Posted on | November 10, 2011 | 23 Comments
Is Perry Toast?
— New York Times
Ford. Quayle. Stockdale. Now, Poor Rick Perry
— The Atlantic
Investigator: Herman Cain
innocent of sexual advances
— WGCL-TV, CBS Atlanta
82 Reasons to Visit Vanuatu
— Sydney Morning Herald
Mrs. Other McCain and I had a . . . discussion about the budget this morning. I’m sitting here looking at the receipt for the rental car I recently returned to Enterprise: $854.46.
Recall that I rented the car to attend the Oct. 29 “Turning the Tides” conference in Annapolis, expecting to return it afterwards. But then Politico broke the sexual harassment story on Oct. 30, which made Herman Cain’s Oct. 31 appearance at the National Press Club a major event I couldn’t miss, so I kept the car to go cover that. By Tuesday, when the Cain “scandal” reached crisis stage, I had to go to the American Spectator gala, after which it was only two days until the start of the Americans for Prosperity “Defending the American Dream” Summit, and switching to the weekly rate made sense. So then I went down to D.C. and found myself unexpectedly in the middle of the Occupy DC riot. By the time I finally returned the car, I’d had it for 11 days and . . . $854.46.
My transportation situation has been a cause of continuous stress, not to mention a disastrous financial drain, ever since that damned deer totalled the KIA last September. My 19-year-old son James has replaced the busted radiator, straightened the frame and gotten the basic body work done, but the car (on which we’re still making payments, of course) remains parked and awaiting the final repairs necessary to pass Maryland inspection, at which point we’ll have to pay to get the tags, insurance, etc.
James is now in his first semester of college, working when he’s not studying and, in whatever spare moments he has, wrapped up in the slender arms of his lovely brunette girlfriend, Danielle. Getting the KIA roadworthy again is therefore not likely to happen anytime soon, and I blame myself, if only because my sons inherited the legendary animal magnetism. Mea culpa.
However, there is a foreign policy debate Saturday in Spartanburg, S.C., and my friend Ali Akbar has arranged for me to get media credentials, so now I’m planning to rent another car tomorrow and drive down there: 475 miles one-way, a 950-mile round trip, 16 hours on the road and I hope, in consideration of this extraordinary effort, maybe my good friends with the Cain campaign will grant me something in the way of access to the candidate.
“Access to the candidate” has become increasingly hard to get, as you might imagine, in the six weeks since Cain’s upset victory in the Sept. 24 Florida straw poll catapulted him to the front of the GOP field. Back in July, I could take my 12-year-old son Jefferson to a Cain fundraiser and just hang out with Mark Block, drinking Flying Dog ale while the Smoking Man told me about the campaign’s long-term strategy.
Nobody back then thought Cain had a ghost of a chance, and because I was just about the only reporter willing to take the campaign seriously, I had all the access I wanted. When I was following Cain around Iowa in August, everything was very casual and informal and, even as late as Oct. 7 when Herman Cain appeared at a book-signing at Costco, there was still a loose, improvisational atmosphere around the campaign.
By the time we got to Las Vegas for the Oct. 18 debate, however, Cain was emerging as the legit GOP frontrunner and was surrounded by very serious — and very large — men with wires in their ears. What we might call the Bobby Kennedy Factor had taken hold, IYKWIMAITYD, and being in the media scrum meant you were always under the watchful eyes of highly-trained security personnel. There were a few seconds, while Cain was leaving the “spin room” after the Vegas debate and I was following him and his entourage toward the exit, when the candidate greeted me and said, “You’ve been doing some very fair reporting” then — whoosh! — he was gone.
Once the sexual harassment story broke, of course, access became impossible. At the National Press Club speech, there was no way I was getting face-time with the candidate, nor could I get access to Cain at the AFP Summit, and of course I understand why. There are major network TV anchors and reporters who would crawl naked through broken glass to get a 10-minute interview with Herman Cain. If J.D. Gordon and Mark Block were to grant an obscure right-wing blogger a brief one-on-one with Cain, the national press corps would be screaming bloody murder.
