Patterico's Pontifications

10/30/2011

The obligatory Cain “inappropriate conduct” thread (Updated x8)

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 9:38 pm

[Posted by Karl]

Well, that’s a title I did not see coming:

Herman Cain’s campaign headquarters has released a response to a story, broken this evening on Politico, that in the 1990s two female employees of the National Restaurant Association “complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain,” who at the time was head of the trade group.

Calling the story “thinly sourced allegations,” Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon said: “Since Washington establishment critics haven’t had much luck in attacking Mr. Cain’s ideas to fix a bad economy and create jobs, they are trying to attack him in any way they can.”  Gordon did not address any of the specific allegations in the report.  Asked for a more specific answer, the campaign did not provide details.

Gordon was similarly evasive calling into the Jerry Rivers show Sunday night.  As Guy Benson notes, these are anonymous, amorphous, years-old accusations.  On the other hand, Politico claims to have seen documentation describing the allegations and showing that the restaurant association formally resolved the matter.  Moreover, Camp Cain apparently declined to respond to Politico about the allegations for 10 days, which makes the initial, non-specific response here less excusable.

One question that immediately occurs is how Politico came upon this story.  The site’s Roger Simon suggested on Twitter it may have been original research (although he’s not in the byline for the story).  A lot of speculation will be this was Team Perry sticking a fork in Cain’s eyeball.  Team Romney might be a less likely suspect, given concern the story might ultimately benefit Perry — but maybe the Romney camp thinks Perry is too damaged to benefit.  In that scenario, Romney could win the Iowa caucus and wrap up the nomination quick.

Redstate’s Erick Erickson is pro-Perry (which may be why he downplays the sourcing question), but has a pretty balanced take on the immediate fallout:

First, a great many liberals who defended Bill Clinton will come forward to express outrage. Second, a few conservatives who went after Bill Clinton will defend Herman Cain. Third, many people will quietly brace for more to come out.

The Politico did not release names nor a lot of information. If there is a there there, more will trickle out and each trickle will weigh down the Cain campaign, taking it further and further off message.

We have never seen a candidate publicly vetted before like this. The closest comes with the rise of Mike Huckabee in 2008, when we witnessed what seemed like a never ending media attack. It was, in reality, the other campaigns running as quickly as possible to the media to pour out all the dirt they’d rapidly accumulated.

But Mike Huckabee rose only just before Iowa. The media and the campaigns were caught off guard. This time, people don’t want to be caught off guard. They want to make sure Herman Cain cannot become Mike Huckabee for 2012.

However the story plays out, it tends to underscore why Unelected Businessguy tends to have trouble in campaigns.  Such candidates have not received the same vetting as people who have been governors or Senators.  And they tend to be unequipped to go into war room mode when accusations like this appear.   Further, as I noted in the comments to the Perry attack post, I have never understood the “go easy” school of campaigning, because if vetting, attacks and such do not come out during the primaries, it is a fair bet they will come out during the general election, when it’s more difficult to address.

Update: Cain appeared on FNC. Here’s your key quote:

Yes. I have never sexually harassed anyone, let’s say that. Secondly, I’ve never sexually harassed anyone, and yes, I was falsely accused while I was at the National Restaurant Association, and I say falsely, because it turned out, after the investigation, to be baseless.

Note that Cain’s denial confirms the basics of the Politco story.  Also note the Politico story used the term “inappropriate conduct” instead of “sexual harassment.”  The lawyer in me cannot help but note that denial of the latter is not necessarily denial of the former, although the former is certainly less of a scandal than the latter.  How is it playing? FWIW, Larry Sabato was impressed.  Meanwhile, the WaPo asks, “You know who this benefits?”  The WaPo’s Aaron Blake,  given Cain’s apparent lack of knowledge about settlements, adds: “So Cain knew about the allegations but didn’t follow up to see what the outcome was?”

Update 2:  FWIW, Ace writes:

Here’s a big question: “Are we going to hear about other allegations in the future?”

He says, “Absolutely not.” But immediately says: “If more allegations come, people will [sic] simply make them up.”

I say this is a big question because I heard about this stuff a month ago, and I didn’t hear about two incidences. I heard about many more.

I did not have detailed information, certainly nothing publishable. But I heard there was a long and numerous history here.

Ace is not on the Cain Train; then again, this may be a reason he didn’t board.  In this vein, Allahpundit tweets: “Interesting phrasing in Politico’s lede last night: ‘At least’ two female employees…”

Update 3: Via Allahpundit, it may be that a less-than-100K settlement suggests innocence more than guilt, particularly if the NRA was insured (which we don’t know).  I do not specialize in this area, but it is true that insurers would be pretty sensitive to to cost of defending versus settling.

Update 4: Watch Politico’s Jonathan Martin squirm when asked about the specifics of the story.  The other takeway is an emphasis on the difference noted above between “sexual harassment” and “inappropriate conduct.”

Update 5 (A few more and I’ll be in Rick Ellerson territory):  Cain talks to Greta Van Susteren about one allegation, which seems like a non-scandal, but adds this about the settlement(s):

Cain said, “My general counsel said this started out where she and her lawyer were demanding a huge financial settlement…I don’t remember a number…But then he said because there was no basis for this, we ended up settling for what would have been a termination settlement.”  When van Susteren asked how much money was involved, Cain said.  “Maybe three months’ salary.  I don’t remember.  It might have been two months.  I do remember my general counsel saying we didn’t pay all of the money they demanded.”

As for reports that a second woman also complained about his behavior, Cain said, “I am totally unaware as to any formal charges coming from this other person.”  Cain said he was told the woman’s name by reporters at Politico. “I have no knowledge that she made a formal complaint,” Cain said.

