I'm going to start this post by saying I am highly skeptical of this latest accuser of Herman Cain, Ginger White. What I said to the Palm Beach Post earlier this month - that these accusations "don't reconcile with my conversations with [Cain] and what I know of him" - still stands.
That being said, I have a few thoughts and questions and musings, some serious, some less so...
Has anyone ever seen Ginger White and late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon in the same place?
Seriously...judge for yourself...separated at birth?
OK, back to the serious...
I just plain do not understand the campaign's response to these allegations. The right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. Cain emphatically denies everything, but then his lawyer, Lin Wood, issued a bizarre statement that seems to undermine that denial:
Mr. Cain has been informed today that your television station plans to broadcast a story this evening in which a female will make an accusation that she engaged in a 13-year long physical relationship with Mr. Cain. This is not an accusation of harassment in the workplace – this is not an accusation of an assault – which are subject matters of legitimate inquiry to a political candidate.
Rather, this appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults – a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public. No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office or a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life. The public’s right to know and the media’s right to report has boundaries and most certainly those boundaries end outside of one’s bedroom door.
Mr. Cain has alerted his wife to this new accusation and discussed it with her. He has no obligation to discuss these types of accusations publicly with the media and he will not do so even if his principled position is viewed unfavorably by members of the media.
First of all, it is impossible to dictate to the media what is and is not news. You can refuse to comment, but if they want to talk about a story, they are going to talk about it. The media is not in the business of printing candidate's press releases; they just want to sell as many papers, get as many viewers/listeners/website visitors as possible.
As long as there is an audience interested in a story, it will get told. (In fact, I'd argue that lecturing the media on what they should and should not cover is likely to backfire and further motivate them to work harder to dig into the story.)
Secondly, as an attorney, my heart sank when I read Wood's statement. I'm not familiar with Georgia law, but most states have rules of professional responsibility and ethics that govern attorney conduct, sometimes codified in statute, sometimes as a set of rules enacted and enforced by the state's bar association.
One of the commonly included rules of professional conduct is a duty of truthfulness. OK, go ahead and make the obvious lawyer joke:
Q.: How do you know a lawyer is lying?
A.: His lips are moving.
Heh. Anyway, the Florida version of this rule says that when an attorney is representing a client, the attorney shall not "knowingly make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person."
Note that Wood never denies the accusations against Cain, and never says that there is no merit to them. Instead, he uses some legalese: "this appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults." The implication is that, for whatever reason, Wood was not able to directly deny the accusations and comply with the duty of truthfulness. Whether that's because Cain had told him in confidence that the accusations were true, or that he had some other reason to doubt, or he just didn't have enough information, I have no idea.
Again, I do not understand the campaign's strategy. Lin Wood is an experienced attorney who has handled cases under intense media scrutiny before. He would not issue a statement in such a high profile matter without both careful thought and consent of his client. To respond to such a controversial allegation with such bizarre, contradictory messages just makes no sense to me.
Campaign Strategy 101 is that if you are running for office, you have no secrets. It does not matter if the records were sealed, does not matter if "only" your dear sweet mother knows, does not matter if it happened decades ago. Your secret will come out, and it will come out at the worst possible time.
Regardless of whether there is any truth to any of these accusations, Cain has admitted that (1) he knew there had been accusations when he was at the National Restaurant Association, and (2) had a friendship with and gave money to Ginger White. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt because I don't have evidence to the contrary, but even assuming the accusations are false, accusations of sexual harassment did happen, there were official investigations, and settlement payments were made. Also, a friendship between a married man and a younger single woman can (even if completely innocent) easily be misconstrued, especially if he is giving her financial assistance.
Before Cain officially threw his hat in the ring, he should have sat down with his top advisers, discussed all skeletons, potential skeletons, and threats of skeletons in his closet, and responses and plans should have been created for every last detail. Why was this not done? Who is making these decisions? To be caught seemingly unprepared over and over by these accusations is highly amateur.
But let's take a moment now and look at the big picture. If Cain really had an affair, does that mean he isn't qualified to be President?
Yeah, it's hard to make that argument after Clinton...especially in an election year where we are fighting wars in multiple countries and facing a national debt and unemployment rate that have reached truly frightening numbers. I'm not ever going to cheer for adultery, but I just don't see it as the number one deciding issue in 2012. If there's any truth to this, Cain has to answer to God, and his wife, not to me.
On that note, while we're all distracted by this media circus, do you know what this significance of the number "944" is?
Besides being the model of a Porsche that was built from 1982 to 1991, 944 is how many days it has been since Congress passed a budget. Hey, no big deal, it's just one of their job duties, that's all.
Is it any wonder that we're $15 trillion dollars in debt?
For the record, a used 1991 Porsche 944 usually sells for somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000. So if we use the $10,000 figure, that means we owe 1.5 billion of these cars:
So hey, let's keep turning our presidential primary into a reality TV show worthy of the Kardashians. Maybe when we owe 10 billion Porsches we'll be able to get our priorities straight.
UPDATE: From The Other McCain:
If I were a candidate for office accused of having an affair, and my lawyer issued that kind of statement, I’d need another lawyer to defend me against assault charges for trying to strangle the first lawyer.
Can't say I disagree with that.
UPDATE II: More perspectives from Stacy McCain and a few other bloggers on systemic problems with the campaign:
The Other McCain - Herman Cain 'Re-Assessing' Campaign, This Vintage Pin-Up Girl Is Not Endorsed by the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader, Herman Cain Campaign Press Release, Tell Me Something I Don't Know.
The Sundries Shack - An Open Letter to Herman Cain, My Trip on the Cain Train Stops Here, and Three Things the GOP Field Can Learn from Herman Cain and One They Should Forget.
Film Ladd - When Book Tours Go Bad
Erick Erickson at RedState - Dear Herman Cain
Michelle Malkin - Herman Cain's Worst Enemy