Is Newt inoculated against past deeds and late breaking flip flop?

Not that I had time for it today, but I couldn’t resist answering this one. What’s your take? Why isn’t Newt getting the criticism he deserves for his past deeds? Will they eventually come back to haunt him? Or will he on his own make so many missteps that he destroys his own candidacy?

Ethics SignArena Asks: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is threatening to discuss what she learned about Newt Gingrich from a 1990s ethics investigation. Pelosi, like Gingrich a former House speaker, hinted that she would one day discuss the “thousand pages of his stuff” that she rifled through in the late 1990s while serving on a panel that was investigating him for tax and ethics violations.

But would that really hurt presidential candidate Gingrich, considering the information has largely been aired publicly before? Is Gingrich politically inoculated on these and other old controversies, including the circumstances of his first divorce?

My Answer: Newt may be on the road to discrediting himself without needing Pelosi’s help. Just yesterday he flip flopped on his definition of whether human life (as in personhood) begins at conception.

A few days ago, he told ABC News, “I think that if you take a position when a woman has fertilized egg and that’s been successfully implanted that now you’re dealing with life. Because otherwise you’re going to open up an extraordinary range of very difficult questions.”

Implantation takes place 7–14 days post conception, and is the standard medical definition of pregnancy.

Yesterday, after being apparently smacked down by his hard rightwing anti-choice constituents who also oppose embryonic stem cell research and emergency contraception, he said: “I believe that human life begins at conception…I believe that every unborn life is precious, no matter how conceived…I support Congress enacting pro-life legislation under the 14th Amendment, including legislation that would define personhood as beginning at conception.”

Remember that this kind of flub is what started eroding Cain’s support even before the sexual harassment claims. It puts him on a par with the ever-flip-flopping Romney. And despite being old news and thus possible “inoculation,” Newt is going to be scrutinized again for his philandering as his standing in the polls keeps him on or near the top of the contenders.

Gingrich has so much baggage, they’d have to charter a whole plane to take him anywhere. The cumulative effect will be to drag him down eventually. Whether that is before or after the Republicans nominate their candidate remains to be seen.

Here’s the link to my original post on Politico

Sex Scandals Sink Cain: Is That Just?

Shoot, I lost my bet. I thought Herman Cain would stay in the race no matter what came down.  But there could be no noble outcome in this story, whichever way it went. Anybody want to bet on when the divorce papers are served?

Herman Cain (Scott Olson - Getty Images)Arena Asks: Herman Cain will suspend his presidential campaign, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO announced Saturday.

Does Cain’ characterization of himself as a victim of unfair media coverage ring true? Will he be influential as the Republican presidential races unfolds?

My Answer: There isn’t much justice here.

Cain had no business running for president in the first place. The level of attention and support he received was never justified by his qualifications for the role.

If he had been qualified by virtue of his knowledge of domestic and foreign policy and even a soupçon of understanding how the mills of politics actually grind, he would not have been nearly as vulnerable to charges of sexual misconduct. Case in point: Newt Gingrich, whose sexual hypocrisies are as big as his inflated ego, and who is now pressing hard on Mitt Romney’s lead. Little justice there.

But let’s face it: there is also little justice in the tsunamis of media attention given to alleged or confirmed sexual peccadilloes of anyone running for or serving in office. Bill Clinton did have sex with that woman and still managed to be a very effective (an very popular) president. The nation’s history is replete with randy presidents, but the culture of earlier times ignored that aspect of their lives and focused on their political accomplishments rather than who they were bedding. Human beings are human beings, and America has such an unhealthy relationship with sex that very few candidates have ever even learned what appropriate behavior is.

Cain’s star will now fall as fast as it rose. He is over, he is toxic, and he will not be particularly useful to any of the other candidates except perhaps behind the scenes influencing a few of his diehard supporters. He will be bitter and he will soon turn his bitterness into another book that will garner highly yet more paid speaking engagements. Absolutely no justice in that.

Here’s the link to my original post on Politico

Is It Fair That Cain’s Campaign Is Sinking While Newt’s Is Rising?

Will new allegations that Herman Cain had a 13-year affair be the end of his campaign? Should this come up as an issue at all? Why is no one talking about Newt’s affairs any more?