The Examiner’s Philip A Klein asks: “How can Cain go from claiming he was unaware of settlement, to saying it involved 3 months salary, within a matter of hours?”  The answer is that this is amateur hour, emblematic of a candidate who has not taken his campaign very seriously throughout.

Update 6: ProPublica criticizies Politico.

Update 7: The NYT has marginal advancement of the story:

In separate interviews, two people who were affiliated with the restaurant group at the time and knew of the complaints said they knew of the second female employee, who had received a payment related to harassment accusations against Mr. Cain during his 1996-99 tenure as president. The two spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid being pulled into the matter publicly.

The two people who were affiliated with the group said the second woman similarly had complained about what she said had been Mr. Cain’s inappropriate conduct toward her. One of them said she had been taken aback by one interaction in particular while they were traveling, but this person declined to give details. He said he believed the allegation of harassment was not the only issue involved in the woman’s termination package.

As noted in the comments, RCP’s Sean Trende suggests the story is a GOP rival’s oppo dump, adding “The fact it is being dropped in Oct. suggests there is worse to come.”

Update 8: Reax to the Greta interview from NR’s Rich Lowry: “I think Cain seems quite sincere and believable, but he also makes you a little nervous about what he might remember next.”

–Karl

Should Perry attack Romney and Cain?

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 9:37 am

[Posted by Karl]

As GOP consultant Alex Castellanos, who worked for a rival campaign in 2006, memorably put it: “Rick Perry has not won elections in Texas because he is loved.  He has won because he sticks a fork in his opponent’s eyeballs.”

However, PJ Tatler (and HotAir alumnus) Bryan Preston thinks going negative would be a negative for Perry at this point in the campaign:

Rick Perry excels at retail politics and in one-on-ones with local and national media. His past campaigns have also excelled at social media. They have also excelled at attacking past opponents very effectively, but the current opponents, Mitt Romney and Herman Cain, aren’t likely to succumb to normal political opposition attacks. Romney’s known knowns are baked in. Everyone knows he’s a flip-flopper, but most Republicans are willing to vote for him against Obama if they have to. Herman Cain is too likeable and he’s made of Teflon right now. Nothing is sticking to him. Attacks on Cain will blow back on whoever launches them.

So I don’t think Perry can effectively attack either one without damaging himself. Bachmann is a good object lesson here. She went so negative so fast that she ended up destroying her own campaign. There’s a very real risk that while Perry won’t say the ridiculous things that Bachmann said to accelerate her downfall, he could nevertheless similarly damage himself in a sustained attack on Romney. Gingrich and Cain have stayed positive, and risen in the polls. But both Gingrich and Cain have questionable staying power.

Bryan might not be wrong about this, but some of his premises are debatable, particularly those about Romney.

First, note that in 2010, Perry beat Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the primary for Texas governor.  Hutchison was both well-known and generally well-liked among Texas Republicans.  Romney begins without the level of support among GOP base voters she enjoyed. (The same is now equally true for Perry, but the point here is that Perry was able to attack a successful, more moderate rival and win.)

Second, are Romney’s negatives baked in?  Perry’s attack on Romney hiring a gardening contractor that employed illegal immigrants (which continued even after the Boston Globe wrote about it) produced the new Kinsleyan gaffe suggesting Romney only cared about the situation because he was running for office.  The episode, small in itself, is a reminder that Romney is more flappable than his press clippings suggest.

Third, for a bigger example, try the latest Kaiser tracking poll.  Most of the news focused on the new low in approval for Obamacare.  Less reported was this nugget:

With Mitt Romney among the top candidates for the GOP presidential nomination, this month’s poll also asked the public about their impressions of the Massachusetts health reform law that passed when Romney was the state’s governor. The survey finds that nearly three quarters of the public, including seven in ten likely Republican presidential primary voters, say they don’t know enough about the Massachusetts law to have either a favorable or an unfavorable opinion of it. (Emphasis added.)

This potentially major negative for Romney is not baked in.  It’s not even half-baked in.  If 70% of likely GOP primary voters don’t know about Romneycare, what else don’t they remember about Romney? 

Political junkies, e.g., people who write for and comment at political blogs, need to be careful not to assume people remember the ins and outs of the 2008 campaign.  The number of people who would definitely not vote for Romney in a general election has dropped significantly since 2007.  The WaPo asserts this is because Republicans have warmed to him, when the real answer may be they have forgotten about him, or never knew much about him.  In the latter case, some aggressively comparative campaigning might erode the primary pillar of the Romney campaign, electability. 

On the other hand, I agree with Bryan that it would be unwise to attack Cain generally, and not just because Cain is likeable.  Rather, the point for Perry (or Cain, for that matter) is to try to become the consensus NotRomney.  Attacking other NotRomneys, especially one as likeable as Cain, does not move toward that goal.  Although Bryan thinks Bachmann hurt herself by going negative early, she also hurt herself by choosing to make Pawlenty and Perry the focus of her most pointed criticisms. 

That said, now that Perry is rolling out his own platform, he will have an opportunity to create a contrast with Cain’s 9-9-9 proposal.  Perry can criticize the plan without criticizing the man.  Perry might be forced to do some of that, if only to prevent Cain from becoming the beneficiary of Perry’s attacks on Romney.

Bryan correctly notes the potential for blowback from going negative (at least with respect to Cain; Romney’s supporters are unlikely to switch to Perry).  On the other hand, hardly any Republicans or leaners like Perry much now, so perhaps Perry has little to lose.  Either way, Bryan is right about Perry needing to go retail and talk radio/online media, as he needs to build positives regardless of whether he goes on the attack.  That assumes Perry can build positives, which is also debatable.  Castellanos may have summed it up in a couple of sentences.

Update: Looks like Slate’s John Dickerson sides with Bryan. (h/t Allahpundit)

–Karl


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