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November 06, 2011 8:05 AM Cain no longer willing to ‘go there’

By Steve Benen

There are some fairly significant unanswered questions surrounding Herman Cain and allegations of sexual harassment. For example, did he do what he’s accused of doing? Is Cain willing to let his accusers speak publicly? And why has he changed his story so many times?

Cain’s handling of the matter has offered crisis-management textbook writers a new case study on what not to do, culminating in desperate attacks accusing just about everyone of racism — because to accurately note that a Republican presidential candidate was accused of harassment is, apparently, necessarily evidence of bigotry.

As Cain’s responses swing back and forth between incoherent and offensive, yesterday the Republican presidential candidate decided he doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.

The issue did not come up at all during the 90-minute Saturday night debate with Newt Gingrich, sponsored by a local tea party group. But reporters after the event began asking him about the reports of his inappropriate behavior at the National Restaurant Association — and Cain initially dismissed them, saying, “Don’t even go there.” […]

When asked again why he would not answer questions on the topic, Cain still refused to answer, referring the reporters in question to his chief of staff, Mark Block.

“Where’s my chief of staff?” Cain said. “Please send him the journalistic code of ethics.”

Here’s a tip for the candidate: those accused of sexual harassment, who’ve been caught with contradictory explanations, who’ve casually thrown around accusations of bigotry without proof, and who started parsing the meaning of the word “settlement,” probably shouldn’t be lecturing others on “ethics.”

Campaign reporters, doing their job, pressed on. One asked, “Mr. Cain, do you think you can just not answer questions about the sexual harassment claims?” Another asked, “Are you never going to answer questions about this ever again, Mr. Cain?”

That appears to be the plan. It’s quite a trajectory, isn’t it? Learn that a bombshell is coming, fail to prepare, stumble with the initial response, change the story, wildly point fingers in contradictory directions, accuse everyone of racism without grounds, and then decide to take the ball and go home.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

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  • swellsman on November 06, 2011 8:10 AM:

    But, like the man who jumped off of the 80 story skyscraper, you can almost hear Cain muttering as he passes each floor: "So far, so good."

  • c u n d gulag on November 06, 2011 8:10 AM:

    “Please send him the journalistic code of ethics.”

    And then send me an Executive code of ethics!

    Uhm, Mr. Cain, Mel Brooks pinching the butts and breasts and saying, "It's GOOD to be The King!" was a movie, not a 'how to' guide!

  • Josef K on November 06, 2011 8:16 AM:

    then decide to take the ball and go home.

    I'm of two mind on this. Part wants to say "We should be so lucky!" And the other says "Oh, please, stay!"

  • DAY on November 06, 2011 8:17 AM:

    Must be open mike at WaMo this AM-

    Ever since Chico said (Duck Soup) "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?",
    politicians have used it to cover any and all missteps.

  • johnny canuck on November 06, 2011 8:20 AM:

    "Learn that a bombshell is coming, fail to prepare, stumble with the initial response, change the story, wildly point fingers in contradictory directions, accuse everyone of racism without grounds, and then decide to take the ball and go home."

    Apart from the racism bit, isn't this pretty much how 21st century Republicans respond to any crisis? Makes Cain a quintessential Republican. Why be surprised he is leading the field?

  • Styve on November 06, 2011 8:21 AM:

    Can't wait 'til this jerk is forced out of the race for his moronic missteps, and is publicly abased.

  • r on November 06, 2011 8:26 AM:

    Um, does anyone really think this is hurting him with the teabaggers?

  • Richard Greenslade on November 06, 2011 8:26 AM:

    Cain is self-destructing, Perry can't even spell self-destructing, so it sure looks like Romneycare vs Obamacare in 2012.

  • stormskies on November 06, 2011 8:39 AM:

    r is right .......... it's not only not hurting him, he has seen his approval rating actually go up, and attracting even more in donations ....

    these sad facts only reinforce the fact that these repiglican goons live in a fact free universe that is created by all kinds of interlocking delusions that don't allow actual reality, facts, to penetrate that fact free universe. .. thus, they can never be wrong. this is what is so scary about these people .. they are so utterly stupid and have zero capacity to know themselves as stupid ... quite the opposite: they think they know everything ... their interlocking set of delusions proves it to them .. over and over and over ..

  • hells littlest angel on November 06, 2011 9:00 AM:

    Meet ewrqf, the Cain campaign's newest spokesperson!

  • kevo on November 06, 2011 9:05 AM:

    Cain's not going there simply because his only literal defense is "I didn't take my pants off!" -Kevo

  • AndThenThere'sThat on November 06, 2011 9:13 AM:

    Cain is self-destructing, Perry can't even spell self-destructing, so it sure looks like Romneycare vs Obamacare in 2012.

    lol

  • berttheclock on November 06, 2011 9:15 AM:

    Startling news - No Liberal is going to vote for Cain! Wow!!

    None of this will affect his base. Already, Cain is beginning to run "Hi-tech lynching (Thomas-Hill) ads" to counter any bit of truth. His base could care less what liberal sites have to say about anything.

