Even if you don't support the man, you should defend him.*
While Herman Cain suffers the slings and arrows of an October surprise that was sprung on the last day day it could still be called an October surprise (Boo! Happy Halloween), the ensuing passion play on the right should not come as any surprise to conservatives, especially the Paliniste.
Cain's supporters have circled the wagons around their candidate in a tighter radius, and every bit of criticism seems to draw their blood. His conservatives critics don't believe the charges against Cain for a second, but some are expressing their disappointment in the manner the candidate and his team have dealt with the situation. And that, in turn, provokes even more outrage from the Georgia businessman's true believers.
For long-time Palin supporters, it's like we've seen this movie before, but the plot seems to have some new twists that we don't recognize from our first viewing. Cain supporters are getting something of a hint of what Palin supporters have been through. They just need to multiply the past 24 hours by three years to know how we feel.
Sarah Palin was scooped up out of the wilds of Alaska and set down upon the stage of national politics. The political limelight can be temporarily, at least, blinding to the eyes of such a candidate, even though The Alaskan had served two full terms on a city council, two as a mayor and a partial term as a governor. She had to campaign for each of those terms, plus she campaigned another time for lieutenant governor but did not win that election. Serving at the local and state tiers of government may prepare a candidate to govern at the national level, but nothing can fully prepare a candidate for campaigning nationally.
Though Mr. Cain was a senior economic advisor to the Dole/Kemp presidential campaign in 1996, briefly ran for president in 2000 and for the U.S. Senate in Georgia in 2004, he's never been in a spotlight so blinding as the one in which he now finds himself. Such an intensely focused beam exposes every loose thread, no matter how small it may be. Cain had already learned that even the most innocent of jokes told will be taken, sharpened like a knife, and then used as a weapon against him. Sarah Palin could have told him all about what one flippant answer to Katie Couric did to her standing as a candidate, and she was only running for vice president at the time. Never mind that the opposing party's vice presidential candidate, Joe Biden, was a veritable treasure trove of flippant remarks. That doesn't matter, because the way conservatives are treated by the media and the moderates in their own party isn't fair.
That's the point. You've got to expect the kind of stuff that we've seen yesterday and today when you're a conservative, and you're running for national office. That the Cain campaign didn't have its messaging worked out beforehand is painfully obvious. Anyone who tries to point this out to Mr. Cain's supporters is taking angry fire right now. Most, though not all, Palin supporters can understand this. When your candidate is under such heavy attack, you don't want to hear any further criticism, no matter how constructive may have been the intent.
Somewhere in the middle conservative ground between those who don't want to hear a discouraging word about Mr. Cain and those who believe he's fair game for attacks made by such as Politico, are those like Karol Markowicz at It's a Free Blog:
I worked on Herman Cain's U.S. Senate primary campaign in 2004 in Georgia and he remains my all-time favorite candidate. His loss in that race was the most heartbreaking political defeat of my career. I still think he's amazing, smart, genuine, and capable, I just don't think he's ready to be president. I would like to see him bone up his foreign policy credentials. I don't like his 999 plan because I don't trust the government to keep the federal income tax at the agreed-upon 9%. Most of all, I don't think someone who has never held elected office can beat Obama and that is priority #1 this election.We agree, Karol and I, even though we differ in our choices of which non-Cain presidential candidate we support. We can have that argument later. Right now all of us on the conservative side who don't back Herman Cain in his quest to be president can still defend him against the obviously false and politically-motivated charges that were leveled against him. That doesn't mean we have to support him for president, nor does it mean we cannot voice our opposition to his policy positions which we disagree with. It only means we can defend him when he is smeared. Not only can we defend him, but we should defend him. And if we want any conservative candidate to be able to fight on some semblance of a level field of political combat henceforth, we must defend Herman Cain now.
I note all this now to be clear that my defense of Herman Cain, against charges of sexual harassment while he was at the National Restaurant Association, is not political in nature.
Cain is the kind of guy who is exactly the same behind the scenes as he is when he's "on". He's honest and direct. There's no nonsense with him. His charm is not a flirtatious charm. He is not lecherous. He is the same towards men as he is towards women. While he has a dazzling personality, he doesn't use it to inflate his own ego. He knows his strengths, of course, but he doesn't seem like the kind of person to try to get away with things. He doesn't do things because he can. Many of his ex-staff from his U.S. Senate campaign have gone on the record saying this story does not at all represent the Herman we know.