Until last weekend, the excruciating spectacle of the humiliated wife standing by her errant politician-husband as he dropped out of the campaign/resigned from office seemed, mercifully, to be on the verge of extinction.
Jenny Sanford opted out of the press conference — and the marriage — after her husband, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, found his Argentinian soulmate. Huma Abedin, the wife of former congressman Anthony Weiner, seems to be sticking it out, but she had the self-respect to take a pass as he confessed to juvenile tweets.
Alas, there was Gloria Cain, Human Prop. She stood on the stage behind her husband Saturday, clapping and waving as Herman Cain announced he was suspending his presidential campaign. Cain dropped out in the wake of multiple allegations of sexual harassment and the revelation of a 13-year-long relationship that the other woman says was an affair and that Herman Cain says was merely a friendship that he didn’t bother to mention to his wife of 43 years.
But to listen to him you would have thought it was a triumph — and perhaps it was, measured in the terms that seem to most matter to Cain. “Right now my name ID is probably 99.9 percent,” he said, grinning broadly.
Most cads in Cain’s position at least have the decency to apologize to their spouses for exposing them to humiliation. Cain used his as insulation, a testimonial to the glories of his favorite subject, Herman Cain. “I am at peace with my God,” he intoned. “I am at peace with my wife,” turning to bask in her approving claps. “She is at peace with me.” Pause for Gloria Cain to smile and point supportively at her supposedly victimized spouse, as the crowd chants, “Gloria. Gloria. Gloria.”
It made me wince.
Now Cain, unlike most of his straying compatriot’s, didn’t cop a plea to what he insisted are “false and unproved accusations.”
Put aside the fact of three separate women who accused Cain of sexual harassment. Two received financial settlements and one mentioned the problematic behavior to a friend at the time.
Put aside the public, on-the-record statements from Ginger White that she had a 13-year extramarital affair with Cain. Instead, focus only on the facts that Cain himself has acknowledged: He had a close friendship with this woman, close enough to feature 4 in the morning texting. He gave her money. Somehow, innocent as this all was, he neglected to mention it to his wife.
In his book, “This is Herman Cain!,” the ex-candidate turned to the language of business to describe his marriage. “What it all comes down to is that while Gloria and I are both CEOs of ourselves, we are also vice chairman and vice chairwoman, respectively, of each other’s boards of directors,” he wrote. In those terms, something went deeply wrong in the Cains’ corporate governance.
Perhaps Gloria Cain is a more forgiving sort, but if my husband did that — and only that — I would not be out there clapping for him. I would not be listed as the national chairwoman of the newly launched “Women for Jon Leibowitz.”
Is Gloria Cain a humiliated dupe or a witting co-conspirator in her husband’s self-aggrandizement? I don’t know, nor am I sure which would be worse. I do know that Gloria Cain’s public presence at her husband’s side is disturbing, either way. If Herman Cain’s intention was truly, as he told the Manchester Union Leader about his wife, to “put her first,” he would not have had her up on the stage to serve his purposes. Come to think of it, if he really wanted to put Gloria Cain first, Herman wouldn’t have run in the first place.