As Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain struggles to get past growing revelations of sexual harassment complaints and incidents alleged against him, Cain might want to examine the damage control tactics that Arnold Schwarzenegger used successfully while running for Governor of California.
In 2003, while running for California Governor in a special election, Schwarzenegger was hit with complaints by approximately six women that he had touched them inappropriately on movie sets in the preceding decades. In response, Schwarzenegger apologized and offered an explanation: that he “was on rowdy movie sets” and had “behaved badly”, but he was only intending to be “playful”, and he was now “deeply sorry” that he had offended anyone. It was a variation on the well-known “I did dumb things when I was young and irresponsible” political apology, and it worked for Schwarzenegger. He was elected in the California special election, and then re-elected in 2006. Schwarzenegger’s successful tactic was similar to the advice given by Democratic strategists James Carville and Paul Begala in their book Buck Up, Suck Up . . . and Come Back When You Foul Up. (Of course, later revelations of Schwarzenegger’s marital infidelity and fathering of a child out of wedlock are a somewhat separate issue, requiring a separate apology and damage control).
In contrast, Herman Cain’s tactic in the face of revelations that a number of women filed sexual harassment complaints against him and/or complained about him informally in the late 1990s has been to deny every charge, attack his accusers, and blame an odd array of parties for his troubles, starting with his Republican rival Rick Perry, the media, and, more recently, the Democratic “machine”. However, Cain’s tactics are failing to end the controversy, for several reasons:
- Cain’s denials and memory lapses have routinely been followed, sometimes within hours, by sudden recollections that corroborate the initial reports of complaints against him;
- As the list of women who complained about Cain grows, his credibility and behavior are further called into question;
- The complaints and alleged incidents took place years ago, before Cain ran for president, which would appear to negate any allegations of political motivation behind such complaints;
- Several of Cain’s accusers, including Sharon Bialek and Karen Kraushaar, furious at his denials or claims not even to know them, may hold a joint press conference at which they plan to detail the alleged incidents of sexual harassment by Cain against them;
- At the most recent Republican presidential primary debate in Michigan, Cain insulted former House Speaker and current House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, calling her “Princess Nancy”. For some, Cain’s comment reinforced the notion that Cain has a problem in his attitude toward women.
It is unknown whether, had Cain adopted Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tactic of apologizing without admitting legal guilt (for example, Cain could have said “I said things and made gestures to these women which I thought were perfectly appropriate, but I apologize if that made them feel uncomfortable, and I’ll make sure that I’ll be doubly sensitive to this going forward”), he’d be in the clear today. Indeed, if Cain is guilty of the charges against him, even a Schwarzenegger-like apology might have had little effect. In any event, in the wake of his sexual harassment scandal and the different path he has chosen to defend himself, Cain’s political fate may be out of his control.
[Note: links not in bold have been added by lodeplus.com, not by the author.]
© 2011 Matthew Emmer — All Rights Reserved
Enjoy this article? Receive email alerts when new articles have been published. Just click on the “Subscribe” link underneath the author bio below.