David Brooks of the New York Times and the PBS NewsHour seems, well, embarrassed by Herman Cain. Acute discomfort is a common response of those who’ve spent more time around national political campaigns than Cain. Their disdain is only tangentially connected to what Cain did or didn’t do with a female staffer at one of those dreary convention-center monstrosities outside Washington sometime in the 1990s.
What they care most about is how the pizza mogul “handles” the allegations. Cain didn’t address the accusations as seasoned so-called “crisis communications” consultants would advise. Also, he has answered questions about policy in a sometimes flippant manner that offends those who have subjected themselves to “media training” or sell such services to others.
This is not the way things are done. “Let me stand up for elitist insiders,” Brooks said on NPR’s All Things Considered. “Running for office is a job for professionals. Governing is a job for professionals. What Herman Cain did – let’s leave aside the harassment, his handling of this was completely unprofessional.”
Brooks speaks for thousands of campaign managers, media strategists, press secretaries, public relations “counselors,” and damage-containment experts, and for the shapers of “public opinion” who eat lunch with them. These professionals no doubt have better credentials than those who signed on with Cain; a number have titles with initials after them. If experience is a barometer of anything, most can point to countless numbers of candidates they’ve been paid to guide to victory who lost.
This is not to commend Cain for anything he has done. It is, however, to point out how this country’s political class establishes the rules by which those who come to the party uninvited should conduct themselves. Whether these are rules or just expectations doesn’t much matter. It all comes to the same thing, anyway.