Let Herman be gone: Opinion Focus with Eugene Robinson

Nov 01, 2011

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson discusses his latest columns.

Hi, everyone. Welcome to our weekly chat. Lots of politics on tap today, as Herman Cain tries to explain those harassment allegations. Oh yeah, THAT financial settlement... Anyhow, before we begin, my condolences to SecState Clinton on the loss of her mother.

Let's get started.

In today's column you seem to denounce some for "immediately play[ing] the race card" to respond to the Politico story on Cain. Yet, anyone who has read your "stuff" over the last few years knows that you have the skills of a three-card monte dealer when it comes to playing the race card. Have you no sense of shame or journalistic integrity? Seems not.

If I were that good at three-card monte I'd be in the gambling business. I don't recall denouncing anyone in today's  column. I merely observed that Ms. Coulter and Mr. Limbaugh were unusually quick to cite race as an alleged factor. I thought they believed that whole racism thing was long over?

As a Romney supporter, I couldn't agree with you more that it's time for Cain to fade. Nonetheless, it's been entertaining to see the Post's writers pontificating about sexual harassment by politicians without ever once mentioning the name "Bill Clinton." I guess it's easier for either side to forgive that sort of thing when it's one's own guy who's accused.

I seem to recall that Clinton got impeached. That's forgiveness?

I wonder why decades old accusations against presidential candidates conveniently surface only after they're surging in the polls. Remember Clinton's, Bush's, and Obama's alleged drug use decades ago? Nobody cared about it when they were political nobodies.

You answer your own question. What p0litical nobodies might have done years ago doesn't matter. What potential presidents might have done years ago matters a lot.

Why are people so "enamored" of this guy? I don't get it.

He's hard not to like (notwithstanding what we might learn about these harassment allegations; he might not end up seeming so likeable). He doesn't speak like a politician. He says what's on his mind. The problem is, of course, that his policy prescriptions are nuts; and he seems to forget that he's running for president, not CEO, which means he'll have Congress and public opinion to worry about. But as an acquaintance? He seems -- I said seems -- like a nice guy.

I have to wonder if Rick Perry isn't loving Herman Cain right now, even with the disparity in their poll numbers. I caught Rick's odd speech in NH on NBC News last night (even though it appeared in the middle of the show) but it never appeared on CBS because of the Cain sexual harassment story. Perry seems to be ducking a potential bullet for that performance thanks to Cain catching them for his harassment allegations.

I agree -- that was one weird performance by Perry -- with the caveat that in the modern age, every video clip is eternal. I'll bet it turns up again, in some opponent's campaign ad, before we're done.

Will Herman Cain last as long as a Kim Kardashian marriage in the GOP race?

He's been in the race for many months, so he has already lasted much longer.

I've been happening across a lot of scathing exposes into Rick Perry, this week's Rolling Stone article being the most recent one. I assume you're not an expert on Texas politics, but I'll ask you anyway. Supposing that Perry doesn't win the nomination or the presidency and returns back to Texas, is it possible that his standing will be diminished in his home state because of the sunlight into his past (N*****head) and his less than savory political dealings?

I saw a poll yesterday that had Cain leading Perry among GOP voters in Texas -- repeat, in Texas -- and maybe that tells us something. Perry wins elections but never has been the dominant political force that some outsiders believe he is (that's what I hear from folks in Texas, at least). Either the competition is lame or the anti-Perry vote gets fragmented or some other fortune befalls him.

Hi Gene- I was blown away with the hateful chatter last week with his torturing and killing of the president. Hope he gets a knock on the door from a couple of suits. Do you get, as a percent of total emails, comments, chat questions, alot of these "inflammatory" correspondences? In the comments section its seems the namecalling, attacking trolls are far outweighed by the reasonable thoughtful comments. Second question alert, can you figure out how with more than a week to prepare for this story to come out how Cain could have such a poorly thought through strategy for handling this ?

Obviously I get a lot of communications from people who disagree with my point of view -- I'm glad they're reading, and maybe we can help one  another see things differently. Of those, maybe five percent are truly objectionable in some way, meaning that they're racist or otherwise abusive. It's very rare -- fortunately -- that I get e-mails, comments or posts that are not only abusive but suggestive of violence, like that one last week.

No, I can't for the life of me figure out how Cain, knowing this was coming, could have orchestrated such an incompetent response. His account is still changing. Unbelievable.

Why is it that un-stereotypical, conservative black men, scare the very sterotypical, ultra-liberal, black men like you? Where's YOU tolerance, eh?

Why would you expect someone you consider "conservative" and someone you consider "ultra-liberal" to agree? Because we're both black?

