Thursday, November 3, 2011

Who Dropped the Dime on Cain?

Fred Thompson
It could be someone in the Republican family.

In a case of an untimely death, the first thing the cops do when they arrive at the home of the deceased is to try to determine whether the death was the result of a self-inflicted wound and, if it wasn’t, whether a member of the family did it. Statistics show that these are good places to start looking. If the recent events surrounding sexual-harassment allegations against Herman Cain sink his campaign, the same postmortem may be appropriate.

First, Cain’s self-inflicted wounds. When the allegations became public, he started defending himself with an unloaded gun. Even an admirably unconventional campaign cannot defy certain principles. One would be never to eat at a place with an “Eats” sign in the window. Another is that when it hits the fan, you should get your recollection and your facts as straight as you can before you start talking. You can’t outwit the media at their own game if you don’t know the game they’re playing. Now it’s not just about whether he was overly friendly with Miss Molly at the Fourth of July picnic — it’s also about catching him in inconsistencies.

There’s a type of guy well known to every defense lawyer. He’s a very successful man, usually a businessman, politician, or other public figure, who owes his success in large part to being a forceful communicator as well as very smart. Often you cannot persuade him that he should not go before that grand jury to “just answer a few questions.” He cannot believe that he can’t persuade them of his innocence, because he believes he’s innocent. Just as he cannot believe the perjury indictment that is returned later.

I seriously doubt that Cain did anything that merits the “stop the presses” treatment this story is getting, but that won’t matter if he has to spend many more days talking about what he knew and when he knew it and the difference between an agreement and a settlement. As Herman himself might say, the situation is complex, but the solution is simple. He must get some advice from somebody who has been to a rodeo before, get it all straight, lay it out, and move on.

Actually, Cain has a good chance of weathering this storm for several reasons. People like him, and they want to believe him. More important, most primary voters intensely dislike the media, which they see as trying to bring him down. I’m not sure Herman will appreciate the reference, but that is one of the main reasons that Bill Clinton survived.

To many people, not just Republicans, this is just another instance of dirty Washington politics indulging itself, obsessing over trivia while Rome burns. Cain, a very intelligent conservative, upsets the liberal paradigm of what African Americans are supposed to believe. Many Cain supporters involved in the tea-party movement have themselves been called racists in the recent past. Now, with the economy in the tank, the nation broke, the European Union on the verge of throwing the entire Western world into recession if not worse, and former Democratic senator and governor Jon Corzine’s company having “misplaced” $200 million of investors’ money, our burning national issue is whether Herman Cain made some improper remarks over a decade ago.

Moreover, people are on to the sexual-harassment scam. In typical fashion, Congress took a situation where women had no protection for legitimate grievances and created a solution rife with unintended consequences. Now businesses are regularly making payouts for the flimsiest of reasons. It’s obvious that these alleged victims and their lawyers — no matter what they may say publicly — are champing at the bit to come forward for their day in the limelight and the inevitable book deal. Who can pass up being the new Anita Hill, who to this day periodically receives glowing newspaper profiles?

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