if Ron Paul was still around too), he might just win everything. But, running for president takes practice, and it is different than running for any lesser position. Some politicians only get one shot, and it is often not enough. Obama mastered it in one effort, but, he was helped by circumstances in no way in his control (the economy, Bush fatigue and McCain’s inordinately bad campaigning – he was a candidate who actually got worse the second time around). As has been pointed out by many writers, conservatives were looking hard for an alternative to Romney, who they will settle for only if they have to (which, amusingly, he has to count in order to win). Cain has come to the top, only after conservatives tried out Bachmann and Perry, and others wouldn’t even try (Christie, Daniels, Jeb Bush, Palin, Trump, for example).

Of course, Romney has to be the happiest guy in America right now. Because, yesterday’s press conference sunk Cain, in my opinion. Short of the accuser suddenly saying that she made it up, I think his Christmas goose is cooked. I’ve been wrong before on what scandal will take off or not. I thought the Joe Sestak scandal was going to matter, but, you might be reading this saying to yourself – what’s a Sestak? And I thought Jeremiah Wright might sink him too. Wrong again. But, this scandal is about sex, and sex sells, for better or worse. Is there a sex scandal out there about Romney or Perry or Paul? I doubt it, but, no one exactly saw this coming about Cain either. You can’t tell with sex.

When Anthony Weiner got in trouble earlier this year, I allowed a very small percentage of chance that he was telling the truth, but, it was almost certain he was lying right from the start, based on the peculiar way he handled it.  He tried refusing to speak about it, but, eventually, when, he answered questions, it just came out weird (like, not being sure if a photograph of a man’s equipment encased in underwear was of him).

If Cain is innocent of any hanky panky, he has handled it in the worst possible way. Like Weiner, he initially refused to talk about it, then finally denied it and made inconsistent statements about the facts, and now refuses to talk again, except for a broad denial. He has even snapped at reporters in the usual ridiculous way that politicians sometimes do when they refuse to talk about the only thing that reporters care about when sex rears its sexy little head (no pun intended) - sex.

What does he think is going to happen? Are reporters going to start a new policy and violate human nature just for him? Say, okay, Mr. Cain, what would you like to talk about – 9-9-9? Of course not. When the media gets a whiff of a sex scandal, they pursue it relentlessly. And, despite claims of bias, liberal and conservative media both eat their own when it comes to a sex scandal. Fox News, for example, was on top of this story from the beginning and MSNBC did wall to wall Weiner jokes until it was over. Ratings über alles.

Cain has little choice now but to talk about it. Sure, he can stick to forums where he can write the rules and forbid questions about sex, and not speak to undomesticated reporters anymore, or he can face this head on. His grandfatherly scolding is not going to work. In fact, it is pretty much convincing everyone that he is guilty! Not for nothing, but if it was me being accused of sexual harassment, and particularly if I was a married man, with kids and grandkids, and supporters who spent oodles of money for me, I’d do what John McCain did when an apparently untrue rumor was floated by The New York Times concerning him and a female friend. He came out like a tiger the next morning in a press conference he called himself, and completely snuffed out the story. It took less than a day.

Of course, the key words there were “untrue rumor.” Despite the fact that most of the claims are still anonymous in Cain’s case, my Spidey Sense is tingling like crazy.

Well, for us news junkies at home, this will continue to be interesting for a while as another benefit of stories involving sex is, they don’t get old very fast. But, I do feel sorry for Cain’s family. When the media is hot on the trail of a story, they just don’t care about your family at all. They are like prosecutors who threaten to arrest your wife or kid on trumped up charges unless you plead guilty.  I feel sorry for his wife, of course. Cain might even be saying to himself, now I know how Bill Clinton felt when he had to tell Hillary.

And, I feel sorry for Cain’s kids and their kids. I’m sure it was fun for a while to have Grandpa run for office, but it can’t be fun for any of them anymore. Even if it blows over with us, they still have to deal with it. Oh, he’s going to have to answer some questions, all right, and unless Mrs. Cain is just one of those women who'd rather not know, I'd pay to watch.

I admit that I am rushing to judgment a bit here. I am going not by facts, for the most part, but on the way Cain has been acting and the way things seem to go in these familiar circumstances. This is a bias and unlike the libs and cons I hear on the radio and tv, I’m content to watch the train wreck before I am ready to pronounce final judgment. Maybe I’ll end up with my patented waffling – who knows? But, still . . . .

