A new look at Herman Cain’s old comments

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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By now, you’ve heard the allegations and the denials. For those unfamiliar, Politico is reporting that during Herman Cain’s days heading the National Restaurant Association, “at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain…”

Time will tell if this is legit, but my immediate response was: So this is what they say about a Republican front runner — when accusing him of having fathered a black child just isn’t an option…

So my first impression was to think this is a sleazy attack. Maybe I’m wrong; if Cain is somehow proven guilty of this, it would certainly be damning. But we should never forget that anyone can be accused of misbehavior. And settling out of court does not imply guilt.

This ordeal also reminds me of some past posts I’ve written about Cain — stories which now are perhaps even more interesting. Back in early June, for example, I wrote about Cain’s role as head of the National Restaurant Association.

Here’s an excerpt:

“How big is the job? It’s probably as busy as being the mayor of the city of New York,” says Joe Fassler, a former NRA Chairman of the board of directors, and the man who recruited Cain for the job.

Why might this be relevant? It’s certainly not dispositive — but the magnitude of Cain’s old job implies he managed a large number of people — and that he probably ruffled more than a few feathers. These facts probably increase the odds that a few former employees might be disgruntled.

Perhaps even more interesting is that early in his campaign, Cain frequently would cite the lack of skeletons in his closet as a rationale for his candidacy. Here’s a post I wrote in mid-March:

“… I don’t have any illegitimate babies. I don’t have any mistresses,” Cain joked in a recent conference call with bloggers.

While it is certainly unclear whether or not these allegations are true, the fact that they at least exist seems indisputable. So why would Cain go out of his way to make a scandal-free background a selling point for his campaign — especially considering that being a boy scout was arguably less important in the current tea party zeitgeist, anyway.

Another question — why wouldn’t Cain bring this story out, himself?

He could have bought this out on his own timetable — and framed this as an example of how business leaders must worry about frivolous lawsuits. It could have fit well into a speech about tort reform, for example.

Perhaps Cain felt he was legally prohibited from discussing it? — maybe he felt the financial settlement would make him seem guilty? — or maybe he just naively believed that a confidentiality clause meant this would never come out? — who knows?

Conventional political wisdom says Cain should have brought this out and framed it himself — but Cain is an unconventional candidate.

Conventional wisdom doesn’t seem to apply to Cain. This might be the latest example. An allegation that could sink another candidate, might actually make him stronger.

Unless more information comes out, my guess is this might actually help Cain, causing conservatives — even those who were growing tired of his schtick — to rally to his defense.

Matt K. Lewis