In case you aren't intimately acquainted with the cast this ongoing drama yet, Mark Block is Herman Cain's top strategist. He's the guy who lit up a smoke in that unusual viral web ad, and who went on national television to angrily accuse an individual Perry staffer of leaking the sexual harassment story to Politico -- only to retract his baseless bombast within 24 hours. Last night he appeared on Hannity, and unleashed another embarrassing whopper (click through for video):
Mark Block: "It's become quite apparent that Mr. Cain's candidacy and his rise in the poll is the -- both the left and the right's worst nightmare. You have all of these allegations coming out, you know, eight, nine days ago from Politico. You start connecting the dots and trying to figure out whether it's coming from opponents on the left or opponents on the right. I mean, just at the press conference it was brought up that the -- Karen Kraushaar come out as one of the women. So we've come to find out her son works at Politico, the organization that originally out the story out."
Sean Hannity: "Have you confirmed that? I've been hearing that all day. You've confirmed that now, right?"
Mark Block: "We confirmed it -- that he does indeed work at Politico and that's his mother, yes."
Except...it's just flat-out false. In fact, it's wrong in every way imaginable, with the possible exception of spelling. Karen Krauschaar is one of the original Cain accusers who, until yesterday, remained anonymous. In an attempt to discredit her, Block went after her son, whom he "confirmed" works for Politico. He was presumably talking about DC-based reporter Josh Kraushaar. Aha! A conflict of interest! Two problems: Josh is not related to Karen, and he works for National Journal, not Politico. This is simply embarassing. Even if you fervently believe Herman Cain is 100 percent innocent of every allegation being made against him, his campaign's crisis management operation is an unmitigated disaster. Remember, Cain has been making the argument that his myriad policy blind spots aren't a dealbreaker because he'll surround himself with top-notch people in the White House. If he hopes to salvage that argument (which is already on life support), he must fire or severely demote Mark Block.
Two more thoughts on yesterday's press conference, which Kate covered in great detail as I traveled to Michigan for tonight's Republican debate. As I listened live on the radio, I heard Cain make two problematic assertions. (1) "I have never acted inappropriately with anyone." Talk about painting yourself into a corner. At least six people -- four women and two witnesses, three of whom are now named -- insist that this is not true. Also, can any human being accurately claim to have never acted inappropriately toward anyone else, ever? (2) "I saw Ms. Allred and her client yesterday in that news conference for the first time." I'm sorry, but three people with whom I have worked very closely witnessed Cain talking one-on-one with Bialek in a backstage encounter at TeaCon on October 1st. That was five weeks ago, not 14 years ago. I understand that candidates meet many people, but Cain spoke at great length about his ability to remember faces, names, and voices. He also has a very specific memory about a non-sexual gesture he says he made toward Kraushaar in the late 1990's. Something isn't right here. For her part, Kraushaar is now calling Cain a "serial denier."
I like Herman Cain, and I don't get any "serial denier/liar" vibe off of him, but her televised press conference this week was absolutely not the first time he has ever laid eyes on, or interacted with, Sharon Bialek. He may not remember their discussion in Chicagoland -- but in that case, he should have just said as much. Instead, he went with I've never seen her, which isn't correct. Is it conceivable that Cain's staff didn't even give him a heads-up that the TeaCon revelation was all over the internet many hours before his presser? Based on their track record, it's not only possible, but highly likely. That. Is. A. Problem. And it ain't going to get much easier any time soon:
The women whose complaints Herman Cain attacked in a news conference Tuesday are planning to counter with a news conference of their own, attorneys for the women said Tuesday night. "My client has decided to hold a joint news conference with as many of the women who complained of sexual harassment by Herman Cain as will participate," said Joel P. Bennett, the Washington lawyer for Karen Kraushaar, whose harassment claims against Cain got the current controversy rolling after a report of it appeared last week in Politico.
Some Cain supporters are enraged that any conservative would participate in this media firestorm. I appreciate the impulse to defend a fellow conservative against unfair attacks, but such an act requires determining whether the attacks are unfair in the first place. I think that remains an open question here, and yesterday's press conference raised more questions than answers, in my book. Herman Cain is running for the presidency of the United States of America. If conservatives aren't willing to scrutinize and vet their own now, the other side will be delighted to do so for them...after the primary. If -- if -- the Cain campaign is going to implode under the weight of its candidate's imperfections and its institutional incompetence, better now than later.
UPDATE: Oh yeah, oops!
Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon acknowledged Block's mistake in an email to CNN. "Based upon information available at the time of Mr. Block's Tuesday night interview on Fox News, the campaign was led to believe that Mr. Josh Kraushaar, currently with the National Journal and a former employee of Politico, was the son of Karen Kraushaar," Gordon said. "Mr. Josh Kraushaar is in fact, not related to Ms. Karen Kraushaar."
UPDATE II: Teflon no more?
Most voters now say that the sexual harassment allegations made against Herman Cain may be both serious and true. At the same time, two-thirds believe Cain’s ethics are at least as good as most politicians. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 51% of voters nationwide say it is at least somewhat likely the allegations against Cain are both serious and true.