Radioactive WarningArena Asks: An Atlanta businesswoman says she had a 13-year extramarital affair with Herman Cain, prompting a preemptive denial from the Republican presidential candidate. Asked earlier in November about sexual harassment allegations if he would leave the race, Cain responded, “Ain’t gonna happen.” Can Cain stick to that now, and still win the GOP nomination?

My Answer: Exhaustion from these continuing allegations of Cain’s sexual misconduct has overtaken what was left of his flash-in-the-pan campaign.

It’s not at all fair that serial philanderer Newt Gingrich is getting a free pass (at the moment). And I suspect that had Cain expressed empathy for women who have been sexually harassed when the first round of allegations emerged, the issue would have disappeared and he could’ve kept on 9-9-9-ing it through the primaries. He might even have become a vice-presidential contender despite his obvious lack of proficiency on foreign policy issues.

But his aggressive defense is so patently offensive that it’s no wonder women keep breaking out to accuse him, and that his supporters are losing faith in him. He’s increasingly radioactive as a candidate. His campaign is effectively over.

Here’s the link to my original post on Politico

Why did the supercommittee fail? (Duh!)

Silly question today but I decided to answer it anyway. More to the point, what in your opinion should be the next steps? Who should take leadership?

US CongressArena Asks: Congress is bracing today for the failure of the supercommittee, which will most likely fail to submit paperwork to the Congressional Budget Office by its Monday deadline.
Is this a big hit for Congress, which had a nine percent approval rating in a recent poll? And why was the supercommittee unable to make ends meet?

My Answer: The supercommittee was doomed from the start because the Republicans have less to lose politically by being intractable on revenue. The supercommittee process played right into their hands and the Democrats took the bait.

If anyone can force a solution to emerge, it’s “mom in tennis shoes” Patty Murray. Unfortunately, sometimes mom’s only solution is to send the bullies to the woodshed. It’s time for the Dems to do just that, to take off the gloves, stop whining about how much they are willing to give in to the Republican demands and start educating the American public about how much the Republicans are trying to take away from all of us. I think they’d find enthusiastic supporters rising up to vote for them in 2012.

What do they think Occupy Wall Street is about after all?

PS Heartfeldt readers: You may be interested in Lucinda Marshall’s excellent commentary regarding feminism and Occupy Wall Street. And if you didn’t catch my post a couple of weeks ago on why women need to step up to leadership now to grapple with the economic problems the supercommittee has failed to solve, please check it out here on the 9 Ways Blog.


Shall We Start a Pool re When Cain Leaves the Race?

In my previous post about Herman Cain, I suggested responses to the sexual harassment allegations that could keep him in the running. Now I agree with former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner who said at the beginning of this debacle that Cain is toast.

If you were betting, when do you think he will leave the race for president?

And what do you think last night’s election returns mean for him and the rest of the Republican candidates?

Herman CainArena Asks:Herman Cain held a press conference tonight to defend his reputation, choosing to address accusations of sexual harassment directly. “I have never acted inappropriately with anyone, period,” Cain said, indicating that he has no idea who accuser Sharon Bialek was. He added that he would not be stepping out of the presidential race.
Is Cain wise to remain in the presidential race? And does his defense of his reputation seem plausible?

My Answer: Cain is getting less plausible by the minute.

Cain stays in the race at peril of going down in the same flames that engulfed Anthony Weiner and so many other politicians on both sides of the aisle. They are like babies who think that when they have blankets over their heads no one can see them. Eventually, they have to backtrack on everything, and that more than any acts they committed forces them out.

Herman Cain has never lacked for arrogance and it is not surprising that he claims innocence. Many men, especially in his age group and at his level of power, often have no awareness when their behavior toward women is inappropriate because they have heretofore been able to get away with it. For many women who have been in the workforce for several decades, such behavior used to be “just the way things are.” For women today, thankfully, sexual harassment has a name–and remedies.

Here’s the link to my original post on Politico

Can Herman Cain Survive?

