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Raising Cain

November 8, 2011

Yesterday the inimitable Larry Kudlow gave Mona Charin an opportunity and other conservatives to respond on Kudlow’s CNBC talk show to allegations of sexual assault by Presidential aspirant Herman Cain. Charin, as astute a journalist as they come—and very conservative—observed that if the allegations are true, Herman Cain took his campaign too lightly and put conservatives—and the country—at risk to another term for President Obama. Just what that means was said by Thomas Sowell in a recent essay on Occupy Wall Street: “Barack Obama has brought more destruction upon this country in four years than any other event in the history of our nation, but it is just the beginning of what he and his comrades are capable of.” That is a frightening thought, but we better get used to it.

Throughout this presidential election cycle journalists have observed that Herman Cain is not running a serious campaign. His staff is inexperienced, he is not building an organizational structure, he deviates from the campaign trail to appear at book signings, and he himself has not prepared for a presidential run by studying what he needs to know about economics, foreign policy and American constitutional history. Cain is a clever self-promoter and marketer who, in a field of weak candidates, has risen to the top of the field.

Now that he is at the top of the field—or close to it—he risks being toppled by actions he took more than a decade ago. Anyone who has participated in political campaigns understands that the excitement, media attention, and high risks of politics attracts marginal personalities. I once suggested to Don Devine, former head of the Office of Personnel Management, that at least 10% of conservative activists are nuts. Don responded, “only 10%?” After a successful presidential election, the White House Office of Presidential Personnel is deluged with applications for political appointments. A good number, after some research, are discovered to have been submitted by convicted felons!

If you are nuts, psychologically marginal, mentally disturbed or a convicted felon you are less sensitive to the risks of politics than normal citizens. Christians learn that though human nature is good because it was created by God, mankind is born with original sin and thus it is very difficult to live a completely righteous life.

Most normal citizens remember that they did something when they were in high school or college, on the job or in the military that could embarrass them if what they did was revealed. Sometimes these actions can be explained by reference to alcohol or dependency on drugs, by a genetic inclination toward the opposite sex, by simple carelessness that led to injury or death of another person, or immaturity. Every human being has done something stupid when we allowed our reason to be dominated by the appetites that reside in our psyche.

Great literature focuses on the domination of anger, sexual appetite, avarice, envy, appetite for risk or just plain evil over reason and the personal tragedies that result. In literature Dostoevsky’s “Gambler” is an example, and in politics we have the recent examples of Bill Clinton, Jack Abramoff, former Massachusetts House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, and Governors of Illinois.

Only Herman Cain knows what he did or didn’t do.

All that we know is that he is a human being and thus like everybody else has waged a war between his better instincts and his demons. The difference is that Mr. Cain is running for President of the United States and if he erred in the past it was necessary that he plan to reveal what he did and explain that he is no longer the man he was.

It will be disappointing and possibly destroy his ambitions when he makes that revelation, but, as Mona Charin said on Kudlow, he owed it to the Republican Party, his supporters, and himself.

That said, if Cain is a casualty as a result of three or four allegations of sex related behavior, a message will be sent to every red-blooded American citizen who aspires to elective office that the risks are too great. And, of course, if only marginal persons take that risk, the Republic is in danger.

That, clearly, is what is at stake in an election that will determine whether a committed socialist President of the United States is elected to a second term. Ideologues don’t allow their demons to dominate their aspirations to destroy, or remake, the received order.

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