Cain’s spreading stain

    The Herman Cain stain has now spread to the rest of the Republican field. To track who’s talking trash about whom, you’d need a flow chart.Today I intended to push past the Cain brouhaha and focus on something else. I really really did. But this burgeoning story continues to sow sordid new subplots, what with the news late yesterday that (1) a third woman has come forward to say she was sexually harassed by Cain, (2) a former National Restaurant Association official has surfaced to say that he witnessed aberrant behavior by Cain, (3) a conservative talk show host in Iowa now says that females at his radio station were uneasy in the presence of Cain, and (4) Cain himself now says that, on the eve of his futile 2004 Senate bid in Georgia, he personally warned his campaign consultant that sexual harassment claims had been filed against him during his restaurant lobbying tenure.Item number four is particularly fascinating. Just four days ago, a Cain flak publicly insisted that Cain had never been accused of sexual harassment. (When the Associated Press asked the flak whether the Cain campaign was denying the Politico story that reported on past accusations, the flak replied: “Yes.”) Yet now we have Cain acknowledging in a Forbes magazine interview that he has long been aware of the accusations, that he knew the details well enough to brief an ’04 campaign aide about them. (So much for Cain’s touted “executive experience.” He can’t even communicate with his own spinmeisters, who apparently had no idea what he was up to.)But the prize today goes to item (5): Serial violations of Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment, which decrees that no Republican shall speak ill of another.This is akin to a multi-car pileup in thick fog on the highway. This is where that flow chart would come in handy:The Cain camp accuses the Perry camp of planting the sex harassment story; it has denounced the alleged planters as “despicable,” and demanded that they apologize to Cain. The Perry camp denies the charge, and is demanding that Cain apologize to Perry. The Perry camp accuses the Romney camp of planting the story, a charge denied by the Romney camp. The Bachmann camp seeks to exploit the scandal that’s consuming the Cain camp (Bachmann in Iowa yesterday: “This is a year when we can’t have any surprises with our candidates”). And the Gingrich camp is ready to fire at any and all camps. Here was Newt on CNN last night: “If it turns out that a Republican presidential candidate deliberately went out and created this kind of a story about a fellow candidate – that they would probably rapidly become a pariah among the rest of us and they better fire the people who did it…That’s the kind of despicable behavior that is the worst possible behavior. I don’t know who did it. I’m not taking Herman’s word for it. But if it turns out he’s right, they had better fire a bunch of people in the next 24 hours – or expect all Republicans of every background to turn against ’em ’cause that’s the kind of behavior I find totally repulsive.”Is this amateur hour, or what? President Obama is supposedly easing pickings in 2012 – yet here we have a field of candidates held hostage by the inept newbie in their midst. And he’s the front-runner in the polls, no less. Even conservatives who profess to be dazzled by Cain are becoming unnerved. For instance, Quin Hillyer at The American Spectator:”Look, if you are running for president and you know that two such allegations (even if totally untrue) were lodged against you, you darn well ought to have not only been prepared to discuss them but also to preemptively air them out – and if there is truth to them, you have no business running for president….We have had no chance to see how he actually behaves in elected public office. Without that record, we have not just a right but a duty to probe even more deeply into any other part of his background that seems relevant. Vetting is a good thing.” (He then goaded his readers: “Start your howling that I’m somehow a RINO, or for Romney…or whatever other epithet or insult you can come up with based on a misreading of, or refusal to fully read, what I just wrote.” The intramural conservative debate over Cain is sure getting vicious.)Until Cain regains his rightful place in the universe as hokum huckster and motivational speaker, it appears that the far more qualified Republican candidates will continue to be roiled by his presence. At a time when the party needs to curry favor with the public on the eve of a presidential election, the last thing the GOP needs is to have everyone shooting at each other – a la Mr. White, old Joe, and Nice Guy Eddie during the climactic standoff in Reservoir Dogs (starting at the one-minute mark). The biggest risk is that they all wind up politically dead.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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