Let’s say for the sake of argument that any harassment claims against Herman Cain were bogus and he never knew, for some good business reason, that the claims had been settled. Does this incident still highlight something terribly wrong with the Cain bid for the presidency?

The Post’s Ruth Marcus spots atrocious staff work:

Cain’s response to the Politico story uncovering the allegations is turning into a textbook example of what not to do. Politico gave his campaign 10 days to formulate a reaction — an astonishing amount of time in the modern, tweet-first check-later world.

The campaign’s first effort was a non-denial denial. The campaign spokesman told Politico that Cain was “vaguely familiar” with the charges and then tried to fob it off onto the restaurant association. This was laughable on its face. If you’ve ever been accused of sexual harassment — especially sexual harassment on the job that resulted in five-figure financial settlements — you’d be more than “vaguely familiar” with the charges.

Then the campaign let the candidate himself be confronted by Politico reporter Jonathan Martin without any apparent plan about how to handle it. Cain first demurred, saying he had “thousands of people working for me” and “needed to see some facts or concrete evidence.” Given a name, he refused comment. And asked directly — three times — if he had ever been accused of sexual harassment, he stayed silent for several seconds and then tried to turn the question back on the reporter. Not exactly convincing.

Greg Sargent picks up on this inconsistency as well:

Cain’s spokesman originally told Politico that this whole matter had been “settled amicably among the parties a long time ago,” which seems at odds with what Cain just said.

It’s true that Cain’s spokesman subsequently revised that explanation, clarifying that he didn’t mean that the mess had been settled in a legal context and only meant that it had been “resolved.” So either Cain is now contradicting his own campaign’s original response, or the original response was so confused as to make things far worse. At a minimum, the Cain campaign’s failure to initially nail down the basic question of whether Cain knew there had been a settlement, when the claim of a settlement was central to Politico’s allegations, is an embarrassingly awful screw-up.

Second, Cain today defended his campaign’s original dismissal of the story by claiming he had no interest in responding to “anonymous sources.” But as the Politico story details, the reporters actually did approach the Cain campaign — and Cain himself! — with an actual name:

Leaving aside whether these flubs reflect on Cain’s honesty (was he being candid with his staff?), it surely shows that the Cain campaign is not ready for the big leagues. Cain touts his business experience as a critical advantage for him, but part of executive competence is assembling a professional team. Mitt Romney has had one from the get-go. Texas Gov. Rick Perry at least had the sense to see his original team was insufficient and order a makeover.

One gets the sense Cain is always flying by the seat of his pants, whether on the details of his 9-9-9 plan or his foreign policy gaffes or his head-swiveling reversals on abortion or on his own crisis management. More time is then spent unraveling the excuse/flub/gaffe until you sense he not only has a competence problem but an honesty one as well.

You will notice how utterly silent every other campaign is today. They know enough not to get in the way of an opponent’s awful news cycle. They would be wise ( I’m talking especially to you, Mr. Gingrich) to keep shutting up about this. This is Cain’s problem and they’d do well to go about their business, drawing a contrast by example between a candidate who has become a 24/7 soap opera and their own efforts to focus on the voters’ problems.