The Cain campaign has now blamed Rick Perry adviser Curt Anderson, former Politico journalist Josh Kraushaar and the “Democrat machine” for the candidate’s current predicament. The first charge was discredited. The second was based on a confusion of names. The third seems an obvious attempt at diversion.
The tactic of answering criticism by impeaching its source is not new or confined to one party. The Clintons had their “vast, right-wing conspiracy.” Sarah Palin has made a career of answering criticism by attacking the “lamestream media.” The approach has often been effective. It can rally the suspicions and resentments of the faithful. And to the faithful, every new charge against their favorite merely confirms the conspiracy. The whole argument is self-confirming.
But Herman Cain has learned little from the best practitioners of conspiratorial blame-shifting. Some of his charges have been too specific — meaning they can be disproved. The Cain campaign — in its relentless austerity — has done away with the whole bloated bureaucracy of fact- checking. In the case of Kraushaar, even a simple Internet search was deemed a luxury.
Cain has also lacked the consistency and focus of a Clinton or a Palin. He has alternately blamed the evil Perry campaign, the evil news media and the evil Democratic apparatus. At some point, the conspiracy becomes so vast that even true believers have their faith strained.
Cain has every right to forcefully answer specific charges made against him. But his campaign to discredit his accusers has been flailing. And it has the added drawback of undermining the main theory of Cain’s campaign — that he is a skilled executive who surrounds himself with effective people.