Done in by doubt

Women's allegations were too much for the Cain campaign

“I’m not going to allow this sort of thing to cause me to drop out simply because it’s tough on me.”

– Herman Cain on Nov. 28, before he dropped out Saturday

 

If it were only about him, and if the first woman is lying and if the second woman is lying and if the third woman is lying and if the fourth woman is lying and if the fifth woman is lying, the above sentiment might be admirable. The defiance of the human spirit can be a beautiful thing.

But you know, those are an awful lot of ifs.

And though we realize one must have an outsized ego to pursue the presidency, his statement that he wouldn’t drop out “simply because it’s tough on me” ignores the very relevant little nugget that presidential campaigns are never just about the candidate. When Mr. Cain entered this race and began asking supporters to put their faith, and perhaps their hard-earned dollars, in his hands, he owed them this much: He owed them a closet with fewer possible skeletons.

Rarely has a leading presidential candidate been taken down by the sheer force of doubt alone.

But what the media once disparagingly called “bimbo eruptions” – a term that not-so-subtly blamed the women for Democrat Bill Clinton’s famous philandering – simply cast too thick a cloud of nagging hesitation around the surprising Cain campaign.

We may never know the truth about the allegations, unless the handful of women in the Cain case can come up with more evidence of their claims. But even with doubts about the virtues of these women, their numbers had grown imposing in the background – and their stories largely uncontroverted.

We share Cain’s attorney’s contempt for how the media happily zeroed in on Cain and seemed to require him to disprove the allegations – rather than requiring some sort of corroboration from the accusers. That’s a pretty dangerous standard.

And speaking of standards, weren’t we told in the 1990s – when the president was cavorting with an intern in the White House itself – that one’s private behavior had nothing to do with one’s public job?

It’s also sadly amusing to note the feeding frenzy that accompanied the Cain mutiny – particularly in light of the media’s near-total disinterest in Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards’ verifiable peccadilloes in 2008, which included a love child with a campaign aide. It took the National Enquirer trapping Edwards in a hotel bathroom during an apparent visitation with the child to prod the other media awake.

“The Enquirer persevered,” Newsweek later noted, with no sense of irony.

But in the end, it was the doubts that did in Mr. Cain,
and not just about the women. Cain, an accomplished businessman but a political novice, also had a few “Rick Perry” moments on the trail, including total
confusion over the Libya issue and an ignorance of the Palestinian “right of return.” As a neophyte and outsider, Cain had sentimental appeal, but his newcomer status required that he show more acumen than he did.

And, of course, it necessitated a distinct lack of skeletons.

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