Even before yesterday’s press conference, I presumed that there was some truth to the claims that were filed with the National Restaurant Association, which were hypothetically being kept from us by virtue of a confidentiality agreement. But, I wasn’t sure at all that it was anything to be worked up about. Perhaps Cain was or still is a flirt. Suppose he even cheated on his wife. Would it stop me from voting for him for president? No, not if I intended to in the first place.

Character does count to some degree in voting for a president, although it is often overstated.  But, I don’t necessarily consider personal fidelity to a spouse as indicative of dishonesty in any other way or evidence of a general lack of character, unless there is some other element of it that is particularly vicious or unsavory. It is just its own category. I have friends who have cheated on their spouses and I haven’t noticed that they were any more dishonest than those who never cheated (far as I know, anyway). And, unlike many people, I don’t always think it is wrong. Most of the time, sure. Even people who cheat on their spouses often think it’s wrong. But, it is a human weakness like so many others, and some people succumb to it. Obviously, it is a reason to get mad at someone, or be disappointed in them, and, of course, divorce them, but I would no more think it disqualifies someone for president any more than I would think it disqualifies them to run a major corporation or be on the New York Jets. I expect that given enough temptation and time, many more people would cheat than already do, particularly men.

We don’t expect a president to never have told a lie. We don’t expect them to have never lost their temper. And, we even expect most of them to break the commitments made to us that they made when they were campaigning. Sometimes we hope they do if we don’t like the promise they made.

And, if he did cheat on his wife, or try to cheat on her, would that have been anything different than what Newt Gingrich did or Rudy Giuliani in their prior marriages? Only a few decades ago you couldn’t even run for president if you had been divorced. Today, thanks to Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, it is no longer a bar. It shouldn’t be. Even conservatives, who like to think they don’t change, don’t care anymore about that. Now, apparently, even adultery is no bar to election, even if it was done in a kind of tawdry or humiliating way (as with Clinton, Gingrich and Giuliani). Then again, there are limits to what people will accept. I don’t think Arnold Schwarzenegger could get elected now because by hiding a child from his family and the world, he crossed a line, at least for many people, including me. It is not a litmus test, but a factor.

Cain may have crossed a line too. The story told by the Sharon Bialeck yesterday (with, unfortunately for her, with Gloria Allred by her side, which doesn’t really help her credibility with me) was disturbing, if true. If he, in fact, barely knowing her at all, actually put his hand on her leg and reached under her skirt, and pulled her head towards his lap  – that is not only creepy, it’s reprehensible. Wait to the second date, guy. I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t, when young, come on to some women in work related situations in a way, had I misjudged them, that would have been considered harassment, particularly by today’s standards. But, never in my wildest days would I have touched someone in a work situation who I didn’t know really well or made a sexual advance that wasn’t invited or I wasn’t really sure about. And, Cain wasn’t even a young man when this happened. The description we got today – if it is true – was of a very sordid, narcissistic and even coercive man. If it turns out this is true, and perhaps we’ll never know for sure (unless you are a partisan), I certainly would not vote for him. But, if it turns out to be true, we won’t have to worry about making a choice, because he wouldn’t be running at that point. Are we at it?

Possibly there are other shoes to drop. Others might come forward, if they exist. People tend to repeat behaviors over and over, particularly stupid ones. Maybe the other claimants we already know about will remain anonymous for their own reasons, particularly not wanting to be exposed to the anger of enraged Cain supporters or the inquisitiveness of a frenzied media. Maybe they have their own skeletons.  But, the spotlight is hard to ignore, and I have a feeling others will want their 15 minutes. Now, the National Restaurant Association has waived its rights under their confidentiality agreement for at least one of the complainants. At this time, she apparently still doesn’t want to come forward and it is hard to blame her. She knows what happens when people make claims against powerful people. We all know that Sharon Bialeck might soon regret doing what she is doing too, if Cain chooses to fight this. The accused and his/her supporters do everything they can to make your life a misery. Kobe Bryant’s attorneys, for example, trashed his accuser until she gave up, and then he all but admitted the truth of her claims (for which he was only punished by his wife – but, nothing a huge diamond couldn’t fix). Bill O’Reilly and his attorneys made it very clear they were going to try to destroy his accuser. Of course, there are enough crazy people in the world, that they might all be fakes coming forward. But, undoubtedly, with numbers comes credibility.

So, what happens next, if Cain can’t go forward, or is severely damaged by this scandal. The early predictions are that Newt Gingrich, who continues to improve in the polls, will become the next anti-Romney, and that could be right.

Gingrich is a fascinating guy. He is truly interested in policy and obviously knows more about more presidential issues than anyone on the stage, perhaps excepting Ron Paul in certain areas. Gingrich is certainly my favorite politician to listen to when he has the mike, because he talks about interesting stuff.

