The Washington Post

Cain’s defense: a script we’ve heard before

Herman Cain (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Cain, like those before him, was a politician, standing behind a microphone, surrounded by the clicking of cameras. He wagged fingers and denied. From his spot on the dais, Cain employed the tried-and-true techniques so often trotted out by politicians in the headlights of a scandal. And what struck us was his range: he didn’t just pick one tactic, he used them all.

Here’s a guide to eight scandal-combatting strategies Cain used, and whose playbooks he ripped off:


Cain: “The charges and the accusations I absolutely reject. They simply didn’t happen. They simply did not happen.”

Anthony Weiner (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Split hairs

Cain: “They call it an agreement. Settlement implies legal implications.”

Reminds us of: “It depends upon what the meaning of is is.” — Bill Clinton.

Trash-talk the accuser

Cain: “The Democrat machine in America has brought forth a troubled woman to make false accusations.”

Reminds us of: “Didn't Mary Heffernan have a nervous breakdown?” — Former Sen. Robert Packwood (R-Ore.), reportedly, trying to impugn a woman who accused him of sexual harassment.

Blame the media

Cain: “Nine days ago, the media started to beat me up covering anonymous accusers.”

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton watches President Clinton pause as he thanks those Democratic members of the House of Representatives who voted against impeachment in this Dec. 19, 1998 file photo. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

Play the victim

Cain: “Was it tough last week? Yes. Has it been tough the last couple of days? Yes.” Also see: “ I have always seen situations where women have sexually — attempted to sexually harass men.”

Reminds us of: “My family and I have been relentlessly and viciously harassed by the Idaho Statesman... In pleading guilty, I overreacted because of the stress of the Idaho Statesman and its investigation.” — Sen. Larry Craig (R-Iowa)

Blame political enemies

Cain: “We are not going to allow Washington or politics to deny me the opportunity to represent this great nation.”

Reminds us of: “My admission has incurred some longtime political enemies and those hoping to profit from this situation to spread falsehoods, too.” — Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)

Invoke the wife

Cain: “I have been married for 43 years to my wife, Gloria... My wife said, ‘that doesn’t even sound like anything that you would ever do to anyone.’”

Reminds us of: “I've been in love with the same woman for 30-plus years, and as anybody who's been around us knows, she's an extraordinary human being; warm, loving, beautiful, sexy and as good a person as I have ever known.” — former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.).

Sneak in a commercial

Cain: “I have managed many entities, many companies. I have managed organizations with thousands and thousands and thousands of employees.”

Reminds us of: “We sought to bring real change to New York, and that will continue.” — former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.


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