Everyone has skeletons in their closets — everyone. And during a political campaign, politicians are extremely vulnerable to attacks on their personal lives that seek to bring these skeletons out. Politics ceased being about the issues long ago, because scandals now turn up in every election.
Campaigns will get down and dirty to destroy the opposition, even if it ruins lives in the process. And it is not only the campaigns that shoulder the blame. The media also frequently joins in on the attacks.
It was not that long ago that Herman Cain was a front-runner in the Republican race for the presidential nomination. Despite his questionable 9-9-9 tax plan, Cain is a charismatic individual who has had success connecting to his audiences and getting them to believe his message. Lately, Cain’s message has been, “I have never sexually harassed anyone … Secondly, I have never sexually harassed anyone.”
All the disclosures of sexual harassment settlements involving Cain that have come out recently is not surprising at all; he is, or was, the front-runner in the polls. Now more and more women are speaking out — one woman even retained a celebrity lawyer, Gloria Allred, who has ties to the Democratic party.
Cain has blamed everyone except the Iranians for the leaks (give him time, he is working on it). The Rick Perry campaign, whose response was the equivalent of the kid who broke a vase and then blamed the dog for it, has even joined in on the anti-Cain campaign. Regardless of whether or not one agrees with Cain’s politics, one has to wonder why this news did not come months earlier when Cain was regarded as a fringe candidate.
Speaking of Perry, how about his own scandal that broke recently? No, not the strange event in New Hampshire where it looked like Perry had one too many Lone Star beers and resembled the straight younger cousin of the late Paul Lynde — I’m talking about the scandal involving the camp where Perry spent so much time as a child and still frequents from time to time. You know? The one about that camp with the highly unfortunate name that everyone talked about for a couple of weeks?
That scandal actually helped Perry in a strange way because it turned the focus away from chronic charges of cronyism, softness on illegal immigration and Texas’ huge debt.
As if to pass the scandal hot potato on to someone else, Perry had the testicular fortitude to call out President Barack Obama’s birth certificate — because that worked so well for former Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump. And then, who called out Perry on Fox News? It turned out to be none other than former adviser to President George W. Bush and Fox News contributor, Karl Rove, the same man who was a focus of presidential scandal and ridicule for years.
“You associate yourself with a nutty view like that, and you damage yourself,” Rove said of Perry on Fox News.
When a man who is used to the lashes of the scandal whip is telling you to back off before you get hurt, you have some serious problems.
Obama had his controversial pastor. President Bill Clinton claimed, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” and then later in a televised speech admitted he did.
The national media has always had the responsibility of being the watchdog, the eyes that inform the American people and protect them when something is seriously amiss — like Watergate, Teapot Dome or Iran-contra. Unfortunately, the same watchdog tears through the trash to discover a video of the governor of Texas pulled over for speeding or a congressman’s privates in a picture on Twitter.
What responsibility does the media have to report real scandals that raise actual legal issues? The National Restaurant Association settled Cain’s harassment cases — mostly. His situation is becoming more fluid by the day. Perry’s campgrounds, while having an offensive name, do not raise any legal issues. Rep. Weiner’s private shots caused some initial alarm because it was thought one of the women he sent these pictures to was a minor, but she was later found to be of age. When does scandal become so rampant that our first response is to roll our eyes and just move on to the next story? What happened to the issues?
John Huntsman said it best when he talked about the Cain scandal on Meet the Press.
“We’ve got some real issues to discuss in this campaign and this is taking all the bandwidth out of the discussion,” Huntsman said. Ron Paul echoed the same sentiments on Fox News.
Those two do not have a chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination — maybe they just need a scandal to get their names out there.Aaron Manuel is a broadcast journalism senior and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org