But, I don’t like him for president. I had enough problems with Cain, who I liked personally. His anti-Muslim rhetoric and fear mongering is ignorant and calls for unconstitutional policies. He seems to have little political knowledge, which is stunning for a guy running for president and who had a political radio show for five years. He contradicts himself in a most illogical way and then blames the media and the person who asked him the question. His fantasy about bringing clarity to foreign policy smacks of a pollyannish fantasy not so different from Bush’s “You are either with us or you are against us,” or Obama’s belief that kowtowing to other country’s leaders would gain the United States’ international respect. Would I like Cain more than Obama? Yes. But, that’s because the economy is the number one issue by a long shot and Obama has it completely backwards from my perspective. Would I vote for Cain then? Probably not. I’d probably vote for a third party, if Cain was the nominee, if I could find one. But, I vote for third parties a lot these days, as the Republican and Democratic parties are both the kind of self-interested factions that kept James Madison up at night.

Gingrich though, surpasses even Cain in playing to his base in demonizing others. I still remember his political assassination of Jim Wright (not that he didn’t deserve it), his arrogant partisanship while Speaker of the House, his calling for the impeachment of Bill Clinton while he was cheating on his own wife, and his present demonization of atheists, American-Muslims and gays under the guise of his new found religiosity that smacks of insincerity to me, not to mention his smug narcissism that comes out in every sentence he utters (even if interesting). It is almost as if he were prefacing each sentence with – “Another way I’m smarter than the other candidates is this . . . .”  

No, Gingrich is not for me, and, I suspect if he does make his way towards the top, he will find a way to shoot himself in the foot as he did in the beginning of his campaign.

This story has drowned out almost everything else in the news except the manslaughter conviction of Michael Jackson’s doctor, which has the Michael factor. We still face an economic crisis that seems to have no happy resolution. The super-committee that congress dreamed up to handle it seems paralyzed. I watched a committee meeting they held last week, and it was just pathetic. Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, who chaired an unofficial previous commission, came down to Washington to scold them, but it didn’t seem to matter. As entertaining and folksy as Alan Simpson can be, politics will continue to trump economic disasters until we are clinging to the rocks overlooking the cataract. We might be there and just can’t see it. Israel/Palestine continues to fester. I won’t do my usual rant here about it except to say that for her own sake, Israel needs to get ahead of the facts on the ground, recognize Palestine’s sovereignty and remove the settlements, while making it clear that she will not hesitate to destroy Palestine (and/or Lebanon), if attacked.

But, sex sells, and unless Cain cries “Uncle,” or it turns out that Obama has been having trysts with Kim Kardashian, it’s going to be groin-groin-groin instead of 9-9-9, for a while.


  1. Did the old man do it? Could the old man do it? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Who cares? I don't care if a candidate gets blown by a giraffe every other Saturday. I only care about whether or not they are qualified to be President. Do they understand foreign policy, economic, and have they mastered the art of the deal!?! Those are the real questions. Morality is irrelevant, especially since we all have different definitions of it. Mario Cuomo is a sincere, moral man. Horrible Pres material. Nixon was a liar, thief, and outright scoundrel. I'd take him over Bush or Obama in a heartbeat. Politicians deserve pedestals no more than athletes and celebrities. Allegedly, Teddy Roosevelt's wife stopped talking to him after he cornholed her one night. I'd vote for him right this second. Sue me.

  2. A giraffe? Seriously? That wouldn't worry you just a little? You don't think that maybe you are exaggerating just a little to make a point? There is no level of depravity at which maybe character might count a little for you? Murderer? Serial rapist? Lady GaGa fan? Because if you do, then you are not that different than me. It would be okay for you that he had dinner with a woman and then tried to touch her genitals, but maybe not if he murdered or raped her? Then it would be just a matter of degree. By the way, I'm never going to the zoo with you again.

  3. Hmm, I'm talking sexual deviance and you start talking rape and murder. This is deep psychological quicksand, Frodo. Worrisome indeed.

  4. I'm making a point that I doubt you really believe morality doesn't matter at all, though as you say, everyone may draw the line differently. Murder and rape we obviously agree on. Someone putting their hand under the skirt of a woman you aren't having a relationship with and who is looking for a job with him, and reaching for her genitals (again, presuming he did do that) is crossing a line for me in terms of my character requirements for a president. I wouldn't have felt the same way if he just invited her to his room, tried to seduce her or kiss her once or dressed up as a zebra with call girls. Your line is obviously somewhere between what he is claimed to have done and rape. It is a matter of degree, not an absolute, which was what your original comment suggested.


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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .