Politicians are not a popular bunch these days. According to Gallup, the nation’s most referenced pollsters of all things “human nature and behavior for more than 75 years,” President Obama currently has a 46% approval rating. That’s dangerously close to the average approval rating of fellow Nobel Prize recipient Jimmy Carter who, in 1981, was sent back to the peanut farm after only one term in office.
Congress, meanwhile, is in poor standing with the American public, even by congressional standards. According to Gallup the average job approval rating for congress since 1974 has been 34%. Today it is a record low 11%.
With an economy that can’t seem to get rolling and elected officials on both sides of the aisle that seem unable and unwilling to cure the nation’s ills; it’s easy to see why Americans have lost faith in their politicians.
With that back drop, enter Herman Cain with, as one New York Times writer described it, his “golden voice and folksy manner.”
A virtual nobody when he began campaigning for the Republican Party’s nomination in April 2011, Cain used his credentials as a self-made man and that same “folksy manner” as a catapult to the head of the polls. By the end of September he had won a Florida Straw Poll, and suddenly the Washington outsider looked like a serious contender for the GOP nod.
But September, as it tends to do, turned unsympathetically into October, the month of witches, monsters and ghosts, and one whopper of a ghost emerged from Herman Cain’s past in the scariest of forms-sexual harassment allegations.
Politico broke the now infamous story in which they reported, “During Herman Cain’s tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain” and the women “signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association.”
Politico also claimed to have given Cain and company ten days’ notice of plans to run the story and opportunities to comment.
Still, when news of the story splattered across headlines and barreled through news tickers the world over Cain, his chain smoking Chief of Staff, and the rest of his team seemed about as blindsided as Sandra Bullock in a blonde wig.
Political commentator, syndicated columnist, and weekly contributor to the NewsHour on PBS, Mark Shields said, of Herman Cain no less, (if I may paraphrase) rule number one of running a political campaign is to be up front and open with yourself and your team about anything that could potentially surface and burn you. If by chance that very thing ends up scalding you it is best to apply the aloe early so to speak, and move on quickly.
Cain decided on a different direction. First he denied the alleged sexual harassment had taken place, and then claimed ignorance of any settlement, saying that he hoped it wasn’t for much because he didn’t do anything. Finally, he blamed the report on Texas governor and fellow presidential hopeful Rick Perry.
In the 1960’s chairman of the Republican Party of California Gaylord Parkinson sent forth the 11th commandment, “Thou shall not speak ill of other Republicans.”
Surely Cain has heard the 11th commandment before, which is often credited to Ronald Regan, but in a time of desperation he tried, futilely, to wipe the egg from his face and hurl it onto an opponent. That is what made Herman Cain’s campaign such a disaster.
His handling of the story and the scandal that followed can only be described as sloppy. He sauntered onto the scene ready to, as German political scientist Harald Bergsdorf put it, “crush the Gordian knots of modern politics with the sword of alleged simple solutions.”
Yet people seemed willing to stand beside him. In fact, in the week after the sexual harassment story broke Cain led in the polls. It looked as though the American public were willing to take the whole thing as evidence of Cain authenticity, genuine human error from a genuinely human candidate.
Enter Ginger White, a 46 year old Atlanta woman who claimed to have carried out a 13 year affair with Herman Cain.
Again, let’s turn to Mark Shields who told NewsHour host Jim Lehrer, “Anytime, Jim, a presidential candidate voluntarily uses the word consensual in a press conference, its lights out,” and Cain suspended his campaign a few days later.
What made Cain’s campaign such a train wreck was nothing to do with the allegations brought against him. It was the way he handled the chain of events that came after.
His campaign proved to be so poorly run and unorganized Cain ultimately looked less like a president and more like what he has become- a punch line on the Jimmy Kimmel show.
This artcile was first posted on www.allvoices.com