With the benefit of hindsight, Herman Cain's top aide Mark Block knows how he would have contained the story about his candidate's history of sexual harassment claims: he'd do everything the same way, except it would work. Block admits the campaign mishandled the news that Cain faced claims in the 1990s that were settled by the National Restaurant Association, but he tells National Review's Robert Costa, "Look, we handled this brilliantly and not so brilliantly. If we had to do it all over again, we would have come out on Monday and said this stuff is baseless, that there are no facts in the article and the Politico never spoke with the women, so end of story, let’s move on. We wouldn't have let it turn into this kind of feeding frenzy, spinning our wheels." But Block's alternate history is pretty much exactly the same as real campaign history.
Block says the campaign should have discounted the claims as "baseless," insisting the Politico story had"no facts." But that's exactly what he did! And instead of waiting till Monday, as Block suggests, they actually responded on Sunday. When Politico first posted the story Sunday night, Block called in to Geraldo Rivera's Fox News show to say the claims had "no weight
." Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon gave CNN this statement Sunday night:
"Inside the Beltway media have begun to launch unsubstantiated personal attack on Cain, dredging up thinly sourced allegations stemming from Mr. Cain's tenure as the Chief Executive Officer at the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. Political trade press are now casting aspirations on his character and spreading rumors that never stood up to the facts
Cain told Politico he wouldn't comment "until I see some facts
or concrete evidence." On Monday, Cain said the claims were "baseless" on Fox News. That's straight from Block's new script.
With Republican consultants puzzling over the campaign's reaction to the story, it's unclear which part Block thinks they handled "brilliantly." Jeff Jorgenson, an Iowa Republican official who supports Cain told The Washington Post
's Aaron Blake
, Thursday, "I’m not very happy with the response to these allegations from the campaign itself ... I think Herman Cain needs to take maybe another look at his association with his chief of staff." Another person "close to the campaign" told Black, "We've heard others say I wish this was handled better ... We've all said that." The Daily Beast's Robin Givhan
thinks the campaign has even mishandled Cain's wardrobe in response to the crisis. All those double-breasted suits are old-fashioned and suggest "hubris and sanctimony," she writes.
Block tells Costa now, "For future reference, to campaigns that study this unconventional campaign, remember the lesson: Respond on Day One, don't let it spin for a couple days." Going forward, Block seems a little naive: "I truly hope the other campaigns follow Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment ["Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican"], and if they have opposition research -- which we don’t -- to shelve it." If other campaigns shelve their oppo research on Cain, it will only be because they don't need it anymore.
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the author at
ereeve at theatlantic dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.