    All of this provides many yucks for us and comedy shows, but, to his base, it is simply a "Frank Drebin" moment of "Move along, folks, nothing to see".

  • chi res on November 06, 2011 9:25 AM:

    About the racism part:

    Do you really think that there are no republican operatives out there who are shitting their pants thinking that they might have a Black presidential candidate next year and are willing to do anything it takes to keep that from happening?

  • T-Rex on November 06, 2011 9:29 AM:

    Playing the victim, no matter how improbably, never hurt anyone in Republican primaries. And really, this is a side show. The real issue is that he shouldn't be President because he's even less qualified by experience and training than Sarah Palin. I suspect that he'll do a Ross Perot. Right now he's popular because he's a charismatic, amusing speaker, but sooner or later he'll figure out what's actually involved in the Presidency, and will slink away in terror, making some lame excuse about a media plot to sabotage his daughter's wedding or something.

  • June on November 06, 2011 9:32 AM:

    What Cain said doesn't even make sense. Why should journalists send his chief of staff a "journalistic code of ethics." Talk about panicked, disoriented nonsense. Yet, this is the "brother from another mother" (read: Koch-owned, self-loathing brother) who thinks he's got what it takes to be President & Commander-in-Chief. I thank God we already have the nation's first black president; if not, I would imagine that Cain's ongoing buffoonery would have set back that possibility for another 50 years or so.

  • WaterGirl on November 06, 2011 9:49 AM:

    I think this latest response, refusing to answer questions or discuss the matter with reporters, worked for McCain in the last election when his alleged affair came up. If I recall correctly, he issued denials for a couple of days and then refused to answer questions. Sadly, it worked for McCain - the press dropped the matter completely.

  • Diane Rodriguez on November 06, 2011 9:59 AM:

    I'm hoping that the "brothers from another mother" Kochs are messing themselves watching this buffoon. They have created a juggernaut and they may lose control of the trajectory. Unfortunately, they didn't let everyone in on the joke and underestimated the vitriol and stupidity of hateful right wing voters. The Kochs may end up shooting themselves over Cain. Hermann, on his own, has tried valiantly to make his breathtaking stupidity obvious. The more ignorant and craven he gets, the higher his poll numbers. It is a great bit of irony that picking a candidate that fits the Koch ( et al) twisted vision of a black man may end up being one of their biggest problems. I sincerely hope Cain repeats the "brother of another mother" over and over and over. I'm sure the Kochs cringe every time he says it.

  • dweb on November 06, 2011 10:07 AM:

    and if he persists, he may well get away with it AND wind up with even more right wing supporters.

    Reporters are NOT going to get Good Old Herm to answer the question. If they want answers, they are going to actually have to do enough reporting to get at the facts.

    But that is hard work.

  • berttheclock on November 06, 2011 10:15 AM:

    I wonder how long it would take for right wingers to rage over Obama ever saying "a brother of the Koch brothers with another mother" by saying Obama has gone Black? Cain can speak such and be considered "Folksy", whereas Obama would never be able to get away with the like.

  • mark on November 06, 2011 11:11 AM:

    Perhaps Cain is happy to have this issue distract voters from his campaign finance fraud thingy.

  • chopin on November 06, 2011 11:40 AM:

    Some reporter should say "Rumor has it you had a child with a white woman". When he strongly denies this, the reporter responds "May I take your denial as evidence that you can deny lies and the charges of sexual harassement are true?". Of course, he will have seen his base evaporate over the first rumor and the independants over the second. Problem solved.

  • Gummitch on November 06, 2011 12:44 PM:

    Here is the real shocker, buried in the story: The issue did not come up at all during the 90-minute Saturday night debate with Newt Gingrich, sponsored by a local tea party group.

    I am sooo surprised that Newt didn't want to discuss sexual harassment or infidelity.

  • jsjiowa on November 06, 2011 1:25 PM:

    Steve, I actually heard one of the panelists on Meet The Press this morning confirm that one of her colleagues had in fact received an email with that code of ethics after the debate last night. The other panelists and David Gregory were somewhat awed that a politician would think he didn't have to answer questions from the press, and that he'd accuse them of ethics violations for doing so.

    I also heard this morning that Cain has already done interviews with Ginni Thomas, in order to build his claim and connection to the "high-tech lynching" response.

    Interestingly, however, I was watching a local politics show this morning, and high-ranking Iowa Republican (former candidate for Governor) indicated that he thinks Cain has a real problem. In making that assessment, he was relying on the report that came this week from Steve Deace, a right-wing talk radio host in Iowa, that he'd witnessed inappropriate behavior from Cain when he was at the studio. The politician noted that when Deace says there's a problem, there must really be a problem. Whether that attitude will spread in Iowa remains to be seen, but the fact that Cain hasn't spent any time in the state since August isn't helping him either.

  • efgoldman on November 06, 2011 3:24 PM:

    The other panelists and David Gregory were somewhat awed that a politician would think he didn't have to answer questions from the press...
    Wait! These are the Villagers from f-ing Meet the Press? The show that made it illegal, immoral, and fattening to ask a follow-up or challenging question since before Prince Timmy died? That Meet the Press?

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