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You knew it was just a matter of minutes before a sex scandal would erupt with one or another presidential candidate. Personally, I was betting it would be Michelle Bachmann and/or her husband. So much self-righteousness is usually a mask to hide some skeleton in the closet. But no, it was Pizza Dude Herman Cain. Though many of the first responders on Arena’s commentator bench say Cain is toast, I’m not so sure. Read on and tell me what you think…

Herman CainArena Asks: POLITICO reports exclusively that during Herman Cain’s tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by him. The women signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association. How damaging are these revelations to Cain’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination?

My Answer: These allegations aren’t an automatic KO but they are big and they are damaging. How Cain comports himself in the aftermath will determine whether he remains a viable candidate or becomes cold pizza. So far, not so good.

This month is the 20th anniversary of Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment by then U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. A comparison to those events might shed light on what this might mean for Cain.

One needs only to take a look at the video of those 1991 hearings to see:

  • An all-male Senate judiciary committee circling the wagons to disparage Anita Hill. It was a blatant exhibition of male privilege without any grounding in a search for truth. Cain’s angry reaction is stunningly similar.
  • The committee chair (a fellow named Joe Biden) rushed the vote on Thomas, denying several other women’s requests to testify about their own allegations that Thomas sexually harassed them. This enraged rank-and file women who were riveted to the television. The fact that the women who spoke up were paid to shut up and leave in Cain’s case does not bode well for him.
  • A furious Thomas responded much as Cain has done by puffing up. getting defensive, and bristling against the allegations rather than calmly empathizing with women who have been sexually harassed and demonstrating his personal knowledge about appropriate conduct. They protest too much.

In 1991, when the Mad Men-esque corporate culture was still prevalent, sexual harassment was “just the way things are.” Today, any woman’s (or man’s for that matter) claims of sexual harassment or impropriety must be taken seriously. We have recently seen a hotel maid’s allegations force one of the most powerful men in the world to resign his office, for  even though the case was ultimately dropped, DSK had to acknowledge a pattern of sexual aggressiveness that shocked even his native France.

Many people will rightly point out that Bill Clinton engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct. But he’s not running for president right now; Cain is. And given that Cain is already vulnerable to challenges on the substance of his readiness to be president, his candidacy can’t possibly survive if his character is called into question as well.

Biden redeemed himself by becoming the prime sponsor and very public champion of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. Cain doesn’t have three days, let alone three years to accomplish a visible agenda of that magnitude. We’ll see very soon whether he can turn this around. No doubt Mitt Romney is watching gleefully.

Here’s the link to my original post on Politico

Fresh start for Rick Perry?

Waaaay to soon to rule Rick Perry out, folks, as all of us who grew up tough in West Texas know.

What do you think will be Perry’s next “distractive” comment, by the way? And what are your thoughts about Obama’s best strategy to fight or flank?

Here’s the link to my original post on Politico


strategyThe Arena Asks: Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s new proposal would let Americans choose between their existing income tax rate or a new flat tax of 20 percent. Will Perry’s flat tax plan restore him to the GOP presidential primary lead? Will his new campaign team help? And what do you make of Perry’s recent birther-curious comments?


Rick Perry might not know how to govern the country but he knows how to win a race by adapting and persisting. The unifying thread connecting these three changes in Perry’s campaign is this: the man is a learner with an almost feral competitiveness that turns obstacles into fuel to propel him to his goal.

For example, while Herman Cain sounds crazy with his 9-9-9 plan, Perry catches that people yearn for simple, neat answers even if they are wrong. Voila! The Perry flat tax proposal, which sounds almost sane in contrast to Cain’s.

And in the bread and circuses category, there’s a dollop of raw meat for the birther contingent of the Republican Party to flame up the fires of Perry’s base (pun intended) support while taking their focus off his not-so-anti-immigration position. Guess he’s holding his next draconian anti-abortion salvo in his back pocket till another “distractive” issue is needed.

Democrats, be very afraid. And Obama had better come up with a zingier, more numerically explicit retort than mushy-mouthed allegations that the most fortunate would pay less while middle class people would pay more with a flat tax. It’s like cotton candy, melts in your mouth but doesn’t satisfy the need for real economic nourishment and a bold policy menu.

Is Obama’s Leadership dragging down Dems?

