Updated: December 6, 2011 8:25AM
Like the dandelions that always seem to find my yard no matter what, another election cycle is in full bloom. Stealing the thunder from the local elections are the rhetorical rampages of another presidential election looming in 2012.
The media already seem possessed with who will oppose President Obama, and the Republican candidates seem content with putting up their verbal dukes in the series of debacles, uh, I mean debates over the past few months.
Since we all know that no Democrat will purport to challenge the incumbent president, no matter what his poll numbers are. Political aficionados, pundits and ordinary folks like us are left to peruse the GOP candidates for our daily fix of campaign promises, accusations and retorts.
In spite of the fact that odds are good that Mitt Romney and Rick Perry will simply throw down at the next public display of GOP candidates, no one candidate garners more hmms ... and ah-ha’s ... than Herman Cain, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and radio talk show host.
Cain has taken the GOP by storm, charging from “you-don’t-have-a-chance-ville” to “oh-my-goodness-he-is-serious-land.” Nothing scares establishment Republicans, or Democrats for that matter, more than a candidate whose message resonates with people even as the political machine operators remain skeptical. (See Obama 2008 for evidence.)
Proof of Cain’s or any national candidate’s rise to serious contender is the tenacity of the mainstream media in searching for some dirt, whether speck or mudslide, in the life of the candidate. Based on the hubbub surrounding charges of sexual harassment, it is safe to say many people must have been taking Herman seriously as a candidate.
This places Cain in rare air for someone who has never held elected office. He is now the subject of scrutiny for everything he has ever done or for every word ever uttered, whether in jest or not.
Here is where it gets tricky. U.S. politics — presidential and otherwise — is now a venture only for those who are either adept at covering past mistakes or have not made any. At the risk of raising the ire of those who love mistake-free politicians or who have fallen into the snare of believing the hype about people being free of judgment errors, I suggest we protest too much.
At no time do I wish to convey the message that integrity, honesty and self-control of one’s passions are not paramount to public service. On the contrary, I believe all of these are necessary ingredients toward making a great candidate, regardless of party affiliation. However, the latest supposed scandal regarding Cain highlights the salacious nature of the press and just how ridiculous we can be in prejudgment.
For this reason, I suggest that Herman Cain is not simply running for president, he is running also for his life. He is campaigning for the life he led prior to this campaign and all of his life’s many accomplishments. From poverty to financial security and the boardroom, if nothing else, and in spite of his views, Cain represents what we used to call the American dream.
Assuming Cain used inappropriate language nearly 20 years ago around or toward the two women who accused him, we must ask if this disqualifies him from being president. Given the history of presidents in this country who assumed the nation’s highest office with a bit more baggage than this, one would tend to answer no, based on that alone. To our detriment, the presidency seems more about living mistake-free than gaining wisdom to lead from past error.
If guilty, Cain certainly acted offensively and in a despicable manner and used extremely poor judgment. However, we may never know the veracity of these charges because the women, rather than pursue a court battle and the due process it contains, decided to take the money offered by the National Restaurant Association, the organization then led by Cain. If innocent, Cain runs to regain his name as well.
I am sure that each of these women had their reasons for agreeing to a settlement, as the association had its reason for offering one. However, in the world of litigation, settlement does not always mean guilt. Sometimes the group or person offering the settlement simply does not want the trouble of a drawn-out legal process.
At a time when the media should spend more time and energy on the issues of this campaign — our economy, security and children’s future — instead we’re inundated us with the presentation of yet unproven accusations as if already adjudicated in a court of law.
Herman Cain may or may not be guilty. Yet one thing is clear: if he can withstand the pressure of having his name and life redefined in negative terms on a daily basis as if he is guilty, then he just might be presidential material in these United States.