The PJ Tatler

Politico vs Cain, Day Two

Day One closed with Cain’s interview with Greta Van Susteren, which I recapped last night. The gist: There is no real evidence out there that Herman Cain did anything wrong, but he and his staff looked like amateurs while fending off the Politico’s character assassination. Political Wire cut a video of Cain’s shifting answers. This video is, thus far, the most damaging aspect of the story for Cain.

Day Two opens with the Politico taking another shot, this time focusing on Cain’s response to their previous attack. Title: Herman Cain sexual harassment allegations: Damage-control marked by inconsistencies.

Since POLITICO published a story Sunday night revealing that the restaurant association had reached financial settlements with two women who accused Cain of inappropriate behavior, Cain and his spokesmen have offered a shifting and inconclusive series of responses.

All of that’s true, but Politico has shifted a bit as well — out with “sexual harassment,” in with “inappropriate behavior.” Which could be anything, really. Politico’s entire story is like that, a story about the story, this person said this, that person said that. That’s an acknowledgment that Politico really didn’t bring the goods the first time, and don’t yet have the goods to throw a real second punch.

So Politico has gone meta, and Cain is bringing his wife out for campaign appearances. Intentional or not, this leaves the impression that we’re into the “stand by your man” phase of the scandal, which shouldn’t really be a scandal. Cain has also left himself several outs, hinting that there may well be other accusers out there but that their stories will be “made up.” He also failed to recall signing any sort of settlement agreement, which leaves him an out if a paper turns up with his signature on it. He and his campaign have had 10 days to get a handle on this. Why haven’t they?

William Jacobson has it right — the original Politico story and the shameless follow-up are just a taste of the medicine that the eventual GOP nominee can expect to get from the mainstream media. Cain today is Perry or Romney or Gingrich tomorrow, while Obama will remain unexamined. Knowing this, Cain’s response is baffling. He wants to be the political equivalent of the Super Bowl MVP quarterback leading his team to victory next year. While the everyman aspects of the man and his campaign are charming, they won’t protect him from the attacks that everyone knows are coming. A winning QB needs to see the field and know the routes and he has to have a solid line protecting him. He has to have the skills to overcome the opposition’s best and worst tactics. Cain isn’t showing that he has those skills. So far, he is more Tim Tebow than Tom Brady, and that won’t do.