I’m in SC today speaking to the South Carolina Women Lawyers Association Women Lawyers and Leadership Conference. Everyone is looking for leadership, but we need to remember that a leader is somebody who gets something done.  And then go do it. Same advice I have for members of Congress in my Arena commentary today. Read on and let me know what you would tell the complainers:

Foreclosure signArena Asks: President Obama’s sagging poll numbers have many Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2012 running for cover. And discontent with the president is growing on the House side, too: In his retirement statement Thursday Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) ripped the Obama White House for what he called inaction on the housing foreclosure crisis. Will President Obama be a political albatross for Democratic congressional candidates in 2012?

My Answer: As a lawyer, President Obama should know the first rule of debate: whoever defines the terms is most likely to win it. His failure or perhaps intentional reluctance to do that is the real albatross weighing down members of Congress and causing him to lose the extraordinary voter enthusiasm that swept him into office.

But it’s really up to the members of Congress themselves to decide whether to send the bird on its way or allow it to define the terms of their leadership–both the policy terms and whether they will win additional terms in office. Nothing but Washington political roles as usual keep them from asserting leadership initiatives themselves. We haven’t seen a lot of that either, now have we?

Sometimes it’s up to the followers to show the leader where the parade is going so he can get in front of it.

A strategy of trying to distance themselves from the president will in the end drag Congressional candidates down much more surely than if they instead worked to lift him up with the power of defining and vigorously fighting for the very policy solutions they charge Obama with ignoring. All Democrats are going to be called birds of a feather anyway, so they might as well flock together rather than allow themselves to be picked off separately by attacking one another.

Is “Obamacare” crumbling?

It’s all about leadership. Would you agree?

Health CrisisArena Asks: The Obama administration is scrapping a long-term care insurance program created by the new health care law, reports the New York Times. The administration’s decision was another setback for the new law, which is under attack in court, in Congress and in many state legislatures. How much does this erode support for the health law? Will this be an issue in the 2012 campaign?

My Answer: The decision to scuttle the Class program reinforces the perception of the Obama administration as naive but does not signal the crumbling of Obamacare. Smart managers like Secretary Sebelius always reevaluate and revise on the way from plan to practice. Especially with a complex new program like health reform, there will be a constant need to test assumptions and adapt the program to make it better or to address new circumstances.

The much thornier problem for the President in 2012 stems from his unwillingness to lead people to a higher vision of how truly universal health care could boost the economy while dramatically improving healthcare for all. If he had done that, “Obamacare” would be a badge of honor rather than a pejorative. But by starting the game with a series of compromises and no clear policy statement, he ensured that any health reform legislation that did pass would be the subject not of the applause it deserves but of unrelenting attacks from partisan opponents.

Will outside groups crush Dems?

Do you think it’s too late for Obama to redeem himself, as this question seems to imply?  If you were advising him, what would you say? And do you think insurgent movements like Occupy Wall Street can help re-inspire the progressive base?

Occupy Wall StreetArena Asks: Democrats across the country are preparing for an onslaught of attacks from American Crossroads, an independent fundraising group that bombed the 2010 elections with negative ads.

Even President Obama seems to acknowledge the shift in power. Will these outside groups give Republicans a big advantage in 2012? And is Obama right to consider himself an “underdog?”

My Answer:Unfortunately for Democrats, the only antidote to democracy is more and better participation in democracy. The Citizens United decision allowing unlimited corporate contributions has plowed up the electoral field. It forces Democrats to counter with more money and greater activism. That’s hard to accomplish when your leader has squandered so much of his first term with futile efforts to appease right wing crocodiles, and as a result has demoralized his base.

So yes, Obama is in a sense an underdog of his own making, but he still owns the bully pulpit. And he still has a year to redeem himself with an aggressive economic agenda and a full throated rhetorical assault against the greedy Tea Party and right-wing religious fundamentalist who would just as soon take us back to the dark ages on both fiscal and social policy.

What the Democrats are unlikely to do, thank goodness, is be as ruthless as the Republicans who as we speak are aiming to win by suppressing the vote in key swing states. The counterpunch must be to engage more Democrats and Independents to get mad and get even.