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Right Turn
Posted at 09:30 AM ET, 11/09/2011

Cain’s credibility shot

If Herman Cain’s performance at his news conference yesterday wasn’t weird enough, there was also his chief of staff, Mark Block, on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News Tuesday night.

Block proclaimed, like Captain Queeg and the quart of strawberries, he’d solved the mystery: “You have all of these allegations coming out, you know, eight, nine days ago from Politico. You start connecting the dots and trying to figure out whether it’s coming from opponents on the left or opponents on the right. I mean, just at the press conference it was brought up that . . . Karen Kraushaar came out as one of the women. So we’ve come to find out her son works at Politico, the organization that originally put the story out.” One problem: That’s false.

The reporter, Josh Kraushaar, works for National Journal and is no relation to the Cain accuser. ( I knew the former and confirmed the latter in a brief e-mail exchange Tuesday afternoon, something that the Cain-Block duo never bothered to do.) But facts never got in the way of Block or his client.

This is flat-out bizarre. Not only does their specific allegation not hold up, but the notion that this is all a Politico plot — at this stage in the game — strikes one as nutty or hopelessly cynical.

Either Cain and Block are crackers (truly believing that witnesses have been cooked up, even though settlements with two of the women we know about date back more than a decade ), or they think the public will buy utter nonsense. With each accusation, the alternative — that Cain is lying — seems more and more plausible.

We’re now really into high farce. Block, currently under investigation for violation of campaign finance laws, tosses wild accusations hither and yon, never concerned with his or Cain’s credibility. Cain and Block — and they certainly are joined at the hip — are not innovative campaigners or new age marketers. They sure aren’t policy wonks. They aren’t disciplined executives or problem solvers. They are cavalier with the truth, indifferent to the harm they may inflict and in very far over their heads.

Last night we learned from Politico: “Steven Portnoy of ABC News tweets that the attorney for Karen Kraushaar, the second woman to come forward about sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain, is moving ahead with a joint press conference with other accusers. According to his tweet, Sharon Bialek, who joined her lawyer Gloria Allred at a Friar’s Club press conference in Manhattan yesterday, is joining the press conference.”

“The Cain victims” press conference. I wonder how many chairs they will need. Provided they seem as credible as they have so far, I suspect Cain’s days on the trail are numbered.

In fact, mature voices are already weighing in. Concerned Women for America’s Penny Nance e-mails me: “Herman Cain emphatically denied even knowing Sharon Bialek but I seriously doubt this story is over. If knows that all these women are lying, then he should sue for slander and discovery will substantiate his case.” Translation: Does he think we are morons?

From Iowa, Craig Robinson of the Iowa Republican told me bluntly, “I thought he looked foolish.” Robinson observed, “His campaign spent the entire day attacking the character who stepped forward, but then his story was that he doesn’t know her, that her entire story is false. Why talk about who lives in her building, how many lawsuits she’s been involved in and who her lawyer is if your defense is, I don’t even know this woman.” Ummm, misdirection? Sheer incompetence?

It is sometimes hard to remember, but Herman Cain is running for president. Well, he was for a time. But he’s really not, at this point. He is clawing to keep his reputation together, maybe to forgo explaining the inexplicable to his wife and supporters. As Robinson put it: “I think this is a classic case of a guy who has always been able to charm himself out of any trouble, but this is the big leagues and the media doesn’t care how charming you are. It’s also clear that his advisers have not operated at this level. Instead of trying to kill the story, they keep pouring gas on to the fire. All they did today is invite the media to dig deeper and for other women to come forward.”

At this point, I sort of doubt even the radio talks show hosts will be able to defend Cain. They’ll move on — the parade always does. There will be other mainstream coverage to gripe about, bias in the debate questions, or something or other to maintain the constant level of discontent that is the lifeblood of this strain of aggrieved conservatism. This perspective may make for good ratings, but it’s no way to lead a movement or run a party.

By  |  09:30 AM ET, 11/09/2011

Categories:  2012 campaign, Media

 
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