Initial Observations On Cain’s Mess

October 31, 2011 5:39 a.m.

In no particular order:

TPM, and a lot of others, has been reporting for the last few weeks on how Herman Cain doesn’t have any kind of campaign apparatus in the traditional sense. Boy, does that show now. You would expect past sexual harassment allegations to get a thorough vetting from within the campaign very early on in the process, by which I mean the campaign would do its own due diligence and, if not figure out the underlying facts, at least determine the scope of what is known and unknown, knowable and unknowable, and have a plan for how to respond when the time came. From reading Politico‘s account of the back and forth with the campaign over the 10 days before it published last night’s story, it’s clear the Cain campaign was scrambling to determine the nature and extent of the allegations. From a strictly practical political perspective, that’s an awfully bad position to be in.

In fact, the campaign’s response was so bad over the last 10 days and even after the story broke last night that I don’t think we got a full-throated denial that any sexual harassment involving Cain has ever occurred from anyone associated with the campaign until this morning. The campaign got bogged down in denying whether there had been any such allegations made, what Cain had told the campaign about them, and other peripheral issues — and seemed to fail to grasp that the underlying allegations are what make this potentially very serious.

I’ve seen the purported payments from the National Restaurant Association to the two women Cain allegedly harassed described as hush money. That’s silly and comes at the problem only from the point of view of the NRA. There’s little upside in female employees going public with these kinds of allegations. That’s especially true in the insular world of DC trade associations, where the number of employers is relatively small and employment opportunities can be limited. So keeping it quiet could have certainly been in their interest, too.

One last point: No question that the NRA paying some kind of settlement to employees under Cain because of harassment allegations is newsworthy when it involves a guy running for president. But I’d be careful about jumping from the apparent fact that the NRA settled to the conclusion that the allegations were credible and well-founded. The two don’t always go hand in hand. We need more facts on that score than what are in the Politico story.

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