COMMENTARY | Herman Cain finally admitted to himself and his supporters what the rest of the nation knew all along. Surviving a sex scandal is almost impossible.
The scandal that ended his campaign broke on Oct. 31. Politico got the ball rolling, reporting two women accused Cain of sexually inappropriate behavior while he was running the National Restaurant Association. They were paid off in exchange for silence. Two more women came forward, one publicly in a widely covered press conference at the the Friars Club, with similar accusations. Luckily for Cain, he could play the denial game. Often and loudly.
And it worked. In a CBS poll in mid-November, his poll numbers fell, but Cain stayed in front. The day before, the campaign released fundraising numbers that also remained strong. It looked like Cain could weather the storm.
The turning point came when Ginger White came forward just a few days ago. In an interview with the Atlanta affiliate of Fox News, she claimed to have carried on an affair with Cain for 13 years, and she had the phone records to back it up; dozens of calls and texts, some as recently as September of this year. "We've never worked together," said White. "And I can't imagine someone phoning or texting me for the last two and a half years, just because." She came forward because someone tipped off the national media about her affair, so she went public herself to head them off. "I wanted to give my side, before it was thrown out there and made out to be something filthy," White said. "Some people will look at this and say that is exactly what it is. I'm sorry for that." White said their affair ended about eight months ago, which coincidentally was about the same time Herman Cain jumped into the political fray. What a crazy random happenstance!
That was the final nail in the coffin. Sexual harassment allegations? Big deal. If that's not enough to derail a Supreme Court nomination, it's certainly not going to stop a presidential campaign. But an affair? Cheating on your wife is a different thing entirely. Just ask Gary Hart. Or John Edwards. And they were Democrats!
You cannot win the nomination of the party of family values when you've been flouting those values for over a decade. Everyone knew it but Cain and his deluded supporters. And yes, deluded is the right word. Five women come forward, three publicly, accusing Cain of various sexual misconducts. And all five of them were lying? Seriously? That's all Cain had as his defense? They made it up?
Cain finally came to the conclusion that while his die-hard supporters might forgive him, the rest of the electorate wasn't likely to. Ginger White was all the proof most of the country needed to see through Cain's denials. White had records. So if she wasn't lying, how likely was it that the others weren't, either? If White wasn't lying, then Cain must be, about all of them.
Recent polling by the Des Moines Register in Iowa must have made the decision to drop out easier as Cain "reassessed" his campaign over the weekend. And he "reassessed" it right into the dustbin of presidential history. But seriously, what took you so long to figure out that you had lost your chance the minute these allegations came out? It was arrogance that kept him going as long as he did, which didn't really help. After all, arrogant men are exactly the kind you'd expect to sexually misbehave. So it was fun while it lasted, Herman. But thanks for all the fun. We Americans love a good sex scandal. They always help us winnow down the choices.
- Herman Cain