All of which is to explain that I’m screwed. I owe it to my buddy Ali to drive down to Spartanburg and cover this debate Saturday, but I do so with the near-certain knowledge that I’ll get nothing more exclusive from this 950-mile trip than I would get if I sat home and watched the debate on TV. So I’m digging around for some reason to be cheerful, and today I sent an e-mail to some friends:
Being somewhat notorious as the blogger who was on the Cain Train even before he announced (I first mentioned my support for Cain in a post Nov. 13 last year), the past 10 days have been an emotional ordeal for me. Trying to write about the sexual harassment allegations with any kind of objectivity is tough, given that my future diplomatic career as U.S. ambassador to Vanuatu is at stake. (We don’t yet have an embassy in Vanuatu, but this is a foreign policy oversight that the Cain administration will certainly amend.)
It’s always darkest before the dawn and Monday — when Sharon Bialek held her press conference — was the night of Stygian gloom for Cainiacs. But it felt like Wednesday was the first faint glimmer of Eos. Am I mistaken in this impression? Is there any rational reason for my sense of hopefulness after last night’s debate?
Maintaining morale is a major challenge at times for any blogger and, as I said, the Bialek press conference made my Monday especially Monday-ish. If the takedown of Cain succeeded, what the hell was the purpose of going out on the road for 35 days — Dec. 26 to Jan. 31 — to cover the Iowa-to-Florida phase of the campaign? To chronicle the crushing triumph of the Establishment choice, Mitt Romney? To report the feeble insider challenge by Newt “Dede Scozzafava” Gingrich? To see if Rick Perry could run enough TV ads to make people forget his utter incompetence?
The crisis of the Cain campaign was therefore also an existential crisis for me, and it took a lot of concentration to muster some semblance of journalistic objectivity for my American Spectator column today:
When Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate ended, CNBC switched to a post-debate panel featuring Larry Kudlow, who raved that Herman Cain had an “unbelievably good debate tonight” and said Cain’s performance “blew me away.”
The Atlanta businessman had help from a friendly audience at the debate, held at Michigan’s Oakland University. When moderator Maria Bartiromo asked whether sexual harassment allegations against him raised “character issues,” the crowd booed the question. And they loudly cheered Cain’s answer: “The American people deserve better than someone being tried in the court of public opinion based on unfounded accusations.” When Bartiromo’s colleague John Harwood tried to get Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to address the accusations against Cain, the crowd again booed the question, and applauded when Romney refused to criticize Cain. People “can make their own assessment,” Romney said, and that was the last time the topic was raised all night.
It is far too early to say that Cain has put the accusations behind him, but by the time Wednesday’s debate ended, his successful performance had apparently changed the narrative of what seemed a potentially campaign-killing crisis just 48 hours earlier. . . .
Please read the whole thing. I may yet make it to the Grand Hotel and Casino in beautiful Porta Vila, but first I’ve got to rent a car and drive 475 miles to Spartanburg, S.C., so now I’m blegging again: Hit the freaking tip jar!
- Nov. 10: The ‘Go-Away’ Money Game
- Nov. 9: Herman Cain Under the Bus? ‘No Wonder We’re So Well and Truly F–ked’
- Nov. 8: HERMAN CAIN PRESS CONFERENCE UPDATE: Video, Headlines, Reaction
- Nov. 8: ‘Unwanted Advances’
- Nov. 8: So … How Was Your Monday?
- Nov. 7: GLORIA ALLRED PRESS CONFERENCE WITH NEW HERMAN CAIN ACCUSER UPDATE: VIDEO, HEADLINES ADDED UPDATE II: CAIN CAMPAIGN: ‘ALL ALLEGATIONS … COMPLETELY FALSE’