The final nail in the Cain campaign’s coffin is a disheartening reminder of how far Americans have come in being vulnerable to figures “telling public lies with the utmost sincerity.”
Four years ago, John Edwards gave us a preview of hypocrisy taking a candidate close to the White House, but his mendacity was hidden by six years in the U.S. Senate and a substantive campaign, however undercut by his personal enrichment, to highlight growing income disparity in the nation.
Herman Cain’s rise and fall shows how low the bar is now set—-a man with no elective experience, with no substantive proposals beyond an empty 9-9-9 slogan, with aggressive ignorance about foreign policy and no presidential qualifications whatsoever is brought down from the top of the opinion polls by what his lawyer accurately calls “private, alleged consensual conduct between adults.”
No matter how much bravado he shows in aggressively denying that affair, Cain is caught between clear evidence of more long-term sexual misbehavior and his insistence that all charges against him are false. The issue is not whether he is an adulterer but a chronic liar.
In 1992, Bill Clinton, with Hillary standing by her man, could go on 60 Minutes and weather the Gennifer Flowers story, the kind of behavior that would later stain his presidency with impeachment, but Clinton had been a governor and Oxford scholar who was running a substantive campaign.
Now, with Herman Cain being brought down for perhaps the wrong reasons from a position he never should have occupied in the first place, prurient attention may navigate to Newt Gingrich’s three marriages, two adulteries and financial misconduct during and after his tenure as Speaker of the House.
In the contest between Gingrich and squeaky clean Mitt Romney, voters may want to look at the character issue but only after making sure that the subjects are qualified to hold the office, nominate Supreme Court justices and send our young people to war.
Otherwise, what we get in the Oval Office will be our fault, not the those of the humanly imperfect candidates.
Update: Cain now tells supporters he is "assessing” whether or not to drop out, but the larger question is what on earth possessed him to enter the race and run it with so much ignorance and such blatant lies.