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Whodunnit to Herman?

Herman Cain can blame Rick Perry for leaking past sexual harassment charges. And he might be right. But it doesn't really matter who did it. The information was there and he ought to have planned his messaging for when it went public. And he didn't.
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A friend is fond of saying, "There is no truth in politics, there is only winning." He's only partly correct. Politics does have one truth in the modern era and it is simply that candidates will smear each other and do whatever is necessary to win. Of course, they don't take these actions themselves but they enlist dirt devils and leakers and unprincipled researchers who deliver portfolios of feces to their clients. And then they begin the smear campaign.

Hell, Karl Rove built a career on these practices.

The sexual harassment story about Herman Cain didn't come out of nowhere. Cain and his campaign manager are blaming Rick Perry's team, which is not unreasonable. The numbers Cain has been carrying to the top of the polls are a lot of disaffected Perry supporters who left the governor after he didn't back down from his tuition plan for children of illegal immigrants. If Cain falters, those voters will be forced to reconsider Perry.

But there has to be a decent sized universe of people who knew about the allegations against Cain that were leveled when he was at the National Restaurant Association. Any one of them, a disgruntled board member who wanted Cain removed, an employee who didn't get an advancement, or a secretary who didn't care for flirting, might have dropped the rough outlines of the story on the Politico reporter. More likely, it was one of the two women who got settlements from NRA and didn't want to see Cain as president and they picked up the phone and called the reporter and agreed to talk under certain conditions. That's the most probable scenario.

But it could have been Rick Perry's campaign or Mitt Romney's or Newt Gingrich and maybe even Ron Paul. Third party surrogates do the distasteful work for candidates so that those seeking elected office can stand on principle and deny any involvement. When George W. Bush was running for governor of Texas against Ann Richards, Karl Rove started a whisper campaign in the coffee shops of East Texas that Richards was a lesbian. Just look at all the gays and lesbians she has appointed, he suggested. The buzz finally turned into a vibration and then a bit of an earthquake and went public. W was able to simply stand back and say, "I don't know anything about it. I don't think the governor's gay." That only made the story more real and she was politically wounded in East Texas, which has long been essential to win any statewide office.

Rove facilitated Perry's transition from Democrat to Republican in Texas politics and was working with an aggressive FBI agent who had launched an investigation into Perry's opponent for the office of Texas Agriculture Commissioner. During Perry's first statewide election in 1990, he and Rove always had information about the investigation before it was made public. Rove frequently called reporters to talk about subpoenas before they had even been issued while Perry was standing in front of microphones talking about how he'd clean up the office and there'd be no federal investigations when he became agriculture commissioner. The FBI showed up in the Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower's office with subpoenas the day he was out of town to announce his reelection campaign. Rove and Perry leaked new material to reporters covering that story almost every day, and it destroyed the reelection of incumbent Hightower and gave Rick Perry his first statewide office in Texas. Perry knows how to leak material to reporters and he knows whom to use to get that job done efficiently and clandestinely with plausible deniability. Rove taught him.

Herman Cain is blaming his ex-senatorial consultant, who joined the Perry campaign two weeks ago, for doing the leak to Politico. Seems a little too obvious for a political professional to time something so poorly, even though Cain says he shared info on the harassment allegations with Anderson during the senate race. But what in the hell does it matter? Cain had to know this information was going to come out from someone during a presidential race. If he didn't, he's too naïve to be president. And his handling of this story doesn't create confidence in how he might manage a national crisis from the White House. Politico approached him 10 days before the story was published and asked for a response and there was nothing until the ham-handed iterations of the narrative that unfolded over the course of one news cycle.

Cain can blame Perry. And he might be right. But it doesn't really matter who did it. The information was there and he ought to have planned his messaging for when it went public. And he didn't. Now he is casting blame and parsing his language to escape incrimination.

Maybe that friend was right. "There is no truth in politics, there is only winning."

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