It sure looks like the same old game plan from Republican elites as in previous elections. While they don't love Romney, they know he gives them their best chance at beating Obama. It would shock me if the sexual harassment information didn't originate from what's left of the Republican establishment. What puzzles me is why so many Republicans think Herman Cain is such a great candidate. Do they really think he could beat Obama? And if they do think so, are they willing to risk a disastorous four years just to get rid of Obama? That can't help their long-term prospects.

The basic reason is that they really don't love Romney. I mean really. The party might nominate him in the end, but the fact that he's not breaking through the 25-percent ceiling -- against weak competition -- shows that he still hasn't made the sale.

Did the Republicans who decried the supposed racism behind the Cain sexual harassment allegations show the same indignation toward the racist name of Perry's Texas ranch?

You know, I can't seem to recall the same level of outrage.

It is almost impossibe for a CEO not to remember when a payoff is involved, for an allegation against him is made. Cain never thought his campaign would be so successful, and perhaps that's the reason why he never bothered to think through this issue before ot became public. He was sure he would have been long gone before this became public.

Of the several mistakes the Cain campaign has made in responding to the Politico story, the biggest may have been Cain's assertion that he didn't know about any payoff. That is just not credible. Nor does it make sense that Cain wouldn't have refreshed his memory about all the details, given that he knew the story was coming. If he didn't, this eposode -- whatever it says about Cain's character -- speaks to his method of crisis management.

Hey, Gene, Rachel Maddow last night played a gigantic chunk of Rick Perry's somewhat...um...animated speech in New Hampshire. Rachel cuddled her own little bottle of maple syrup and pretty much said Perry was officially over. Your thoughts?

I don't think the Perry campaign can be considered "over" yet. Obviously, he's in trouble. The stage is set for a Perry comeback, yet his numbers aren't budging. But he has tons of money, and I have to believe that when the campaign starts spending in earnest there will be some impact. If Cain fades, who's left out there as the anti-Romney? Gingrich? Puh-leeze.

Gene: What do you think will happen if the Greek government takes the austerity package to referendum? The mere threat of it is tanking world markets two days in a row. What recourse will the nations holding Greek bonds have if Greece opts out of the Euro? Thanks

Ugh. I can't imagine that Greek voters will approve the austerity plan, which would surely mean that Greece would have to leave the Euro -- which would mean a default of some kind, a fairly messy one. Then we'll all be trying to measure the exposure of French, Spanish and Italian banks. Not a good scenario.

In my opinion, and I don't have a candidate, is when I listen and read what the Republican candidates have to say, the only ones who sound "reasonable" are Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney. Huntsman, though, is so reasonable the Republican voters appear to not like him and Romney seems to make his reasonableness flexible enough to appeal to the non-reasonable faction of the Republican Party. I am trying to figure out, but why are Republican voters so enamored with candidates who say things are basically deal breakers for the rest of America?

You've got me. Romney at least recognizes this dynamic. He's trying to leave the door open so he can scurry back to the side of reason once he gets the nomination. His problem is that he has to win the nomination first, and that's not at all guaranteed.

Hi Gene- Forget for a sec the whole story here, what does it say to you that Cain and camp knew this was coming for over a week and pull just about every wrong move in the "I didnt do it" , blame the messenger, done talking about it game?

"Amateur hour" is what it says.

I'd like to point out that while what Clinton did was reprehensible, it was also consensual. His fling with Lewinsky was therefore not sexual harrassment, and therefore not comparable. A closer parallel would be Thomas and Anita Hill.

Well, but there was Paula Jones, too...

I think you need a better understanding of Rush and Ann Coulter (is anyone still actually listening to her? - I tuned her out years ago). What they say can only be measured against what they've said that day. In other words, racism is no longer an issue when talking about affirmative action, but on a different day, racism is alive and well and a huge problem. You're not allowed to compare statements from two different days. Also, you're not allowed to argue with their "facts", as they are (these can also change daily).

You're right. How silly of me. And from now on, no fair comparing what I say in one column with what I might have said in another.

Hey, I like this rule.

With that, I'm out of time for today. Thanks, everyone, for participating, and I'll see you again next week. (And please don't hold me to whatever I might have said today...)

In This Chat
Eugene Robinson
Eugene Robinson is an Associate Editor and twice-weekly columnist for The Washington Post. His column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. In a 25-year career at The Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper's award-winning Style section. In 2005, he started writing a column for the Op-Ed page. He is the author of "Coal to Cream: A Black Man's Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race" (1999) and "Last Dance in Havana" (2004). Robinson is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and has received numerous journalism awards.
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