Herman, we hardly knew ye
By David H. Landon
This week, I drew the short straw here at the Dayton City Paper. Our topic is whether or not Herman Cain was unfairly driven from the presidential race by an overly aggressive media, which gave Cain’s life an unprecedented microscopic examination or was his departure the result of self-inflicted wounds. Some weeks I get the bear; some weeks the bear gets charged with sexual harassment.
Herman Cain, for a brief moment, had captured political magic in his race for the Republican nomination. Cain catapulted from a second tier candidate whose name ID barely registered, to the leader of the diverse Republican presidential field just a few weeks before the Iowa Caucus, the starting line for next year’s presidential derby. It was a remarkable climb from obscurity to leader of the pack which began with his surprise win in the Florida Republican Party straw poll three months ago.
He didn’t accomplish this with a superior organization, as his organization was spotty at best. He didn’t accomplish this with a large political war chest, as he never raised as much money. Cain went to the top of the field because of the force of his personality and his ability to connect with conservative voters and the Tea Party on issues of limiting government spending and his strong advocacy of free enterprise. He rose from obscurity because of his ability to speak plainly and directly, with the experienced voice of an accomplished businessman about limiting the reach of government.
Once on top, Cain suddenly became the target of not only his Republican rivals, but the national media which trained focus on this unlikely Republican standard bearer. He is an unlikely standard bearer because Cain represented that rarest of birds in American politics; a conservative African-American. Blacks are presumed by some to be members of only the Democrat Party. When Cain started his presidential bid, some Democrats smiled derisively at what they perceived as his misguided effort and his ideas which were so foreign to them. Other Democrats, like the loony Janeane Garofalo, with her modicum of reason, went so far as to suggest that Cain was a stooge for Republicans who were financing his candidacy to hide the racist elements of the Republican Party.
What these Democrats failed to recognize at first, was that Republicans were smiling too, because Cain was saying what they were feeling. He was cutting through the double-talk of other candidates and attempted to offer solutions to the issues he felt needed our attention. He normally said it in a way that made people smile.
So how did the wheels come flying off the Cain Express just weeks before voting begins? At first it was the appearance of two women who claimed that Cain acted inappropriately during his time at the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s. Records were leaked of settlements with two female employees who indicated that Cain had made inappropriate remarks in the workplace. The attempts by the Cain campaign to handle the matter showed an inexperienced staff unable to quickly and decisively put the issue behind Cain. In fairness to them, the situation was made more difficult as new allegations kept popping up. The final straw was the appearance of Ginger White, who alleges to have conducted a 13-year affair with Cain. He acknowledged knowing White and helping her financially. He denied having an affair with her. At this point it doesn’t matter as Cain has made the decision to withdraw his candidacy. The only remaining question is whether Cain was treated differently by the media in its vetting of the allegations and more recently of the alleged affair. Interesting, on two prior occasions during Obama’s political career, his opponents left the race early when sealed divorce records somehow found the light of day.
Anyone running for the highest office in the land should expect his or her personal life to be gone over with a fine tooth comb. The allegations against Cain involved questions of both judgment and credibility, which should be key requirements for any president. If Cain thought that these incidents would not raise questions, then he was either naïve, or perhaps he had closely watched the press keep an arms length distance from any serious vetting of the current occupant of the White House and thought that example was the new standard.
In 2008, Barack Obama skated through the election season with a national press corps which showed reluctance to write any story casting Obama in a negative light. His association with the terrorist Bill Ayres barely registered a mention by the media. His real estate deal with now convicted Chicago associate Tony Rezko got little attention. Many things in Obama’s personal life were declared off-limits by the campaign and the media complied. No real vetting of his statist/socialist philosophy ever made the light of print. After he was elected, many Americans who voted for him were surprised that the “change” that he referred to in his campaign was change in the size of government from large to enormous.
When Barack Hussein Obama took the oath of office, Americans had very little idea of who the man was who was about to take over the presidency.
If Cain expected to be treated the same as Obama by the media, he should not have. He is a Republican and a proponent of free enterprise. As such, the liberal media believes there is something selfish and unworthy about his candidacy. Nothing will be overlooked in their effort to undermine the candidacy of a conservative. Lesson given; lesson learned.
David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He can be reached at DaveLandon@DaytonCityPaper.com.